"It's time to end the occupation of Yosemite."
Thus reads the headline on a recent open letter published by former Yosemite National Park Superintendent Dave Mihalic. He refers, of course, to the San Francisco ballot proposition that could lead to the removal of the dam which defiles our beloved national park.
In one of my first columns for this newspaper I wrote a piece titled, "Why do we allow San Francisco to keep a swamp in our back yard?"
Does this dam removal sound as far-fetched as many were saying to me five years ago following that column? Well, actually no, because on Nov. 6 the voters of San Francisco will have the opportunity to correct this long-standing travesty of the "occupation" of our national park and treasure.
Proposition F calls for San Francisco to prepare a plan to modernize the city's aging water system. Removal of the monstrous O'Shaughnessy Dam would be one of the likely results if this measure is enacted.
Isn't it ironic that San Francisco, which fashions itself as the environmental paragon of the West, is now squarely faced with the prospect of having to vote its conscience, rather than continue its rather greedy and self- serving takeover of one of nature's loveliest locations?
Just weeks ago The Sacramento Bee heartily endorsed this measure. In a strongly worded editorial, the paper points out that Hetch Hetchy is only one of nine reservoirs serving San Francisco and stores less than 25 percent of the city's water supply.
The editorial goes on to quote UC Davis engineering professor Jay Lund: "The Bay Area does not need the Hetch Hetchy reservoir to continue Tuolumne River water deliveries." He goes on to point out that there are plenty of alternate and adequate solutions, without having to maintain the outrage of damming and limiting access to a great natural shrine.
San Francisco has never made serious attempts at recycling or reclaiming water. They simply dump it into the bay, then drain more from our mountains and our national park. Mihalic points our in his piece that San Francisco recycles 1 million gallons of water daily, while Los Angeles recycles nearly 200 million gallons per day. The city receives an average of 55,000 acre-feet of rainfall per year, which the city "deliberately prevents from seeping into the aquifer and recharging ground water supplies."
Were these "enlightened" and "ecologically sensitive" citizens to search their collective conscience, this vote would be a no-brainer.
Every year, in the spring, we take our annual hike to Hetch Hetchy. And every year we perform rituals, exorcism rites and other shouted imprecations against that abominable piece of concrete that has destroyed our lovely mountain valley in this national preserve.
I know that even if (when) this dam is removed, the pristine valley will not recover in my lifetime. But my grandson Ben, who shares my passion for hiking, may someday walk across the grasses, flowers and emerging trees of this recovering mountain valley. That in itself would be great reward for this passionate patron of Yosemite.
In closing, let me cheerfully echo the last lines of The Sacramento Bee editorial: "This should be unacceptable in a national park. It is a mockery of what these parks are supposed to be about."
Well said, Sacramento Bee. San Francisco, it is time to remove the mockery!
Hagerty is an Oakdale real estate developer active in community nonprofits. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.This editorial appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Oct. 5.
PROPOSITION F AT A GLANCE
What is it? Proposition F was put on the ballot in San Francisco through the initiative process signatures gathered on petitions.
If passed: Would require the city of San Francisco to study alternatives for the water and power provided by Hetch Hetchy, including the expanded use of groundwater management and water recycling.
Could lead to a follow-up vote, possibly in 2016, on proceeding to drain Hetch Hetchy.
Our View: The Modesto Bee has not taken a position on Proposition F because our focus has been on local races and state propositions and because voters in the valley do not get to vote on this initiative. However, The Modesto Bee has gone on record opposing the Restore Hetch Hetchy movement, and our position has not changed.