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Hetch Hetchy Quotations
|"[Hetch Hetchy] valley, carved out of
the Sierras by glaciers and the Tuolumne River, had become part
of Yosemite National Park in 1890 and been designated a 'wilderness
preserve.' . . . But as early as the 1880s, San Francisco's water
board and politicians had discussed the possibility of constructing
a dam at the narrow end of the Hetch Hetchy Valley, creating a
much needed reservoir. [Gifford] Pinchot [head of the Forest Service]
assured the secretary [of the Interior] that the dam would not
'injure the National Park or detract from its beauties or natural
grandeur,' an assurance that amazed Muir. "I cannot believe
that Pinchot, if he really knows the valley, has made any such
statements," he wrote. . . ." Char Miller, Gifford Pinchot
and the Making of Modern Environmentalism (Washington, D.C.: Island
Press, 2001), pp. 138-139.
|"Hetch Hetchy is a grand landscape garden,
one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples. As
in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with
life . . . while birds, bees, and butterflies help the river and
waterfalls to stir all the air into music. . . . These temple
destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a
perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes
to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.
. . . Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's
cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated
by the heart of man." John Muir, "The Yosemite,"
Century, 1912, pp. 249-62.
|"On June 25  the House Committee
on the Public Lands opened hearings on the Hetch Hetchy issue,
with Gifford Pinchot as the star witness. Pinchot simplified the
question into 'whether the advantage of leaving this valley in
a state of nature is greater than using it for the benefit of
the city of San Francisco.' He admitted that the idea of preserving
wilderness appealed to him 'if nothing else were at stake,' but
in this case the need of the city seemed 'overwhelming.' Explaining
his reasoning, Pinchot declared that 'the fundamental principle
of the whole conservation policy is that of use, to take every
part of the land and its resources and put it to that use in which
it will serve the most people.' Roderick Nash, Wilderness and
the American Mind, rev. ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1973), pp. 170-171.
|"With the passage of the Raker Act by
Congress in 1913, the city of San Francisco won its long battle
for a public water supply. The women of the conservation crusade
had worked hard to preserve the valley as an integral part of
the park. . . . Soon after a city of San Francisco referendum
in November 1903 favored construction of the dam, John Muir had
taken the Hetch Hetchy issue to the nation. Preservationists rallied
to support its retention in the park through letters and telegrams
to the House Committee on Public Lands which held hearings in
January 1909. Among them were women who had camped in the valley,
who were members of the Sierra Club or Appalachian Mountain Club,
or who were opposed to the commercial use of such a scenic wonderland.
. . ." Carolyn Merchant, "The Women of the Progressive
Conservation Crusade, 1900-1915," in Kendall E. Bailes, ed.,
Environmental History: Critical Issues in Comparative Perspective
(University Press of America, 1985) pp. 153-170.
|"On Oct. 24, 1934, the first water from
the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park poured into
the Pulgas Water Temple near Interstate 280 on the San Francisco
Peninsula. The giant system supplies water for San Francisco,
San Mateo County, and parts of Santa Clara and Alameda counties
and is the biggest water supplier in the Bay Area. . . . It is
a 150 mile-long network of pipelines, tunnels, and aqueducts that
takes water from the Tuolumne River in the Sierra down from the
foothills, across the San Joaquin Valley, through the Coast Range
and under San Francisco Bay, all by gravity. There are no pumps.
. . . In January of 1934, Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy [S. F.
city engineer and architect of the dam], by then 70 years old,
was on hand for the completion of the 28-mile Coast Range water
tunnel, then the longest in the world. . . . Hetch Hetchy, the
second largest municipal water system in the state and an engineering
marvel, is his monument." Carl Nolte, "Hetch Hetchy
at 60 is Still Causing Controversy," San Francisco Chronicle,
October 27, 19994, ppl. A19, A24.
|"There are two ironic footnotes to the
Hetch Hetchy struggle. One is that despite the progressives' arguments
for public power, the electricity from the Hetch Hetchy hydro
plant was sold by San Francisco to PG&E [Pacific Gas &
Electric], which still distributes it. The other footnotes dates
from 1987, when President Reagan's secretary of the Interior,
Donald Hodel, for reasons that are not entirely clear, astounded
nearly everybody, including members of his own department, by
suggesting removal of the dam at Hetch Hetchy and restoration
of the valley to nature. The Sierra Club's directors, true to
the Muir tradition, endorsed the proposal, well aware that it
was not likely to be acted on in the near future, if ever."
Harold Gilliam, "The Sierra Club's First Century," This
World, San Francisco Chronicle, April, 19, 1992, pp. 11-12.