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San Francisco and the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Hearing held before the committee on the public lands of the House of Representatives, December 16, 1908, on House Joint Resolution 184.

DECEMBER 16, 1908
H. J. RES. 184,

[H. J. Res. 184 Sixtieth Congress, first session]

JOINT RESOLUTION To allow the city and county of San Francisco to exchange land in the Yosemite National Park and adjacent national forest for portions of the Hetch Hetchy and Lake Eleanor Reservoir sites in said Yosemite National Park for the purposes of a municipal water supply.

Whereas under authority of the act of February fifteenth, nineteen hundred and one (volume thirty-one, Statutes at Large, page seven hundred and ninety), the Secretary of the Interior has granted to the city and county of San Francisco a permit for what are known as the Lake Eleanor and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir sites in the Yosemite National Park for the purpose of a municipal water supply; and

Whereas by its duly authorized representatives said city and county has agreed to enter into a stipulation protecting the public interest in the use and enjoyment of the Yosemite National Park as far as the rights of said city and county under said permit are concerned, especially stipulating that all land the title to which is held by said city and county within said park shall be open to the free use and enjoyment of the public at all times under rules and regulations of the Secretary of the Interior; and

Whereas said city and county has secured options upon various tracts of land within said park and the adjacent national forest much of which land is especially valuable to the public for use in camping, but is now private land inaccessible to the public except under permission of the owners thereof; and

Whereas said city and county is desirous of purchasing the land upon which it holds options and exchanging it with the United States for the portions of the Hetch Hetchy and Lake Eleanor Reservoir sites which will be flooded by its reservoirs: Therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That upon the full relinquishment to the United States by the city and county of San Francisco of a title free from all liens or incumbrances of any nature whatsoever to any tract of tracts of land within the Yosemite National Park or that part of that national forests adjacent thereto which was eliminated from said park by the act of February seventh, nineteen hundred and five (volume thirty-three, Statutes at Large, page seven hundred and twenty), the Secretary of the Interior is hereby empowered and directed to issue patent to said city and county of San Francisco for all or such part of the land in said reservoir sites selected by said city and county as may be approximately equal, by reference to the smallest legal subdivisions, to the land relinquished: Provided, That until reservoirs are actually established in said reservoir sites any land patented hereunder to said city and county shall continue subject to the free use and enjoyment of the people under the rules and regulations of the Secretary of the Interior as though it were still part of the national park, and that any patents issued to said city county hereunder shall so specifically state.

Committee on the Public Lands,
House of Representatives,
Wednesday, December 16, 1908.

The committee met at 10 o’clock a.m., Hon. Frank W. Mondell (chairman) presiding.

The Chairman. The committee will come to order. The special order for this morning is House joint resolution 184, by Mr. [Julius] Kahn, [of San Francisco] “To allow the city and county of San Francisco to exchange land in the Yosemite National Park and adjacent national forest for portions of the Hetch Hetchy and Lake Eleanor Reservoir sites, in said Yosemite National Park, for the purposes of a municipal water supply.”

Mr. Manson, who is the city engineer of San Francisco, and who is conversant with the steps that have heretofore been taken by the city of San Francisco to obtain a large water supply, and with the action that has been heretofore taken with regard to these particular reservoir sites, is here, and I think it would perhaps be well for the committee to hear him, and then hear from the Secretary of the Interior, who has very kindly consented to be with us this morning and who is familiar with the facts connected with the issuance of a revocable permit to the city of San Francisco to occupy a portion of these lands for the purpose of creating an increased municipal water supply.

Mr. Robinson. Mr. Chairman, perhaps the Secretary would desire to be heard first.

Secretary Garfield. Mr. Chairman, I think the order you suggested is the better one. After Mr. Manson has addressed the committee, then I could take up any subject that I wanted to speak about.

Mr. Robinson. I only suggested that because I thought it might serve the Secretary’s convenience.

The Chairman. Mr. Manson, if you are prepared, we would be glad to hear from you. If you will be kind enough to outline, as briefly as you may be able, and give the committee a clear notion of the points at issue and the efforts that have been made by the city of San Francisco to enlarge its municipal water supply and the steps that have been taken looking to that end, we will be obliged to you.

Mr. Manson. I am obliged to you, Mr. Chairman, and will be as brief as possible, and in the meanwhile I will renew the suggestion made by the gentleman on my left here with regard to the Secretary presenting any matters that he may see fit to present to the committee, for the reason that this joint resolution was drawn, at the request of Mr. Kahn, in his office, and contains conditions that are intended to guard the government control and protection of the park privileges, and it would save his time. My own is at the command of this committee at any time and to any extent, and if the Secretary at any time would like to take the matter up and present such questions as are involved, I would be pleased to give way.

The Chairman. I think it would be well, first, to have a brief history of the case.

Mr. Manson. Very well, San Francisco is situated, as you are aware, in the dry belt in the summer, the region of summer droughts. There are no rains at all from along in May until the ensuing October and November. Then, from October and November until May the rains are extremely heavy and frequent, and all of our rainfall of any moment falls in those months. It therefore becomes necessary, in developing cities on the coast, to store very large volumes of water. The charter provisions of 1900, which came into effect in the first months of that year, provided that the city should own its own water supplies and facilities. A very exhaustive set of examinations was made by the then city engineer, later called from us by the President to take a position in charge of some Panama Canal works, Colonel Mandell, a retired officer of the United States Engineer Corps, and myself. Those examinations were conducted so as to cover the entire region possible to draw water to supply the city, and the decision was made upon the Tuolumne River, which lies due east of San Francisco and drains the 1,501 square miles on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That region is distinctly shown on the maps that my colleague here can lay before you at any time you wish to look them over. The second map, opposite page 95, shows you the drainage areas, rainfall, and the route of the conduits. This region of the Tuolumne lies directly east of San Francisco, something over 120 miles in a direct line, and along the route of the proposed conduits about 183 miles. The reservoirs selected lie within fifteen hundred and some odd square miles that were set apart in 1890 as a national park, and known as the “Yosemite National Park.” There are two very large drainage areas in that park, one of the Mercede River, flowing through the southern portion of it and passing through the far-famed Yosemite Valley. About a day’s journey for an active rider, or by wagon part of the way, northerly from that is the Hetch Hetchy Valley. It is about as far along the lines of road from the Yosemite Valley as from here to the city of Baltimore, and this park in which it lies is about one-fourth the area of the State of Virginia, to the south of us. It reaches from altitudes of 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 feet up to inaccessible altitudes of 13,000 feet above sea level, and the drainage area tributary to the reservoirs which the city seeks is uninhabitable and accessible only during three or four summer months. Other months the roads and trails are blocked with ice and snow.

The application for rights was first made in 1902. It was denied by the then Secretary of the Interior, and denied a second time upon a rehearing, referred to the Attorney-General of the United States, who decided that the law in force gave discretionary power sufficient to the Secretary of the Interior to grant that which had been previously denied. The Secretary of the Interior gave a rehearing of the case in July, 1907, restored the application to the files, granted the petition, subjecting the city to certain conditions looking to the control of the areas granted to the city for storage purposes by the Government until such time as it became absolutely essential in the development of a water supply for our Pacific coast metropolis and to bring it up to its absolute requirements, that would give the Interior Department absolute control of those lands until utilized, which would protect all irrigation interests and interfere the least possible with the rights of the Government and the users. The stipulation which you have before you in joint resolution No. 184, of May 16 last, provides for an exchange of lands, and the terms of that exchange are set forth in that resolution. The city holds at present two sets of lands. One set lies in the floor of the Hetch Hetchy Valley and constitutes the greater portion of the area of that floor.

The Chairman. Is that indicated in this pamphlet?

Mr. Manson. That is indicated there in blue and red in the Hetch Hetchy Valley on a map opposite page 96 of the book before you. The Hetch Hetchy is surrounded by lands in brown, and the legend shows you the two types of land owned by the city. Outside of that area, entirely useless to the city except for the camping of its citizens, are areas the title to which in fee simple and patent passed to private parties before the park was set aside as such. Those areas it is desirable to restore to the park lands, for the reason that they are within the limits of the park, or the previous limits when this land was set aside-one tract is-and they afford convenient camping places, very desirable ones. I have never been through that region without camping at one or the other of them, and they are also used by the Government in policing the park, troops being stationed always at two of them, and generally in the neighborhood or immediately around them, for patrolling the region. Those holdings are shown and are designated. The Tiltill Valley you will see up to the north of the park; Caon ranch slightly southeast, Hog ranch still farther south, and the South Fork homestead. Those aggregate: Tiltill Valley about 160 acres, Caon ranch about 162 acres, Hog ranch 320 odd, and the South Fork homestead about 160.

Mr. Smith. Do you not mean the Middle Fork? It seems to be indicated here as the Middle Fork.

Mr. Manson. It is known as the South Fork homestead; it is near the Middle Fork.

The Chairman. On this map there is a tract in blue described as the Middle Fork homestead.

Mr. Manson. Then I may be wrong, sir. I believe you are correct, Mr. Smith. I had had so much to do with the South Fork that I may have made that mistake.

The Chairman. What did you say the brown hatching on the map indicated?

Mr. Manson. That indicates the steep walls around the Hetch Hetchy Valley arising probably to a half mile above the floor of the valley.

The Chairman. Then the outer limits of the brown hatching would indicate the outer limit of the valley wall?

Mr. Manson. Yes, sir; about. Those are very much more distinctly defined on the Yosemite sheet of the United States Geological Survey which is before the chairman, and which I could not get additional copies of for the reason that it is out of print and the Geological Survey had no more. I took that one, very kindly granted, from one of the files of the department. The conditions of the terms of this exchange, which you will find by consulting the resolution, are such that the Government retains control of the exchanged lands in the floor of the valley until such time as those lands shall be utilized for the actual supply of the great necessity of water to our city. If at any time in the future, under the terms of this grant, this should be abandoned and cease to be used for the highest purposes for which it can be used, it reverts to the same user.

The Chairman. I do not want to interrupt you, but I just want to bring out the facts in regard to the matter. Do I understand you that the city of San Francisco now has the fee title to the lands in the floor of the Hetch Hetchy, marked in blue and red on the map opposite page 96?

Mr. Manson. Yes, sir. When I presented this matter to the Secretary of the Interior last May, it held options upon those lands. Those options have since been closed, the deeds are in escrow in the Central Bank in Oakland, and fifty-odd thousand dollars has been paid upon them.

The Chairman. How large is that area?

Mr. Manson. That area is something in the neighborhood of 600 acres, and constitutes the greater portion of the floor of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. About 1,100 acres are in the floor of the valley, and the lines will extend up on the sides to such position as the honorable Secretary of the Interior may see fit to demark.

The Chairman. What is the approximate area of the reservoir which it is proposed to construct?

Mr. Manson. That would be difficult to state just now, but it will certainly be over 1,100 acres.

The Chairman. Then, in addition to the 600 acres which you now own, it will be necessary to flood approximately 500 acres?

Mr. Manson. Five or six hundred more, possibly, depending upon the height of the dam and the line of demarcation, which will have to be done under the direction of the Department of the Interior.

The Chairman. What you propose now is to exchange these areas marked in blue on this map and located outside of the valley but within the park?

Mr. Manson. All but one of them. The park lines have been shifted slightly since those areas were obtained, and there is one of them, the Middle Fork homestead, which is outside of the lines, and the Hog ranch is probably also just slightly outside of the present line. They were all within the old lines of the park, but are in the adjacent reserve.

The Chairman. They are all within the forest reserve?

Mr. Manson. Yes, sir, and immediately adjacent to the park lines, and were in the park lines until shifted, in the latter part of 1905.

Mr. Chairman. Those tracts approximate 800 acres in area?

Mr. Manson. I think so; yes, sir; somewhere in that neighborhood. I have them here before me.

The Chairman. Three 160-acre tracts and one 320-acre tract, approximately?

Mr. Manson. Yes, sir.

The Chairman. And those areas you desire to exchange for like areas, acre for acre, on the floor of the valley, of the land that will be flooded?

Mr. Manson. Submerged by the construction of a dam, and they were acquired for that purpose under the terms of the grant made by the Secretary of the Interior.

The Chairman. Have you here a copy of the revocable permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior?

Mr. Manson. Yes, sir.

The Chairman. Will you kindly hand that to the stenographer to be made a part of the record at this point?

(The document referred to is here printed in the record in full, together with the petition of the city engineer of San Francisco on behalf of the city and county of San Francisco to the Secretary of the Interior to reopen the matter of the application for reservoir rights of way in the Hetch Hetchy Valley and Lake Eleanor sites in the Yosemite National Park.)

Hearings continue with the Petition of Marsden Manson
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