Hetch Hetchy Valley c. early 1900s
But these days, in the wake of some high-profile dam removals in Maine, Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest, environmental groups such as Sierra Club and Environmental Defense have teamed up in an attempt to muster enough public sentiment and political will to bring down the O"Shaughnessy Dam once and for all. They admit it will be an uphill battle.
Recent studies have indicated that draining the reservoir created by the dam and replacing water storage capacity with expanded reservoirs downstream would be "technically feasible," but cost $3 billion to $10 billion. Most California lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and now Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (who ordered a review of the dam removal proposals by the state’s water resources authority), have determined that the cost of removing the dam outweighs the benefits. They point out that state residents would not gain any practical benefits by removing the dam in terms of drinking water or electricity, while leaving it in place would cost nothing more than ongoing maintenance on existing infrastructure.
But environmentalists remain optimistic that they will prevail in the long term, and are trying to keep the issue on California’s political front burner while they gather public support for the idea. "Restoring Hetch Hetchy would allow us to recreate the natural experience as it should be—and once was," concludes Spreck Rosecranz of Environmental Defense.
Sources: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14243621 and www.environmentaldefense.org/hetchhetchy