Tag Archives: Environmental Defense

DWR’s Hetch Hetchy Report out and It isn’t as pretty as the Hetch Hetchy Valley

The Department of Water Resources revealed its report to a few selected officials and apparently the cost is pretty high.  I’ve done a fair amount of research on the issues surrounding the Hetch Hetchy Restoration, and this report only aggregates information from other sources.  From what I’ve seen cost estimates in the past have ranged from a low range of $1B to a high range of $10B.  The DWR’s report doesn’t give much more specificity than that apparently, pegging the estimates at between $3-$10B.  I suppose this is higher, but not really out of the realm of possibility.

It would cost anywhere from $3 billion to $10 billion to fulfill one of California environmentalists’ fondest dreams — draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and restoring a valley in Yosemite National Park that John Muir called “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.”

That is the conclusion of a report worked up by the state Department of Water Resources, analyzing what it would take to bring back Hetch Hetchy Valley and find alternative sources of water and power for San Francisco, which operates the valley’s O’Shaughnessy Dam. The cost estimate is more in line with what critics of the idea expected, and as much as 10 times the figure floated by environmentalists.

“Clearly, it’s not cheap,” said Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg, one of a handful of officials who have been briefed on the findings. The report has not been made public.

“But we knew it was going to be expensive, no matter what the option,” said Canciamilla, who is nevertheless still intrigued by the possibility of restoring Hetch Hetchy.

The idea was first raised back in the 1980s by then-Energy Secretary Donald Hodel, but it really gained traction two years ago when the nonprofit group Environmental Defense issued a report called “Paradise Regained.” It put the cost of draining Hetch Hetchy, coming up with other sources of water for 2.4 million Bay Area customers and replacing the electricity that Hetch Hetchy generates for San Francisco at anywhere from $500 million to $1.5 billion. (SF Chron 7/19/06)

But, I don’t think this report really kills the discussions of tearing down the damn as much as some officials (DiFi, Leno, the SFPUC in general) would like.  The Environmental Defense people have acknowledged that their predictions of costs were very rough and have made provisions for higher costs.  The thing is, nobody truly understands how beautiful this place is.  When I first came at the issue, I thought it was nuts to dear down O’Shaughnessy Dam, and I still think it’s a bit crazy to give up our secure water and power resources.  However, have you seen the pictures of that valley? If you click on the picture above, you’ll be taken to the Sierra Club’s HH photo gallery.  You won’t be disappointed.  It is simply beautiful.

So the question that is now posed to us is: How much would we pay for a valley that has beauty that is only rivaled by Yosemite? I don’t think even billions should be considered crazy.