Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's
cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever
been consecrated by the heart of man."
With these stirring words, John Muir
rallied the nation in defense of Yosemite National Park's
Hetch Hetchy Valley, the place he called "a grand
landscape garden, one of Nature's rarest and most precious
Despite Muir's best efforts and his
leading a fierce nationwide debate, Congress passed
the Raker Act in 1913 allowing the City of San Francisco
to construct a dam and reservoir on the Tuolumne River
in Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley. The
O'Shaughnessy Dam was completed in 1923 and, after the
necessary pipelines and power houses were completed,
San Francisco began using water from the reservoir for
its water supply and electrical power generation.
Mention Hetch Hetchy Valley to visitors
to Yosemite National Park and their response is immediate:
a heartfelt feeling of deep sadness for what has been
lost, and a fervent hope that what has been lost can
somehow be regained -- for Park visitors, for the people
of the United States, for the people of the world, for
the plants and animals, and for the glorious granite
walls and booming waterfalls of Hetch Hetchy Valley.