Water is vital to life. It is also vital to economic activity. And water is scarce in the desert southwest United States. Because of this conflict between need and availability, there are many lurid stories related to water supply in this part of the world. Perhaps none is more ugly than the damming of the Tuolumne River within Yosemite National Park (pictured today).
Who could the rapacious culprit be? Must be those terrible farmers in California’s Central Valley, right? Or those greedy southern Californians seeking to fill their oversized swimming pools or water their golf courses. Nope. Turns out it was the capital of the Environmentalist Movement, San Francisco! See:
Despite the protestations of over 200 newspapers around the country, and no less an environmentalist than John Muir himself, San Francisco built the Hetch Hetchy dam, and destroyed a natural wonder the equal to the nearby Yosemite Valley. And they paid — and continue to pay — nearly nothing for the priviledge: only $30,000 per year! Forget the value of the water supply; the value of the power generated by this project is $41 million annually!
The Restore Hetch Hetchy effort has been underway for several years, but it continues to be stymied by those noted Environmentalists, Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein. It seems that the Environment must be placed above all other issues, unless they are the pet issues of the San Francisco Environmentalists.
These same politicians will condemn central and southern Californians as environmental terrorists, but defend the Peripheral Canal that serves their home town.
Despite the successful efforts of Restore Hetch Hetchy to place this issue on the ballot next November, don’t expect that we will ever restore Hetch Hetchy. There is too much value in the pristine water — untainted by a trek through the sloughs of the Sacramento River delta, unlike most of the water that serves central and southern California — and the hydroelectric power for San Francisco.
We can’t blame Pelosi and Feinstein for wanting to retain such a tremendous resource for their constituents. However, we can condemn them for their hypocrisy when they do everything in their power to prevent others from beneficially utilizing water resources — especially when the environmental impact of those other projects falls far short of total destruction within a national park.