Hetch Hetchy Restoration Study

Added by: 
Oliver Huang
Summary: 
The Hetch Hetchy Restoration Study is a study by the State of California Departments of Water Resources & Parks and Recreation on the potential of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley. It was initiated in 2004 and completed in 2006 and is currently the most comprehensive study on the subject. The study reviews the findings of past studies and presents several options in restoring the valley and an analysis of the costs and benefits of restoration. The total cost of the project is projected to be between 3-10 billion dollars
Chronology: 

1913 Raker Act passed permitting the City of San Francisco to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley.

1914 Construction begins on O'Shaughnessy Dam

1923 O'Shaughnessy Dam completed

July 1987 Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel proposes studies for the possible removal of the O'Shaughnessy Dam, results in five studies between 1988 and 1990.

February 1988 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study "Hetch Hetchy: A Survey of Water and Power Replacement Concepts U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region" published.

1988 National Park Service study "Alternatives for Restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley Following Removal of the Dam and the Reservoir" published.

January 1988 U.S. Department of Energy study "Hetch Hetchy: Striking a Balance" published.

June 1988 California State Assembly Office of Research study "Restoring Hetch Hetchy" published.

January 1990 State of California Department of Water Resources report "AB 645 Report" published.

December 2003 University of California Davis thesis "Reassembling Hetch Hetchy: Water Supply Implications of Removing O'Shaughnessy Dam" published

May 2004 University of California Berkley thesis "The Potential Economic Benefits of Restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley" published

September 2004 Environmental Defense study "Paradise Regained: Solutions for Restoring Yosemitie's Hetch Hetchy Valley" published

September 2005 Restore Hetch Hetchy study "Finding the Way Back to Hetch Hetchy Valley" published

2005 San Francisco Public Utilities Commission "Rebuttal to Paradise Regained" published

Proposed Project:
The project proposed in the study involves the removal of the O’Shaughnessy Dam, which holds back the water for the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and restoring the valley to its original condition.

The Plan outlines the proposed Demolition & Restoration process and proposals for mitigating the loss in water storage and energy generation capacity due to the removal of the O’Shaughnessy.

Background:

The Hetch Hetchy Valley is located in the Yosemite National Park. The Tuolumne river flowed from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the valley.

At the turn of the 20th century project to covert the Hetch Hetchy Valley into a reservoir was proposed by the city and San Fransisco. The plan was strongly opposed by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club which fought the city legally and politically until the 1913 passage of the Raker Act by Congress gave the city permission to construct its Dam. Construction on the O'Shaughnessy Dam began in 1914 and was completed in 1923 hailing the defeat of the environmental groups in their efforts prevent the flooding of the valley. Since then the environmental groups have been lobbying for the removal of the Dam and restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley.

In 1987 Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel proposed studies for the possible removal of the O'Shaughnessy Dam which resulted in five studies published between 1988 and 1990 which found "that Hetech Hetchy Valley was more valuable as a water source then as a restored valley."

At the turn of the 21st century 2 studies conducted by environmental groups and 2 masters thesis from two Universities of California were published on the subject of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley. These publications indicated that restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley was feasible.

In 2004 the State Resources Agency was tasked with reviewing all recently published material on the possibility of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley, analyzing the data and proposals in the studies and composing the report studied here.

Environmental Regulations:

The plan is subject to NEPA and CEQA and thus if approved will be required to submit an EIR/EIS to the Federal & State EPA before work can proceed.

The Federal and State Clean Water Act also applies as the project affects the safety and quality of drinking water for the City of San Francisco and all water users downstream of the reservoir. In addition the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act requires that a 83 mile section of the Tuolumne river downstream of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir remain in its free flowing condition. The State Water Resources Control Board and effected local water & irrigation districts will need to work out new water storage plans, set pollution standards for the project, work out plans to maintain river flow and monitor of effects of the project on their water quality.

The Organic Act which established and provides protection for national parks including Yosemite National Park where the majority of the proposed work would take place. Due to the nature of the work required for the project the approval of the Department of the Interior is necessary.

The Wilderness Act establishes wilderness areas including over 95% of Yosemite National Park. Wilderness areas are protected from human modification such as the addition of roads, this limits accessibility to the Dam and requires the cooperation of agencies within the Department of the Interior.

Important Data Sets & Sources:
The data used in the study & proposal is primarily derived from previous published studies and management plans. The levels of scientific techniques in data gathering and analysis differed greatly within these studies and plans. At times social, political and economic needs and realities factored more into the conclusions of these publications then the science behind the data.

Studies:
"Hetch Hetchy: A Survey of Water and Power Replacement Concepts U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region" February 1988 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
"Alternatives for Restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley Following Removal of the Dam and the Reservoir" 1988 National Park Service.
"Hetch Hetchy: Striking a Balance" January 1988 U.S. Department of Energy.
June 1988 California State Assembly Office of Research study "Restoring Hetch Hetchy" published.
"AB 645 Report" January 1990 State of California Department of Water Resources
"Reassembling Hetch Hetchy: Water Supply Implications of Removing O'Shaughnessy Dam" December 2003 University of California Davis.
"The Potential Economic Benefits of Restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley" May 2004 University of California Berkley.
"Paradise Regained: Solutions for Restoring Yosemitie's Hetch Hetchy Valley" September 2004 Environmental Defense
"Finding the Way Back to Hetch Hetchy Valley" September 2005 Restore Hetch Hetchy
"Rebuttal to Paradise Regained" 2005 San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Management Plans:

“The California Water Plan” 2005 Department of Water Resources.
“California’s Power Supply Outlook” 2003 California Energy Commission.
“California Outdoor Recreation Plan” 2002
“Yosemite National Park Resources Management Plan” 1994 National Park Service
“Tuolumne County General Plan” 1996
“SFPUC Water Supply Master Plan” San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
“SFPUC Water System Improvement Plan” San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Impacts and Alternatives:

The processes of demolition of the O’Shaughnessey Dam and debris removal in addition to the infrastructure required constitute several environmental Impacts that would need to be accounted for. The proposed plan involves the removal of the O’Shaughnessey Dam and its 662,605 cubic yards of concrete, which would need to be removed from the site. During the demolition and removal process the likelihood of debris entering the Tuolumne River and Atmosphere causing water and air pollution are extremely high. New roadways through Yosemite National park would be necessary to allow access to the Dam for work crews and construction equipment. These new roadways would allow for greater access to the park increasing automobile and foot traffic into and within the park increasing pollution and the likelihood of disturbance to the ecosystem.

Under the proposed plan the removal of the dam will mean the loss of 360,000 acre-feet of water storage and 1.7 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical generation capacity annually. To make up for the loss the plan includes improvement projects at other facilities including raising the hight of downstream dams and adding extra piping, which would involve construction work and the environmental impacts they entail.

Alternatives presented within the study include:

The do nothing alternative.
Not removing the O’Shaughnessy Dam and instead simply drain the reservoir and restoring the valley but leaving the Dam in place.

Major Stakeholders:

Stakeholders consulted during the study were:
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
National Park Service
Department of Interior
Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians
Medesto Irrigation District
Turlock Irrigation District
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency
Groveland Community
Environmental Defense
Restore Hetch Hetchy
UC Davis
Tuolumne River Trust
Bay Area Council
Silicon Valley Leadership Group
Sierra Club
American Fisheries Society
California Research Bureau
American Water Works Association

Controversies:

The study and proposed plan is incomplete and many details need to be worked out and additional studies done before the plan is ready to begin implementation.

The City of San Fransisco has traditionally fought to protect its use of Hetch Hetchy as a reservoir often opposing funding for studies of the feasibility of restoring the valley. It is highly likely that the city will continue to fight efforts the restore the valley.

There is also the issue of cost, the total cost of the project currently estimated to be in the range of 3-10 billion dollars, and the portion of that cost the parties involved would be responsible for.

Decision Tree:

Decision yet to be made

Geographic Area: 
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite National Park, Mariposa & Tuolumne Counties, California