Zinke Is Considering Tearing Down A Dam For The Environment And San Francisco Is In An Uproar

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

San Francisco officials are troubled that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with a group that wants to restore an area of Yosemite National Park back to a more natural state by deconstructing a dam, The Guardian reported.

The Hetch Hetchy reservoir, located in Yosemite, is responsible for 90 percent of San Francisco’s water supply to roughly 2.7 million people. The O’Shaughnessy Dam, completed in 1923 to build the reservoir, is the only dam located inside a U.S. national park.

Restore Hetch Hetchy is a nonprofit conservation group working “to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to its natural splendor.” The group quotes environmentalist and author John Muir, who protested the dam after it was proposed, as describing the Hetch Hetchy Valley as “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” The valley is now under water from the Tuolumne River.

The O’Shaughnessy Dam controversy is now more than a century old between residents and officials of San Francisco, which recently banned selling or distributing plastic straws over environmental concerns, and conservationists that want to let nature reclaim the Hetch Hetchy Valley. (RELATED: San Francisco Joins Nationwide Fatwa Against Plastic Straws)

Zinke met with group on July 22 to get “a fresh look at different opportunities and options to restore public access and recreation to the valley.”

Zinke’s meeting with Restore Hetch Hetchy is “poking environmentalists in San Francisco in the eye,” University of California, Davis professor and Hetch Hetchy expert Jay Lund suggested to The Guardian.

“The secretary asked good questions and his interest is sincere, but he understands that solving water issues in California is no simple matter, so I think he’ll take a cautious approach,” Restore Hetch Hetchy Executive Director Spreck Rosekrans told the San Francisco Chronicle after the meeting with Zinke.

Draining the reservoir would be “a terrible idea that would jeopardize the water needs of Bay Area families,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said after defending the dam’s construction from a challenge from Restore Hetch Hetchy. The court ruled in favor of San Francisco in June, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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