San Francisco Voters Say ‘No’ to Study Draining Hetch Hetchy

By Lauren Sommer

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir occupies Hetch Hetchy Valley behind O'Shaughnessy Dam. (Photo: Andrew Alden)

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir occupies Hetch Hetchy Valley behind O'Shaughnessy Dam. (Photo: Andrew Alden)

Voters in San Francisco say they are not ready to consider draining the city’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, for environmental restoration. The idea was rejected last night by more than a three-to-one margin.

Authors of Measure F stressed that a “yes” vote was to order a study of the future of Hetch Hetchy, not a vote to drain it. But San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee opposed it right away.

“I called it stupid,” the Mayor recalled. “I still think it is.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein and business groups also joined the opposition. But supporters say their goal was just to open the debate.

“I do think the voters are open to our message,” said Mike Marshall, director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, the group that put the measure on the ballot. “We’re very excited by the results and that sounds awkward given that we’ve lost but in fact it’s really, really true.” Measure F was defeated 77-23 percent.

In a morning-after statement, the “Yes” campaign called the outcome “a beginning, not an end.” Marshall says they’re looking at other ways to build support for draining the reservoir and restoring the valley, which naturalists and historians say once rivaled Yosemite Valley in its grandeur.