Restore Hetch Hetchy Requests California Supreme Court Review of Appellate Court Ruling

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Restore Hetch Hetchy challenges court ruling that San Francisco is exempt from full compliance with California Law; asks California Supreme Court to assess sovereignty over State water law in case that may determine the future of Yosemite National Park

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We are on the right side of history by committing to win this important environmental battle, while assuring that San Francisco will retain or improve the reliability of its water system.

Restore Hetch Hetchy has formally requested that the California Supreme Court review the ruling, by California’s 5th District Court of Appeal, that its petition alleging Hetch Hetchy Reservoir violates California law is preempted by the federal Raker Act. (Case No. F074107 – )

“Restore Hetch Hetchy has asked the California Supreme Court to review the ruling, quite simply, because we believe our case raises extremely important issues and the appellate court got it wrong. It failed to consider the Raker Act’s plain language that Congress never wanted San Francisco’s water system to be above the laws of California,” said Restore Hetch Hetchy Executive Director Spreck Rosekrans. “We think the Supreme Court will want to take a very close look at the lower court’s ruling and what it would mean for the sovereignty of State water law.”

On July 9, the Court of Appeal ruled against Restore Hetch Hetchy, affirming the trial court’s conclusion in 2016. The Court of Appeal stated “Congress intended to permanently flood the valley through its right-of-way grant. That intent cannot be overcome by the Act’s general savings clause, one that preserves California law but only in matters not in direct conflict with the requirements of the Act itself.”

Restore Hetch Hetchy’s case alleges that the reservoir that has drowned the Hetch Hetchy Valley under 300 feet of water violates the water diversion mandates in the California Constitution. Restore Hetch Hetchy seeks a hearing in the California courts which would weigh the significant value of restoration against the cost of water system improvements necessary for San Francisco to retain its existing Tuolumne River supplies without Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

San Francisco argues that the reservoir is subject only to federal law and that it need not comply with the mandate of the California Constitution that all methods of diversion be reasonable.

“Our case recognizes that the federal government has no direct stake in San Francisco’s water system – it is simply acting as landlord. Congress specifically required that all elements of the City’s water system comply with State water law, just as all other California cities are required to do,” said Michael Lozeau, chief counsel for Restore Hetch Hetchy.

The O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir have flooded a valley that conservationist John Muir called “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” In 1913, the unprecedented debate over building a dam in a national park drew opposition from more than 200 newspapers across the United States. Less than three years later, Congress passed the National Park Service Act, ensuring that no such destruction would ever again be allowed.

“We are on the right side of history by committing to win this important environmental battle, while assuring that San Francisco will retain or improve the reliability of its water system,” continued Rosekrans. “No one would consider damming an iconic glacier carved valley in Yosemite National Park today. There is no reason we need to live with this 100-year-old mistake.”

Citizens who are interested in joining the 100-year old mission to restore Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley can find out more at

Restore Hetch Hetchy’s mission is to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park National Park to its natural splendor while continuing to meet the water and power needs of all communities that depend on the Tuolumne River.

Media Relations
Melanie Webber, mWEBB Communications, (949) 307-1723,

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Crystal Hartwell
mWEBB Communications
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Melanie Webber
mWEBB Communications
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