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Restoring Hetch Hetchy

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Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Oct 16, 2011 11:32 am

OK, I will stick out my neck. I LIKE Hetch Hetchy just as it is! I would not like to see it restored. Here is why.

1) The reservoir may not be "natural" but is is stunning. The Sierra has so few large lakes, I think the reservoir is a nice addition. OK, I am a civil engineer - I think the dam is pretty cool too.

2) "Restoring" to "natural conditions" is very unpredictable- hard to say if it will go as planned. The pre-dam conditions were a result of climate and an ecosystem of the 1800's. You do not restore old growth forest. The climate today and near future may well not sustain the kind of revegetation that people are thinking of. You might get a manzanita forest. If you try to put trees back, you may get weak tress (not right rainfall conditions) that are prone to fire and disease.

3) The "bathtub ring". Not sure you can get rid of this. It will be ugly as hell for many years. I remember how the biologists said how wonderful it would be after the Yellowstone Fire. It is 20+ years later now and in my opinion, still ugly.

4) Money- very costly

5) Development. Here is one of my main reasons for not liking the idea of restoration. The upper Tuolumne (Grand Canyon of Tuolumne) is now very protected. Easier access may put undue stress on this. I do not trust that the area will resist development. To take stress of Yosemite Valley, I can see political pressure to add roads, resturants, parking lots, campgrounds etc. The fact that Hetch Hetchy is private and access restricted has helped all the upper watershed remain fairly pristine.

6) It is currently accessable for those with the energy and desire to walk the trails. I could see adding an environmentally safe commercial boat to take sight-seers up the lake.

Just opening the discussion. I guess what I am saying, convince me otherwise. Show me a similar scope restoration that has worked.



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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby balzaccom » Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:50 pm

Hi Daisy

I am not sure that I like the way it looks right now---I am sure that I would love to see it the way Ansel Adams saw it before the dam.

But that said, the rest of your points are pretty much spot on. I am not an expert, but I can't believe that this would look normal for many, many years if they took down the dam. I admire the enthusiasm of those who want to take the dam down--but I also think that there are so many other issues with higher chances of success that they might better focus on.
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Oct 17, 2011 4:31 pm

I've been sniped at for suggesting the same, tho you've said it more eloquently than I. My eye-rolling about the idea has been due to the mismanagement in other places - latest example being the uncontrolled "control burn" that whipped through a while ago and re-burned the burn area near Foresta. Who knows what they will do to Hetch Hetchy if they try to restore it?

No guarantee it will go back the way it was, and it's really nice the way it is. They could get the same boats they use in Crater Lake and run a tour. I'd hate to see a ferry, that would impact the area around Rancheria Falls even more than it is now.
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby dave54 » Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:12 pm

You're right. Removing the OS dam creates as many problems as it solves.

First, whether the reservoir is 'natural' or not is irrelevant. The microclimate of the valley is altered by its presence and the valley ecosystem has adapted to the lake. And there is now a functioning lake ecosystem. Removing the dam and reservoir would be a catastrophic disturbance affecting the entire area. So arguing for its removal because it destroyed an ecosystem 100 years ago is arguing two wrongs make a right -- a philosophical contradiction in itself.

A second point is water supply. California is going to need more water in the future, not less. The proposed grandiose scheme to 'replace' the supply is spending upwards of a billion dollars to get the same amount of water we have now :retard: . That's a billion California tax dollars the state does not have now and will not have in the future. Even if we did have the money there are many more pressing uses that would benefit the entire state more than a restored valley.
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby markskor » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:16 pm

Talking with a good friend who works there - well, occasionally visits deep inside anyway, this whole conversation may be moot as the dam is coming down on its own. No money has been allocated for any pro-active maintenance in years. Been told that there are cracks evident - says maybe 20 years left if nothing major is done soon. Friend also related that the current suggested "fix" will most probably be to build another dam just below the relic and... business as usual. Guess this means the billion will be spent anyway.
Got to agree though, sort of like things the way they are now. Not saying that I ever liked the dam, always hated the whole idea, but the dam has well served to keep some wild areas pristine.
Never thought of a ferry though, (similar to the one on Saddlebag?)...interesting...might even work. I would use it.
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby LMBSGV » Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:32 am

I'm one of those who considers the dam a monstrous desecration. I'd love to push the plunger on the dynamite when they blow it up (except, or course, that's not how it would be done and, besides, John Muir's descendants should get the honor).

If you are wondering about the questions regarding how and what is involved in restoration, you can start here:

http://www.hetchhetchy.org/

The section on restoration is here:

http://www.hetchhetchy.org/how/how-will ... e-restored
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby balzaccom » Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:35 pm

I was particularly struck by this paragraph:

"Deconstruction will require the use of heavy equipment, and some rough roads may need to be built for access. These can later be eliminated or converted to trails. Alternatively, a conveyor system could be used; this would be the least environmentally damaging means of removing materials from the valley and could be later modified to act as the means of transporting visitors into the valley."

Those of us who know that area well often find the remains of original construction equipment that is still there, 100 years after the dam was built. I can only imagine the devastation that the project created on that environment.

Seems like it would be hard to avoid doing that again, despite the plans for "agressive replanting."
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby rlown » Tue Oct 18, 2011 8:43 pm

I actually like the idea of restoring the valley. There is enough downstream storage for the water, but at the same time I acknowledge that more is better, given we don't really control growth/building. Doesn't really matter if it takes a century or two for nature to take over. That's the way it was and we should give the ol' girl a chance. It would make an interesting study as well.

My spin would be to leave the dam in place as a monument to man's stupidity for future generations to marvel at, but just let the damn drain, and open the flood gates or enhance that part of the dam to support max river flow out.

But, that's just me.
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby Ikan Mas » Tue Oct 18, 2011 9:32 pm

First, I am also a Civil Engineer and I work for a some sort of water agency. I have my own problems where misguided citizen groups have forced what they perceive as restoration projects on unwitting agencies. I have to deal with a fish ladder for salmon in a creek that 1) never had salmon, 2) dries up by the fall spawing season and 3) is filled with 70 degree plus runoff from ag, people's lawns, and sewage effluent. The NGO that shoved this on us has earned much emnity from me. They truly have no understanding of natural systems. So I have some sympathy for SF Water.

That said, I have a friend who is in my business, a fellow backbacker, and who is, lets say, well placed in Restore Hetch Hetchy. I have been to a couple of their events and have listened to their points. I am generally supportive of the idea, but I am concerned about what sort of horse trading will go on if they decide to restore the valley. Like " we will build the nature center for you if you let us put in a high end resort" that sort of stuff that goes on behind closed doors.

Here are some things I have learned:
-- The only people that will make the decision about this are the voters of San Francisco. Nobody else. They all love their mountain water. Have to convince them the quality will be the same. SF has a huge block of ethnic voters and it will be tough to convince them to change status quo.
-- Restore really only has one shot to convince the voters to vote for this. They will be very careful when they take the measure to the ballot.
-- Diane Feinstein hates the idea. Why? It came up when she was mayor and she was blindsided by it. She has continued to oppose it ever since.
-- The Dam would remain in place.
-- The pool would be lowered very slowly, and the small areas that are gradually (over a period of years) would be restored. The idea is to find out what works after many years of being under water. Restoration is a very tricky act (I have my own restoration project in planning now and I am not convinced that the delicate native plants will beat out the star thistle).

I've donated a small amount and I continue to listen and learn the fine points of what is going on, keeping an open mind. Daisy, your points are valid. Lets all continue to watch and discuss this. Its important that we keep an eye on what is going on here, as it will have an effect on other parts of the wilderness in the coming years.
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby Ozark Flip » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:16 am

I have no idea how restoration of HH valley would go assuming the dam were removed or somehow disabled. I have no experience in that kind of stuff. Where would SF store its water?
Last edited by Ozark Flip on Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby ERIC » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:08 pm

dave54 wrote:A second point is water supply.


A very big +1

rlown wrote:There is enough downstream storage for the water.


Source? And one with volumetric numbers accounting for variable water years, please.
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Re: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

Postby rlown » Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:00 pm

ERIC wrote:
dave54 wrote:A second point is water supply.


A very big +1

rlown wrote:There is enough downstream storage for the water.


Source? And one with volumetric numbers accounting for variable water years, please.


Well, the info might be one-sided given it's source, but their plan is shown at http://www.hetchhetchy.org/how/where-wi ... -be-stored. I think in general, most Californians are very wasteful wrt water..
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