Statement of Restore Hetch Hetchy
on the Centennial of the Raker Act
December 19, 2013
100 years ago today, for the only time in American history, we allowed significant destruction within one of our national parks. When President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act, he permitted Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley to be dammed and submerged beneath 300 feet of water for use as a reservoir by San Francisco.
The Raker Act was deeply controversial, and was condemned in more than 200 newspaper editorials nationwide. That outcry is often cited as the birth of today’s conservation movement. Three short years after the Act was signed, Congress atoned by passing the National Park Service Act, largely to protect our national parks from any further disfigurement.
Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley, however, remains underwater and unavailable to the American people for whom it was originally meant to be preserved “in perpetuity.” That reservoir is the greatest blemish in America’s otherwise magnificent national park system.
Restore Hetch Hetchy is committed to removing the reservoir and returning Hetch Hetchy Valley to the American people, thereby making Yosemite National Park whole once again.
Restore Hetch Hetchy is also committed to working with all communities, especially the city of San Francisco, that rely on the Tuolumne River for water and power to ensure their needs are met when the valley is restored. To that end we have proposed system modifications that would allow San Francisco to divert the Tuolumne River downstream and outside of Yosemite National Park.
Alas, while many in San Francisco do support restoration, neither elected officials nor the city’s Public Utilities Commission have been willing to engage with Restore Hetch Hetchy in constructive dialogue. San Francisco’s reluctance came to a head in 2012 when a well-financed campaign arose to prevent city officials from even taking part in a public discussion of the potential for restoration.
Therefore, while it will always be Restore Hetch Hetchy’s goal to work cooperatively with San Francisco and its wholesale customers in the Bay Area, going forward we will focus our strategic efforts on decision-making entities outside the city. We will engage Congress directly and we will challenge ongoing occupation of Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley in the state and federal courts.
Congress - Amend the Raker Act: Restore Hetch Hetchy, working with our colleagues, will pursue a bipartisan effort in Congress to amend the Raker Act. An amended Raker Act would allow San Francisco to keep its other reservoirs, pipelines, and powerhouses in the Tuolumne River watershed, but would require the city to relinquish Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and to return the valley to Yosemite National Park and the American people.
State and federal courts: Restore Hetch Hetchy will pursue promising legal options that will directly challenge the ongoing operation of San Francisco’s water system as a violation of both state and federal law. These new legal actions will complement but be separate from our ongoing involvement in the relicensing of Don Pedro Reservoir, where San Francisco’s water bank is twice the volume of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
Restore Hetch Hetchy will of course continue our efforts to educate the public, directly and through the media. And we stand willing to work with San Francisco and other Bay Area communities to develop a sustainable and responsible water supply as we pursue restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.
100 years ago, this nation’s lawmakers made a grave environmental mistake. Today, we are resolved to undoing that mistake, and we invite our fellow citizens to join us in making Yosemite National Park whole again.
The mission of Restore Hetch Hetchy is to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to its natural splendor while continuing to meet the water and power needs of all communities that depend on the Tuolumne River. For more information, visit www.hetchhetchy.org