Yesterday’s Water Law Symposium at UC Hastings in San Francisco included a session titled “The Hetch Hetchy Controversy”. The session included good questions and a few strong opinions on both sides from the audience, as well as some of the usual repartee between Restore Hetch Hetchy and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).
One young man asked whether we wanted to create “another Yosemite Valley”. By the way he asked the question, he was asking if we envisioned a restoration plan with the infrastructure, crowds and traffic jams that can be overwhelming in Yosemite Valley.
I responded that Restore Hetch Hetchy does not have a definitive plan for how the valley should be managed once it is restored – that is something for the public and National Park Service to work out. I pointed out, however, that the Park Service has allowed little development in Denali, a more recently established national park.
I did say that I could imagine a Hetch Hetchy Valley that did not allow the private automobile, but which included an efficient shuttle system (light rail, bus, or tram) that would transport visitors to the upper end of the valley. I explained that such a shuttle system would allow day hikes into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne – a spectacular area that lies upstream of the current reservoir. Presently the only way to see the Tuolumne’s “Grand Canyon” is to do a multi-day backpack trip.
The SFPUC representative opined that allowing day use of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne would ruin it. (He further opined that the reservoir is protecting the valley – something we have heard before.)
What do supporters of restoration think about how the Park Service should manage a restored valley? How should people get to the upstream end of the valley? Should there be roads? If so, what about the private automobile? How about paved paths for bicycles and wheelchairs?
And should a restored valley include campgrounds or other lodging? Where should these be?
If Yosemite Valley accommodates 4,000,000 people a year, what is the right vision for Hetch Hetchy Valley? Bear in mind that both are about nine miles long but Yosemite Valley is wider.
How do we restore a valley so it can be loved but not loved to death?
Please share any thought you have on these matters below. Right now the discussion is just for fun. It will be more serious, and more exciting, once plans to remove the reservoir are in place.