Restore Hetch Hetchy Wins First Victory in Lawsuit Challenging San Francisco

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San Francisco’s venue motion denied; trial to be held in Tuolumne County; lawsuit asserts Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir violates California law.

Restore Hetch Hetchy (RHH, today announced that the Superior Court of Tuolumne County has ruled in the organization’s favor regarding the trial venue for the lawsuit(1) it filed against the City of San Francisco. The lawsuit asserts that the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park violates the water diversion mandates of the California Constitution. The City of San Francisco had sought to move the venue from Tuolumne County to San Francisco.

“Hetch Hetchy was once one of Earth’s most beautiful places - a resplendent glacier carved valley, with towering cliffs and waterfalls cascading onto a serene valley floor. It was to be protected “in perpetuity” when Yosemite National Park was created in 1890. A century ago, however, San Francisco made history by becoming the only city ever to destroy a significant portion of one of our national parks. We intend to reverse that unfortunate chapter of American history and return Hetch Hetchy Valley to Yosemite National Park and the American people,” said Restore Hetch Hetchy Executive Director Spreck Rosekrans.

“We are pleased with this initial ruling. We look forward to the opportunity to address the merits of restoration and to demonstrate that Hetchy Valley can be restored without the loss of one drop of San Francisco’s water supply. Restoration of Hetch Hetchy will reverse one of the most unfortunate chapters in American environmental history.”

The next step is a ‘case management’ meeting, scheduled for November 20th, at which Restore Hetch Hetchy will ask the court for resolution of any and all other preliminary issues in a timely fashion so that the lawsuit can proceed to its evidentiary phase.

The Lawsuit

California’s Constitution(2) requires that the manner of diverting water out of streams and rivers must always be reasonable. Restore Hetch Hetchy’s petition alleges that since there are alternatives for diverting the water downstream of Yosemite and allowing the Tuolumne River to flow through Hetch Hetchy Valley in a pristine state, the existing reservoir violates the law.

The petition:

  • alleges the existing reservoir violates state law,
  • alleges that no water supply need be diminished, and
  • recommends San Francisco be given time to implement necessary improvements.

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.

Restore Hetch Hetchy is represented in the lawsuit by Michael Lozeau, an attorney with Lozeau Drury LLP, a public interest environmental law firm based in Oakland, California and Richard Frank, Professor of Environmental Practice at the U.C. Davis School of Law.

IMAGES: High-resolution digital photographs of the Hetch Hetchy Valley, both before and after its flooding, and broadcast-quality video footage of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir are available upon request.

Contact Media Relations:
Melanie Webber, mWEBB Communications, (424) 603-4340, melanie(at)mwebbcom(dot)com
Elizabeth Johnson, mWEBB Communications, (213) 713-4865, elizabeth(at)mwebbcom(dot)com

(1) Case number CV59426 in Superior Court in Tuolumne County

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Crystal Hartwell
mWEBB Communications
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Melanie Webber
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