Muir’s March and the Move to Restore Hetch Hetchy
April 29th, 2012
Mike Marshall of Restore Hetchy Hetchy
With dams coming down on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, and proposed dam removals along the Klamath and Snake rivers, how receptive are San Francisco city leaders to the idea of draining the O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, and restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley to its natural state?
The answer depends on who you ask. We asked Mike Marshall, the Executive Director of Restore Hetch Hetchy.
The San Francisco-based organization is busy gearing up for it’s annual Muir’s March event, happening this summer from July 29th to August 4th, as Restore Hetchy Hetchy suppotrers walk in the footsteps of John Muir to raise awareness and resources for the campaign to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
The Patron Saint of American Environmentalism
The stature of John Muir in American conservation cannot be overstated. His role in protecting not only Yosemite and the area which became Sequoia National Park, but other sites throughout the American west makes him, according to biographer, Steven J. Holmes, “one of the patron saints of 20th-century American environmental activity.”
Indeed, the volume of schools and sites named for John Muir throughout California leaves no doubt of the importance of his legacy on the Golden State, and the west.
As Muir aged and became recognized for his lifetime of conservation work, he entered into one of the last great battles of his career. It was a battle which many believe hastened the end of Muir’s amazing life.
The Desecration of a National Park
The location was the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, and the fight was over the dam proposed to be built there by the city and county of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake.
Often referred to as a rival in beauty and stature to Yosemite Valley, the Hetch Hetchy Valley was created over millions of years by the drainage of the Tuolumne River. Writing about Hetch Hetchy, John Muir said, “no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.”
Unfortunately, despite Muir’s eloquent words and protests to the federal government, coupled with warnings about how building a dam at Hetch Hetchy and damming the Tuolumne River would forever violate the sanctity of the idea of a National Park, the will of San Francisco’s business community held sway in Congress. Hetch Hetchy became America’s first great conservation battle, but President Woodrow Wilson ultimately signed into law the Raker Act, authorizing construction of the dam, on December 19, 1913.
After working his entire adult life to preserve Yosemite, even famously hiking to Glacier Point with President Theodore Roosevelt a decade earlier, Muir was devastated. In a letter to scientist Vernon Kellogg, Muir wrote “As to the loss of the Sierra Park Valley [Hetch Hetchy], it’s hard to bear. The destruction of the charming groves and gardens, the finest in all California, goes to my heart.”
Just over a year later, on December 24, 1914, John Muir died.
Restore Hetch Hetchy
Mike Marshall is the Executive Director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, a San Francisco-based organization which seeks to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley to its natural condition, while continuing to meet the water and power needs of all the communities which depend upon the Tuolumne River.
Mike talks about the upcoming Restore Hetch Hetchy ballot measure, the need for San Francisco to at last undertake water recycling (most urban areas in California already have), the resistance of some city leaders and surprising allies Restore Hetchy Hetchy has made along the way, and the long-term use of the Tuolumne River, which will continue to be a water supply for the Central Valley and Bay Area whether or not the O’Shaughnessy Dam remains.
One of the ways which Restore Hetch Hetchy gets their message out about their mission is through their annual Muir’s March event, a multi-day trek through the backcountry of Yosemite National Park, culminating in a rally atop the O’Shaughnessy Dam. This year’s Muir’s March runs from July 29th to August 4th.
Some will march for seven days, some will trek for four, while others will simply join in on the last day for a one-day hike in the O’Shaughnessy Dam area. Each marcher raises a minimum amount of money for Restore Hetch Hetchy prior to their hike or backpack.
Seven day marchers must raise a minimum of $1,900; four day marchers must raise a minimum of $1,100; single-day hikers must contribute $100 for individuals and $190 for families. All proceeds benefit the restoration of Hetchy Hetchy, and all in Muir’s March will march in the footsteps of the great American naturalist and conservationist, John Muir.
Harrison Ford hosts this Restore Hetch Hetchy documentary on the fight to save Hetch Hetchy Valley 100 years ago.
More about this post at:
- Restore Hetch Hetchy
- Muir’s March
- Hetch Hetchy: Valley of Broken Promises
- California Alpine Guides to Lead Muir’s March (P.R. Web; 4/30/12)
- Restoring Hetch Hetchy (KCBS; 3/18/12)
- Draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir: Dam Bad Idea (San Francisco Business Times; 3/9/12)
- Ballot Initiative Reignites Debate Over Yosemite’s “Twin Valley” (The Guardian; 3/6/12)
- It’s Time for San Francisco to End Its Hypocrisy Toward Water (East Bay Express; 3/5/12)
- Hetch Hetchy Restoration and the Tuolumne River (Modesto Bee; 3/5/12)
- S.F. Needs to Help In Restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley (San Francisco Examiner; 3/5/12)
- S.F. Needs Responsible Future Without Hetch Hetchy (San Francisco Chronicle; 3/2/12)
- Water Initiative Seeks Hetch Hetchy Alternative (San Francisco Chronicle; 3/1/12)
- Measure Would Make Hetch Hetchy A Reservoir No More (Bay Nature; 2/29/12)
- Restore Hetch Hetchy Group Begins S.F. Initiative Signature Drive (KCBS; 2/29/12)
- Hetch Hetchy Opponents Prepare Initiative (San Francisco Examiner; 2/29/12)
- Irrigation Districts: Hetch Hetchy Claims Untrue (San Francisco Chronicle; 2/23/12)
- Hetch Hetchy’s Past and Future (New York Times; 2/16/12)
- Will San Francisco Vote to Drain Hetch Hetchy? (Sacramento Bee; 2/15/12)
- Dam Opponents Eager to Collect Signatures for Ballot Measure (San Francisco Examiner; 2/15/12)
- San Francisco’s Water Ways (Los Angeles Times; 1/15/12)
- Drain it! Pay More for the Water! The Hetch-Hetchy Saga Continues (KQED; 1/7/12)
- Lungren Picks A Good Crusade With Hetch Hetchy (Sacramento Bee; 12/15/11)
- San Francisco Called Out for Alleged Water Waste (San Francisco Examiner; 12/14/11)
- Lungren, Feinstein Spar Over Hetch Hetchy Valley Restoration (Los Angeles Times; 12/13/11)
- A Chance to Reclaim Hetchy Hetchy (San Francisco Chronicle; 7/6/11)
- Imagine a Yosemite With Hetch Hetchy Open to All Again (Sacramento Bee; 7/1/11)
- Restoring A Drowned Valley (Santa Barbara Independent; 10/1/10)
- Time to End the Occupation of Yosemite (San Francisco Chronicle; 12/8/09)