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Cable cars as well as hypocrisy climb halfway to the stars Francisco
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"Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man." - John Muir

Get ready for some serious soul searching in the city that betrayed John Muir, the man that many of its strong-willed environmentalists view as the patron saint of nature.

Proponents of a plan to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite Park turned in about 16,000 signatures at San Francisco's Department of Elections. The measure seeking to drain the reservoir needs 9,702 valid signatures to qualify for San Francisco's November municipal ballot.

The measure calls for studying the idea as the first step toward restoration of the high Sierra valley as well as stepping up the city's water recycling. The Hetch Hetchy watershed supplies 85 percent of San Francisco's municipal water plus a large chunk of the water supply for 29 cities, water districts and other jurisdictions San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda counties. The other two reservoirs on the Hetch Hetchy watershed that aren't targeted for demolition by the measure are Cherry Lake and Lake Eleanor Reservoir. Lake Eleanor, like Hetchy Hetchy, is within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park.

Power generated from the Hetchy Hetchy system is sold to Modesto Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District and to ity of San Francisco municipal enterprises.

Old photos show a Hetchy Hetchy Valley that in many ways matches - and exceeds - the sunning beauty of another glacier carved granite walled gorge - Yosemite Valley.

This isn't the first time a serious movement has started to restore Hetch Hethcy. Earlier this century, the Environmental Defense organization released a report that showed water storage could be moved out of the valley and electrical power generation replaced. That prompted the state Department of Water Resources back in July 2005 to conduct hearings about tearing down the O'Shaughnessy Dam that blocks the Tuolumne River at the mouth of Hetch Hetchy Valley.

The dam was completed in 1923 by that bastion of liberalism, San Francisco, with chancery that rivaled Los Angeles' behind-the-scenes manipulations that literally raped and plundered the Owens Valley into a virtual desolate valley in order to satisfy its unquenchable thirst for water.

San Francisco's leaders misled Congress to get approval to flood the valley. Then they completed their environmental rape of a national park resource by negotiating a sweetheart deal for destroying Hetch Hetchy Valley - $30,000 a year. It is an amount that has been unchanged since 1913.

A proposal in January by Congressman Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, to up that annual fee to $34 million to make it compatible to what Southern California Edison is being pushed to pay to operate a reservoir in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was ridiculed by San Francisco leaders. They contend they pay $5 million annually to maintain trails and such around the reservoir as a benefit to the national park. What they forget to say is it is basically protecting the watershed to assure the purity of the water they take.

Nunes said it was only fair to get more value for the water out of San Francisco since their Congressional delegation led by Nancy Pelosi backed legislation to divert more water from San Joaquin Valley farmers by restricting the amount of water they can obtain from the San Joaquin River.

In other words, San Francisco gets more water from the same federally controlled San Joaquin River watershed and the Central Valley gets less water at a higher expense.

Using Congress to do their dirty work is nothing new for San Francisco when it comes to exploiting California water hundreds of miles outside of its borders.

The high and mighty in San Francisco have screamed for close to a century about L.A. raping the California landscape to secure water. Forget the fact San Francisco did something equally as destructive.

Making things even more ironic has been the emergence of the San Francisco-based Sierra Club and other environmental groups in The City that lead the fight against water development for other economies in the state while they wash their clothes, clean their dishes, and drink the water that comes from desecrating a spot in the Sierra that Muir himself elevated to celestial beauty status.

But here's the dirty little problem. Hetch Hetchy provides water for 2.4 million people. That water has to be captured somewhere before it reaches the Delta.

You can talk about creating new storage all you want in the Bay Area but it doesn't address two significant issues.

The first is what happens in a dry year when the Delta needs to be flushed? Water saved and transported by pipe from the Sierra at Hetch Hetchy now bypasses such considerations.

Also, what about the problem of water weight on earthquake faults in the Bay Area? It is the card environmentalists played to stop the Auburn Dam in the aftermath of the Oroville Dam earthquake, when a fault that was supposed to be dormant shook the earth prompting scientists to speculate the weight of the dam and stored water may have played a role.

Auburn Dam could replace Bay Area water needs, and still add more storage capacity for the state, while address flooding concerns down river and allowing Hetch Hetchy to be restored.

But those make up San Francisco's psyche view The City as the center of the universe.

The American River Canyon at Auburn can't be flooded without offending San Francisco's warped sense of environmentalism. Saving the American River Canyon has been part of the environmentalists' mantra since a group of San Franciscans, angry that their favorite nude sunbathing spot on the American River outside Auburn would be flooded, launched the drive to block the dam.

San Francisco has an extensive history of wanting it both ways. You can't have water in a city where there is none without building dams. What is true for L.A. is also true for San Francisco - that glorious city where cable cars and hypocrisy climb halfway to the stars.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.