SAN FRANCISCO, CA. February 29, 2012 - The Yosemite Restoration Campaign (YRC), sponsored by Restore Hetch Hetchy (RHH), today files papers with the San Francisco Department of Elections, beginning the process of qualifying an initiative for the November 2012 San Francisco ballot. The initiative requires the city to develop a long-term plan for the improved use of local water supplies and the reduction of harm to Yosemite National Park, the Tuolumne River and the San Francisco Bay. The draft title of the initiative is "Water Sustainability and Environmental Restoration Planning Act of 2012." The resulting plan would be placed before voters for approval in 2016.
"San Francisco's antiquated, 19th-century water system endangers the San Francisco water supply, harms the environment and is unsustainable," said Mike Marshall, executive director of YRC and RHH, both of which are non-profit organizations. "This water reform planning process will put San Francisco on a path to dramatically reduce the environmental damage caused by our current system and to lead the nation in creating a 21st century model for water sustainability."
Since the 1923 damming of the Tuolumne River to create a reservoir for San Francisco in Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, San Francisco's water system has destroyed habitat, decimated the river’s salmon population, and polluted the San Francisco Bay.
The system also leaves San Francisco residents vulnerable. The city currently imports 99% of its water supply from outside city limits; most of it comes from the Tuolumne River and is transported across three major earthquake faults. Natural and unnatural catastrophes could disrupt the supply of this water to San Francisco.
Currently, San Francisco does not recycle any water, whereas Orange County recycles 92 million gallons a day. By capturing more rainfall, recycling water, and recharging and drawing water from its groundwater basin, the city can reduce its reliance on imported water and better prepare for droughts and other threats.
"Unlike our neighbors in Southern California, we San Franciscans don’t recycle one drop of water, yet we use pristine Tuolumne River water from Yosemite National Park to flush our toilets, wash our dogs and clean our streets," Marshall said. "It’s time for us to become more responsible stewards of this precious natural resource."
Local environmentalists have long sought reforms in San Francisco's water system, but have encountered resistance from elected leaders and bureaucrats at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). Marshall believes such resistance places San Francisco's water rights at risk.
If the water reform ballot initiative qualifies and is passed by voters, it will result in the creation of a five-member board, including one representative each from the SFPUC and the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, and three people with relevant expertise to be appointed by the Board of Supervisors. This board will hold regular, public meetings, culminating in the submission of a plan by November 1, 2015 to the City Attorney, who will prepare a charter amendment for implementation of the plan. Voters will then decide whether to pass the charter amendment in the November, 2016 election.
ABOUT RESTORE HETCH HETCHY: The mission of Restore Hetch Hetchy is to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to its natural splendor while continuing to meet the water and power needs of all communities that depend on the Tuolumne River. It is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.
ABOUT THE YOSEMITE RESTORATION CAMPAIGN: The mission of the Yosemite Restoration Campaign is to advocate for policies that lead to the restoration of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. It is a non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization.
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