Editorial Monday – Hetch Hetchy Restoration An Example of Pushing Too Far

The massive Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which provides almost 100% of San Francsico’s water and a fair amount of hydroelectric power would never be built today. For one thing, it’s actually inside Yosemite National Park. For another thing, its construction submerged one of the most beautiful and pristine valleys in the world. But in 1913, despite John Muir’s best efforts, building dams was a lot easier than it is today, and the O’Shaughnessy dam went up and Hetch Hetchy went under.
Now, a number of groups (hetchhetchy.org) are working hard to remove the dam and restore the valley to it’s pristine state. It’s a nobel task with a nobel purpose. Even so, my opinion is that the movement is tragically misguided and that leaving the dam in place for the forseeable future is a better solution. Here’s why:
The cost for removal of the dam and the construction of new replacement reserviors is estimated to be $3 billion to $10 billion – that’s an unacceptable cost for something that, in the context of a multitude of other priorities which that money could be spent on, is essentially asthetic. It also says nothing about the decline in the quality of water that will replace the purer water from Hetch Hetchy which I rather enjoy drinking. It also gives a bad name to environmentalists and makes us seem dangerously pushy in an era where much of the population still doesn’t quite “get it” when it comes to environmental and economic balance. Finally, what of a replacement for the clean hydroelectric power that the dam produces?
The loss of Hetch Hetchy was indeed a tragedy, but it’s a done deal and now is not the time to start talking about repairing it. Maybe in 50 years we can go there, but I think the issue should be laid to rest for the time being.
(See more in this eMagazine article)

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He was instrumental in the creation of TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years as well as an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.