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Mono Basin, Hetch Hetchy

September 08, 1987

The demolition of the O'Shaughnessy Dam and the reclamation of the Hetch Hetchy Valley have been proposed by Hodel in recent months. These are good long-term goals for the valley. However, they make no sense at the present time.

An astounding bit of grandeur awaits us under that lake (so says John Muir and others who saw it before the flood). But other valleys, meadows and forests in the Sierra Nevada are constantly being subjected to equally onerous development projects. It makes no sense to bring back one sleeping so soundly, while others are gasping their last breaths due to this sad state of affairs.

Why is Hodel proposing this major undertaking? A much cheaper way of saving valuable natural California resources would simply be to avoid developing so many of them. Do not build the dams that are being built even as I write; do not fund all the hydroelectric plants now being funded; do not sell out to timber interests and developers. These projects cause the destruction of animal and plant habitats, the hasty and often incomplete study of archeological resources and the loss of beautiful natural scenery.

Not developing such places may require us to learn some conservation techniques in our cities, but this is an alternative that we will have to face sooner or later anyway.

Land that we have not already severely impacted should be saved partly for its own sake and partly because this is the best strategy for humans in the long run.

Bring back Hetch Hetchy only when we have stopped devastating so many other mountain meadows and forests. Do not spend millions of dollars to bring back the treasure fought for by Muir until we can do it without wreaking new havoc. This would be a mockery of Muir's peaceful, curious and nature-loving spirit.


La Jolla

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