Leaders behind the local voter initiative aimed at removing San Francisco’s reservoir in Yosemite National Park plan to turn in more than enough signatures Monday, July 9 to place the measure on the fall ballot.
Former California Department of Natural Resources Secretary Huey Johnson, who served under Governor Jerry Brown during his earlier tenure in Sacramento, will join Mike Marshall, a gay man who is director of the Yosemite restoration campaign, and supporters at 2 p.m. on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Monday afternoon to announce they have collected 15,000 signatures from San Francisco voters to qualify the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative for November.
As the Bay Area Reporter detailed in a March story about the ballot measure, the aim of the campaign is to remove the city’s drinking water supply held in Hetch Hetchy Valley high in the Sierras and return the land to its natural state. The proposal is fiercely opposed by the city’s political leaders and water agency but has backing from some environmentalists and politicians from other parts of the state.
Under a highly contentious law adopted in 1913 by Congress, known as the Raker Act, San Francisco officials won the right to construct a dam in the pristine valley following the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire. Noted naturalist John Muir waged the unsuccessful fight against seeing what became known as the O’Shaughnessy Dam be built (pictured in photo at left) along the Tuolumne River.
If voters pass the Yosemite measure this fall, then the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission would have three years to come up with a plan on where to store the water currently held in Hetch Hetchy. Then in 2016 voters would be asked to adopt a charter amendment that would implement the plan.
If it does make the ballot, as proponents expect, then it is sure to be the most contentious ballot box fight San Francisco residents have seen in decades.
To read the ballot measure language, visit the website of Restore Hetch Hetchy.