Tearing Down Hetch Hetchy a Long Way Off

From the Desk of California State Senator Jeff Denham

Recently, environmentalists have renewed their efforts to tear down the Hetch Hetchy dam, and restore the Valley to the greatness that it once was. An intriguing effort perhaps.

But we should not hastily embrace this plan to restore the valley until proper planning is in place. Recent California history is one littered with catastrophes caused by poor and often nonexistent planning. We cannot let Hetch Hetchy be our next disaster. At this point, draining Hetch Hetchy is half-baked at best. It is a pIoy by the radical-left to try to get what they want, as quickly as they can, at any and all costs. The radical environmentalists ere apparently emulating the shortsightedness that worked so well for some labor leaders and trial lawyers, who have given us the current workers compensation crisis. Legislative majorities in the Legislature didn't plan for the future when the State had record budget surpluses, and this Hetch Hetchy plan proves that they have learned nothing from the massive deficits we now face. Even U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein called the plan to tear down Hetch Hechy a “terrible mistake.”

Our state is already drastically unprepared for a serious drought. California needs more water storage, plain and simple. Replacing Hetch Hetchy would not just require the re-operation of dams at New Don Pedro Reservoir; we need that to happen in addition to maintaining the capacity of Hetch Hetchy. The state also needs to expedite the operation of a dam and reservoir at Temperance Flat, in the Central Valley, again, in addition to maintaining the capacity of Hetch Hetchy.

The agricultural industry of California is vital to the struggling Central California economy. We cannot afford to leave that industry vulnerable to drought, we must have an adequate water supply. The only recent actions taken by California to increase water storage, is to study it. Studies, reports, research, analysis . . . but no new storage.

The beauty of water storage is not just in the water itself, but in the hydro electricity produced at the sites. The clean electricity produced at Hetch Hetchy serves as 17 percent of the power supply for the Turlock Irrigation District (TID), not to mention the electricity sold to the Modesto Irrigation District (MID). Without that service, TID would have to look to other—less clean— electricity sources. And bear in mind, this area has some extreme air quality concerns. It will take years before California can reach a point where we can even consider removing the Hetch Hetchy dam. It will require the kind of foresight and planning that in the past has baffled the Legislature. Californians need more water storage, not less. We need more clean sources of electricity, not less. And until we drastically improve these supplies, far above the levels of Hetch Hetchy, we cannot even consider removing the dam.