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 - Part VII.
Doctor Giannini. I simply want to make one statement, and that is in answer to a remark of Mr. Englebright, of California, because I would like to have the representatives of California behind this proposition. He speaks of the removal of the taxable property from his county. I would like to suggest to him that the construction of these works will probably mean the expenditure of millions of dollars in his neighborhood, and I think his county will be amply repaid for whatever loss it might suffer by this construction. There will be roads leading from this place, and all kinds of construction work going on, and I think the money expended in that county will more than repay for the slight loss, and I would like to urge on the members of this committee this one point, that this is a proposition that the city of San Francisco is intensely interested in. We are now rehabilitating and reconstructing the city, and as the honorable Secretary of the Interior has stated, the present water supply of San Francisco is inadequate and unsatisfactory, and this will help us to rehabilitate our city.
Mr. Craig. There is one question I want to ask. It has been stated that this is the only place where water can be obtained to supply this city. There are other cities in this neighborhood, probably, that might be interested in this matter. Have any of them been heard from?
Mr. Hayes. They all have the right to come in and share.
Mr. Craig. Is that guarded?
Mr. Kahn. Yes; it is all in the permit.
(Thereupon, at 11.45 o'clock a.m., the committee adjourned until to-
Hon. Frank W. Mondell, M. C.,
Dear Sir: As I learn that on Wednesday a hearing is to be given to representatives of San Francisco on the bill to confirm the Garfield grant, I write to say that I am preparing an argument against the bill, which I hope to be able to forward to you to-
(a) Twenty photographs of scenes in the Hetch Hetchy Valley-
I respectfully submit these to be filed with the archives of the committee, and I request that the editorial be included in the publication of the hearings, as it has elicited the approval of both sides of the controversy for its fairness in stating the issue. I hope the two letters may also go into the record.
Very truly yours,
Too little was said at the White House conference of the conservation of one of our chief resources, our great natural scenery, though Mr. Horace McFarland made an impassioned appeal for its protection as a national asset. This is in no sense a local question. The Palisades and Highlands of the Hudson, the White Mountains, the Adirondacks, Niagara, the Yellowstone Park, the Arizona Canyon (to name but the chief of such treasures), belong to the whole country, and their invasion by special interests or their diversion to commercial uses should be a matter of the most vigilant scrutiny.
The Secretary of the Interior, for reasons which doubtless appear to him good and sufficient, and with the approval of the President, has made over to the city of San Francisco, on certain conditions, as a reservoir for its water supply the wonderful Hetch Hetchy Valley, one of the most beautiful gorges of the Sierras, which, as part of the Yosemite National Park, was set aside in 1890, by reason of its scenery, for the recreation and use of all the people. This action has, on the face of it, the authority of a congressional provision (of February 15, 1901) by which the Secretary of the Interior may grant water privileges in the three national parks of California, "if not incompatible with the public interest." Whether the United States Supreme Court would hold that such authority extends to the destruction to so large an extent of the original purpose of the reserve may yet be the subject of adjudication.
In a matter relating to public lands the presumption is in favor of any course taken by President Roosevelt, Secretary Garfield, and Forester Pinchot. As our readers know, we have vigorously supported their enlightened services to the cause of forest conservation, as we have the services of preceding administrations. It was in this magazine that the movement for the creation of the Yosemite National Park first took public form in 1890, and the chief reason urged upon the Public Lands Committee for making the reservation-
Let us say at once that we hold human life more sacred than scenery, than even great natural wonderlands, vastly as they contribute to save life and promote happiness; and if that were the issue, if San Francisco could not otherwise obtain an abundant water supply, we should be willing to dedicate to that purpose not only Hetch Hetchy, but even the incomparable Yosemite itself. But this is not the contention of Secretary Garfield in the official document granting the request. The administration's position is not that the step is a last resort, that no other source is adequate, but that Hetch-
It is idle to attempt to discredit such defenders of the public's previous rights in the valley as John Muir and many other members of the Sierra Club and other like organizations by calling them "sentimentalists" and "poets." Cant of this sort on the part of people who have not developed beyond the pseudo-
There is one ground of hope that the danger may be averted. By the time it can be demonstrated that Lake Eleanor is not adequate, it is likely to be generally recognized that a pure-
The better part of the world is beginning to know that beauty plays an important part in human progress, and that regarded even from the lowest financial standpoint it is one of the most precious and productive assets any country can posses.
Most of our forests have already vanished in lumber and smoke, mostly smoke. Fortunately the Federal Government is now faithfully protecting and developing nearly all that is left of our forest and stream resources; nor even these money-
Timber and water are universal wants, and of course the Government is aware that no scheme of management of the public domain failing to provide for them can possibly be maintained. But, however abundantly supplied from legitimate sources, every national park is besieged by thieves and robbers and beggars with all sorts of plans and pleas for possession of some coveted treasure of water, timber, pasture, rights of way, etc. Nothing dollarable is safe, however guarded. Thus the Yosemite Park, the beauty glory of California and the nation, nature's own mountain wonderland, has been attacked by spoilers ever since it was established, and this strife I suppose must go on as part of the eternal battle between right and wrong. At present the San Francisco board of supervisors and certain monopolizing capitalists are trying to get the Government's permission to dam and destroy Hetch Hetchy, the Tuolumne, Yosemite Valley, for a reservoir, simply that comparatively private gain may be made out of universal public loss.
Should this wonderful valley be submerged as proposed, not only would it be made utterly inaccessible, but the sublime Tuolumne Canyon way to the heart of the high Sierra would be hopelessly closed. None, as far as I have learned, of the thousands who have visited the park, is in favor of this destructive and wholly unnecessary water scheme. Very few of the statements made by the applicants are even partly true.
Thus, Hetch Hetchy, they say, is "a low-
Norman J. Hapgood, Esq.,
Dear Sir: Having read Mr. Pinchot's argument in favor of the granting of the wonderful Hetch Hetchy Valley, situated in the Yosemite National Park, to be used as a reservoir site for a municipal water supply for San Francisco, I venture to reply.
The subject naturally divides itself into two parts: First, the necessity for using Hetch Hetchy, and, secondly, the effect on the natural scenery and travel in the park resulting from such use.
As a matter of fact, San Francisco is exceptionally situated as far as the acquisition of a municipal supply is concerned. She probably has more available sources of supply than any other city of her size in the United States. Colonel Mendell, a most eminent hydraulic engineer, reports on fourteen available systems. It is self-
Prof. C. D. Marx, a specialist of Stanford University, in a carefully prepared paper on the subject, reports as follows:
"It can readily be shown that the drainage area needed for a water supply capable of furnishing 200,000,000 gallons per day can be had on a number of the Sierra streams. * * * That the drainage areas of streams north of the Tuolumne give better promise of meeting these requirements can not be denied. * * * It can not be said that the physical data now available are such as to admit of a reliable comparison of the relative values of the various sources of water supply for San Francisco from the Sierras."
The fact of the matter is that there has been friction between the Spring Valley Water Company, supplying San Francisco, and the city officials for many years. This attempt to secure rights in the Yosemite National Park has been an outgrowth of this hostility with the idea of displacing the local company, and in consequence the city is applying for a free water right, which has only been kept out of private hands because John Muir and other public-
There is no question but that the Hetch Hetchy supply is a splendid one, but it is equally beyond question that there are many others available. Mr. Pinchot says that "the Tuolumne supply offered the best and most available supply for the city." Some of the most eminent hydraulic engineers in America differ with him on this point even, but Mr. Pinchot's own statements establish that there is no compelling necessity for using the Hetch Hetchy system-
Mr. Pinchot misses the main objection to the use of Hetch Hetchy as a reservoir. Thousands of campers of moderate means from the hot, dusty plains of the San Joaquin now inhabit the floor of the Yosemite during the summer months. The congestion is great. A road into the Hetch Hetchy would relieve it and thousands more of the increasing population of these plains would camp on the floor of the Hetch Hetchy. They will in time if the Government does not make it impossible by flooding the only available camping place for miles around. The national park was created for these people and these purposes. A limited number of wealthy tourists may gain access to this lake surrounded by towering and almost inaccessible cliffs, but they will only be able to view its sublimity from excursion boats, and can not live on the floor of the valley for days and wander about at will, as one can now.
Mr. Pinchot misses another salient point. If these thousands of tourists frequent this reservoir valley, as he claims they can, what is going to become of the typhoid germs and pollution created by this travel? What is going to become of the drainage of the river flowing through the valley, and which heads in the national park in a region that in a few decades is going to be frequented by thousands upon thousands of travelers? As a matter of fact, the use of Hetch Hetchy Valley for a municipal water supply is absolutely inconsistent with its rightful use as a national park.
The greatest judges of scenery in the world who have both visited this valley many times-
We agree with Mr. Pinchot that "most trees must be cut and most waters must be urged," but we do not follow him when he contends for the granting of a destructive eight years in advance of any necessity, even on his own statement. He overlooks entirely the economic value of scenery, and the fact that millions frequent the Alps each year for recreation alone. The Hetch Hetchy Valley is of infinitely greater economic importance to the nation and the State of California, with its park-
I am a tremendous admirer of Mr. Pinchot and have aided him in his noble work in my small way. My life and my business interests are interwoven with those of San Francisco, and no one has her welfare more at heart than I, and yet I know that this precedent of entering national parks is wrong in principle and unnecessary in fact, and I regret more than I can express in words to learn that in this instance Mr. Pinchot has become an advocate of comparatively local interests, as opposed to the interests of this great nation.
Dear Sir: I am sending you herewith the brief concerning which I wrote to you last evening, and I respectfully request that it may be presented at to-
I am still ill, but I hope to get down to Washington on Thursday or Friday and to call upon you briefly.
I shall appreciate greatly your kindness in this matter.
Very sincerely, yours,
P.S. I add some copies of Muir's Century article for the use of the committee.