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 9

The Legacies of Hetch Hetchy

"If San Francisco cannot properly cooperate with its
generous landlord, the relationship had better cease
and the Federal Government resume exclusive use
of the park area."

CONGRESSMAN LEWIS CRAMTON, 1927

"Hetch Hetchy—Once Is Too Often."

ROBERT CUTTER

DESPONDENCY DESCENDED ON John Muir and his fellow defenders of the Hetch Hetchy Valley when they lost their fight. But a glimmer of hope remained. The forces of technological progress and the power of San Francisco won control of the valley, but Americans had awakened to the vulnerability of scenery and the national parks. Writing to Henry Fairfield Osborn, Muir predicted that "wrong cannot last, soon or late it must fall back home to Hades, while some compensating good must surely follow."1

What might that "compensating good" be? First, the National Parks Act of 1916, often called the Organic Act, must be credited to those who fought for the valley. Also, the National Parks Association, created in 1917, drew its origins from Hetch Hetchy. An equally significant result of the fight came in the challenge to assumptions regarding the value of dams, particularly their erection in national parks, including two notable clashes in Yellowstone National Park. When new reclamation projects surfaced on the Colorado River in midcentury, an invigorated Sierra Club, harkening back to Hetch Hetchy,

-191-

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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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