The Plan to Restore Hetch Hetchy

Numerous studies, including those by the National Park Service and the University of Wisconsin have confirmed that Hetch Hetchy Valley can be readily restored. The only questions are how much human intervention is desireable and to what degree should we let nature take its course.

Removing some dams can be difficult, because sediment can build up behind them. This will not be a problem at Hetch Hetchy – there is little sediment behind the dam due to the granite rock of the Tuolumne watershed.

The Tuolumne River would immediately return to its natural course. Grasses and sedges would return on their own within a few years, and wildlife would follow.

As the reservoir is drained and the valley floor is exposed, replanting of native plants could take place as soon as the soil dries sufficiently. Revegetation could include the planting of a mixture of native trees and shrubs: black oaks, black cottonwood, white alder, Douglas fir, dogwood, willow, azalea, manzanita, and ceanothus to name a few. These species of trees and shrubs will be planted in areas where they originally existed, along with an understory of herbaceous plants.

The “bathtub ring” from the reservoir will fade naturally and surprisingly quickly, as lichen colonies return. Prescribed burning will be used to prevent conifer encroachment in oak woodlands and meadows.

There is an opportunity to create an experience of visiting Hetch Hetchy Valley that could be, at least in many respects, superior to present-day Yosemite Valley. A management plan that protects its wilderness character while maximizing opportunities for access to visitors with any sense of adventure shoud be followed.

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