Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Fresno girl, 8, will take walk for Hetch Hetchy restoration campaign

An 8-year-old Fresno girl and her father will take a hike this summer in Yosemite National Park to raise awareness about the campaign to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley — a glacially sculpted masterpiece covered with 117 billion gallons of water.

Young Allison and her father, Tom Cotter, have stepped into an iconic environmental fight over a vast Yosemite feature that has been used most of the last century to store water for San Francisco.

We could fill several of these blog columns with just the headlines about the fight over Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. In 1913, pioneering conservationist John Muir lost his desperate fight to save the valley. He died the following year.

For the last several years, the nonprofit advocacy group Save Hetch Hetchy has organized hikes around the valley to push the campaign and raise money.

Called Muir’s March, the summertime event this year will include several guided backpacking journeys concluding on Aug. 3 at O’Shaunessy Dam. For those who don’t want to backpack, there’s a 6-mile day hike on Aug. 3.

Allison and her father have started a web site to collect donations.

Feinstein still turns thumbs down on draining Hetch Hetchy

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein hasn’t changed her mind on restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park — it’s still a terrible idea, she says.

The reservoir at Hetch Hetchy has long been a source of controversy because it occupies one of the country’s premier national parks. It provides San Francisco some of the most pristine water in the country.

Feinstein, who was at The Fresno Bee Tuesday for an editorial board meeting, has always opposed tearing down O’Shaughnessy Dam. In her days as mayor of San Francisco, she said the idea makes no sense.

The dam has been a sore spot dating back to venerated conservationist John Muir, who fought a losing battle against its construction.

Many environmentalists say Hetch Hetchy is the geologic twin of Yosemite Valley and would be an exceptional attraction in Yosemite if it were not under 17 billion gallons of water from the Tuolumne River.

The issue is hot right now in San Francisco with a vote scheduled next week on a measure aimed a drafting a plan to drain the reservoir.

“Maybe we wouldn’t build the dam today,” she said. “But it’s a terrible idea to tear it down now.”

She said the city would need more extensive water treatment if it obtained drinking water from lower-elevation reservoirs. Also, two irrigation districts have long-term hydroelectric power agreements that would be threatened, she said.

“I’m not opposed to dam removal,” Feinstein said. “But not in this case.”