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July 29, 2011 > Hetch Hetchy conservation group lauds commission findings

Hetch Hetchy conservation group lauds commission findings

Submitted By Melanie Webber

July 26, 2011... The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has determined that Don Pedro Reservoir's effect on the Tuolumne River cannot be separated from that of other system reservoirs - in particular Lake Lloyd, Lake Eleanor and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, all owned and operated by the City and County of San Francisco.

FERC agreed with the conservation group, Restore Hetch Hetchy (RHH), that examination of an enlargement of Don Pedro Reservoir should be part of the environmental analysis for re-licensing of Don Pedro Dam under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) analysis.

"FERC today has moved us significantly closer to restoring Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley to its former glory for the American people," said RHH Board Member Spreck Rosekrans. "It is a first, but critical, step for FERC to acknowledge that Don Pedro Reservoir is integrated with San Francisco's operations upstream. San Francisco owns storage credits in Don Pedro that exceed the storage in its upstream reservoirs. When the Hetch Hetchy Valley is ultimately restored, Don Pedro will continue to be a key water supply asset for assuring a continual reliable supply of high quality Tuolumne River water, not only for San Francisco and other Bay Area communities, but for the Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts as well."

FERC concurred with comments filed by RHH - as well as other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the State Water Board - recommending that the geographic scope of the environmental impact analysis for the relicensing of Don Pedro extend upstream to Hetch Hetchy and downstream to the San Francisco Bay.

The revised scoping document sets the boundaries of FERC's environmental analysis and requires that FERC consider alternatives to mitigate environmental impacts associated with the project, including cumulative impacts associated with the coordinated operations of the O'Shaughnessy Dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley within Yosemite National Park. The initial scoping document issued by FERC on April 8, 2011 did not include any upstream or downstream impacts.

FERC also agreed with Restore Hetch Hetchy that examination of an enlargement of the Don Pedro Reservoir should be part of the NEPA analysis. A modest enlargement of the Don Pedro Reservoir, without encroaching on the upstream Wild and Scenic River corridor, is one of the alternatives suggested by Restore Hetch Hetchy for water storage replacement in conjunction with the restoration of Hetch Hetchy.

"These state and federal agencies are right that it is time to stop thinking about water districts in isolation," added Rosekrans, "and to start viewing themselves - and the rivers from which they divert their supplies - as part of an integrated whole. It is a step forward for FERC and a step forward for the National Environmental Policy Act."

Rosekrans commented on behalf of Restore Hetch Hetchy Executive Director Mike Marshall, who is currently in Yosemite leading trekkers across the Sierras and into the Hetch Hetchy Valley as part of the third annual Muir's March to advocate for the restoration of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. Over 75 hikers, following in John Muir's footsteps, will converge at the O'Shaughnessy Dam on July 30 as they complete their one-, four- and seven-day fundraising marches.

Congress permitted San Francisco to clear-cut and flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite for use as a reservoir after city officials claimed that it was necessary for the city's redevelopment in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire. That controversial decision fueled the creation of the National Park Service and the international environmental conservation movement. Prior to its destruction, Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley was one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and home to thousands of plant and animal species.


A complete copy of the Restore Hetch Hetchy filing is available at http://www.hetchhetchy.org. More information on the relicensing of Don Pedro Dam is available at www.donpedro-relicensing.com.

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