The National Parks Act

(National Park Service)
         After Hetch Hetchy, many realized the National Parks needed more protection.  Gifford Pinchot wanted the U.S Forest Service to control the parks, but after his support to dam Hetchy Hetchy, Congress voted in 1916 to to establish the National Park Service whose sole purpose was  "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations".

"The collateral benefit of that battle was although we lost the valley, the Park Service was created and no more hydro-electric projects were allowed in any National Park in the country."  
   (Mike Marshall, Executive Director, Restore Hetch Hetchy)

The Hetch Hetchy Steam Roller
(Restore Hetch Hetchy: Yosemite's Lost Valley)


(National Park Service)
        The National Park Service now "comprises 394 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state (except Delaware), the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House."  - (National Park Service)

The New Debate: Restore Hetch Hetchy?

             In 1987, United States Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel issued a proposal to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley.   Since then several studies and reports have been done, many saying the restoration of Hetch Hetchy is feasible.  
        A 2006 report done by the State of California looked at all the studies done so far. (seeReport on Hetch Hetchy Restoration). The report estimates the cost to restore Hetch Hetchy and replace the water and electricity supply at $3 billion to $10 billion.

Donald Hodel on Restoring Hetch Hetchy
(Restore Hetch Hetchy: Yosemite's Lost Valley)


U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
(Official Photo)
        Peter Ruffo, congressional aide to former San Francisco Mayor and current United States Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, told the author in email correspondence that the Senator feels the same way about the proposed restoration of Hetch Hetchy as she did when the 2006 report was released saying "The bottom line is that Hetch Hetchy is a critical source of water and power for the State of California. Draining the reservoir would be far too expensive and leave the State vulnerable to both drought and blackout. The O’Shaughnessy Dam should not be torn down.” 


Artist rendition of a restored Hetch Hetchy Valley
Poster for Muir's March fundraiser to restore Hetch Hetchy
(Sierra Club)(Restore Hetch Hetchy)
        Meanwhile, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and Restore Hetch Hetchy are actively campaigning to remove O'Shaughnessy Dam.  The groups are organizing rallies, fundraisers and public policy campaigns.
        "(Restore Hetch Hetchy) has charted a course to build consensus amongst policy makers to move the reservoir and allocate resources for restoration by 2014, the 100th anniversary of John Muir’s death."  (Restore Hetch Hetchy)



Chief Lemee performing Miwok dance, 1950
(Mariposa Library)
        Unlike when the dam was built, the voices of Native Americans will be heard if Hetch Hetchy Valley is restored.  According to the study by the State of California  "It is likely that the entire valley would be considered a TCP (traditional cultural property) given the importance of the area to descendents of the Native Americans inhabiting the valley at the time of Euro-American contact. (New) regulations require consultation with tribes during all phases of an undertaking."