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The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

Robert W. Righter

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780195149470
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199788934 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149470.001.0001
The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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This is the story of water, a valley, and a city. The city was San Francisco, the valley was Hetch Hetchy, and the waters were from the Tuolumne River watershed, located within Yosemite National Park. In 1905, for the first time in American history, a significant national opposition led by John Muir and the Sierra Club sought to protect the valley from a dam, believing that its beauty should be enjoyed by the American people. On the other side, San Franciso mayor James Phelan believed it was his civic responsibility to provide his 750,000 constituents with a pure, abundant source of water. From 1905 until 1913, the two sides fought over the destiny of the Hetch Hetchy: Would the glacier-carved valley become a reservoir or remain an inviolate part of Yosemite National Park? Finally, Congress decided the issue by passage of the Raker Act, granting the valley to San Francisco's use. By 1923, San Francisco engineers completed the huge O'Shaughnessy Dam, submerging the valley under over 200 feet of water. However, the battle did not end. Who would control the vast watershed of the Tuolumne River: The City of San Francisco or the National Park Service? And would the hydro electric power provide for a city-owned system or would it be sold to a private company? For the first time, the full story of this epic battle is told in an evenhanded way. It is a story without end, however, and the final chapter discusses the idea of removing the dam and restoring the valley, an idea which is gaining currency throughout the US.

Keywords: American history; environmental history; San Francisco; Yosemite National Park; water; hydro power; Sierra Club; John Muir; environmental values

Book.  328 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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Table of Contents

Introduction in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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The Uses of the Valley in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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The Imperial City and Water in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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Water, Earthquake, and Fire in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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Two Views of One Valley in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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San Francisco to “Show Cause” in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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Congress Decides in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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To Build a Dam in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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The Power Controversy in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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The Legacies of Hetch Hetchy in The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

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