It takes every bit of effort I can muster to observe without laughing the hand-wringing going on in the Bay Area over legislation that has been proposed to take out O’Shaughnessy Dam and drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. That beautiful lake, created by the dam, is the source of a large percentage of the Bay Area’s fresh water.
Congressman Dan Lungren, a conservative Republican who hails from Sacramento’s eastern suburbs, wants to tear the dam down and restore the Hetch Hetchy valley to its original, pre-1923 splendor. That year is when the dam was completed.
Most Bay Area movers and shakers, unsure whether Lungren (usually not an environmentalist) is pulling their leg, think the idea is terrible.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has spoken against it and the usually liberal San Francisco Chronicle has come out in opposition to it. Their reasoning is that the dam is a valuable source of water for the Bay Area.
These are the same people who don’t think a Temperance Flats dam should be built upstream of Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River. One wonders whether there might be a little hypocrisy in that.
However, I agree with them on Hetch Hetchy. I agree that dams are valuable. I agree that O’Shaughnessy Dam is valuable, along with the aqueducts that take the water from Hetch Hetchy to the Bay Area cities that need it.
And naturally, I’m also in favor of the Temperance Flats Dam proposal, which would provide storage for much-needed water for farms and fish.
That extra storage would not create any more water, but it would add storage capacity for available water. That is what O’Shaughnessy Dam and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir do for San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area. They might be able to get along without the dam, but not very well.