The Battle over Hetch Hetchy: America's Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism

By Robert W. Righter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

San Francisco to "Show Cause"

"By care in the designs, the use for water supply can be
made to add greatly to the scenic value."

THE FREEMAN REPORT

IN EARLY February 1910 J. Horace McFarland, head of the American Civic Association, wrote an intriguing letter to William Colby. "If you were sitting at my desk," he exclaimed, "I could tell you in full detail some things I cannot write about the Hetch Hetchy situation." He had just left the office of Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger, and "if I was William E. Colby, E. T. Parsons, and particularly if I was John Muir," he wrote," I would try to read through the lines of this letter and between them, and see that there is strong hope that the right will triumph."1 By the end of the month the secret was out. Ballinger had ordered San Francisco to "show cause" as to why the Hetch Hetchy Valley should not be deleted from the Garfield grant. The city would have to provide conclusive proof that it needed the valley—not an easy task. It was a triumphant moment for those who had worked to safeguard Hetch Hetchy. John Muir wrote Ballinger that "all the right-minded people throughout the country and particularly out here, are rejoicing over the stand you have taken for the preservation of our National Parks."2 For the valley defenders it was a high point, and as historian Holway Jones noted, "it appeared that the fight was won and that nothing… could stem the tide of victory."3

At San Francisco's City Hall, the mayor, the city engineer, and various officials were both disappointed and belligerent. They immediately requested a copy of the Geological Survey report by Louis Hill and E. G. Hopson,

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The Battle over Hetch Hetchy: America's Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • The Hetch Hetchy Harriet Monroe vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Hetch Hetchy Chronology xv
  • Cast of Characters xvii
  • List of Illustrations xxi
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1 - The Uses of the Valley 11
  • Chapter 2 - The Imperial City and Water 29
  • Chapter 3 - Water, Earthquake, and Fire 45
  • Chapter 4 - Two Views of One Valley 66
  • Chapter 5 - San Francisco to [Show Cause] 96
  • Chapter 6 - Congress Decides 117
  • Chapter 7 - To Build a Dam 134
  • Chapter 8 - The Power Controversy 167
  • Chapter 9 - The Legacies of Hetch Hetchy 191
  • Chapter 10 - Restoration 216
  • Afterword 242
  • Notes 245
  • Index 279
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