A battle over San Francisco’s main water source may be heading to the California Supreme Court. On Monday, a group of Berkeley naturalists — who are upset that Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley was destroyed by the creation of the dam and demand that it be restored — lost in California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal. The judge ruled that a colleague who’d thrown out a prior lawsuit by the Restore Hetch Hetchy group in 2016 was correct in their decision.
“The dam at Hetch Hetchy remains as the greatest blemish in any of our national parks,” the group states on its website, citing an old John Muir quote that Hetch Hetchy Valley was “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” The reservoir now serves more than 2.7 million residents in the Bay Area.
Although the latest ruling is a loss, this isn’t a new battle. President Woodrow Wilson approved the reservoir in 1913, and even then, the flooding of a national park to hydrate one city was considered fairly controversial.
Today, the call continues for the draining and “restoration” of the valley, and the subsequent expansion of the neighboring Yosemite Park. It’s been led fairly relentlessly by the group of environmentalists, who even succeeded in getting it on the ballot in 2012. (It was defeated.)
And they’re not deterred by Monday’s Court of Appeal ruling.
“We are convinced that the legal and technical merits of our case are well-founded and we plan to ask the California Supreme Court to review this ruling,” Spreck Rosekrans, executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, told the Chronicle. “We are hopeful that the highest court in the state will understand the important states’ rights issues that this case brings forward.”
We might want to start filling up our water bottles.