Most of us take our drinking water for granted. Many of us do not know that it comes all the way from Hetch Hetchy the source originates in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which we will refer to, as SFPUC is in charge of this system a water system that provides, clean drinking water to over 2.4 million people in the Bay Area.
Another unknown factor that most do not know that this clean water is carried more than 160 miles from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to San Francisco. Hetch Hetchy is by Yosemite National Park and those of you who visit Yosemite should take a tour of Hetch Hetchy and you will be impressed. Please visit SFPUC web site at http://www.sfwater.org or call (415) 554-3289 for printed material, which is free and very informational.
There are 3 huge watersheds in the Sierra Nevada where all of the water is stored with pristine water from the snow Peak Mountains of the Sierra Nevada. The first one of course is Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which is 459 square miles and located within the Tuolumne River watershed.
The second watershed is the Eleanor Creek watershed, which is 79 square miles. The third watershed at Lake Lloyd also known as Cherry Lake is 114 square miles.
Before the Raker Act was passed in 1913, we here in San Francisco did not have ample drinking water. The Lobos Creek and a couple of creeks and wells provided the citizens of San Francisco with water. Water was often rationed and sold in buckets.
The Raker Act was passed in 1913 because the rich and powerful citizens of San Francisco had great influence in Washington DC and could influence Congress. Today, most people have forgotten Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy the Chief Engineer of the City and County of San Francisco. The Hetch Hetchy Project began in 1914 and took 20 years to build.
Hetch Hetcy delivers clean water by flowing over 160 miles by gravity from its source to San Francisco. No pumps just gravity. San Francisco received its first delivery from Hetch Hetchy in October 1934. A little know fact that should be noted, that 12 days before on October 12, 1934 Chief Engineer O'Shaughnessy passed away and did not witness the marvel he engineered..
The SFPUC feels that the time has come to repair the whole system and pipes stretching over 160 miles. The SFPUC feels that this Capitol Improvement is necessary and strongly feels that an imminent earthquake can and will deprive millions without water. It feels that the pipes will go kaput!
The SFPUC does not get any money from the City and County of San Francisco. All of the SFPUC money comes from the fees it collects from clean water, sewage, and electricity it sells. In fact for many years, excess money earned by the SFPUC went into the City's General Fund and many agencies looked forward to dipping into this pool of money.
Just like the S.F. Port Authority Ð the SFPUC has to generate its own money.
For years the fees millions paid to the SFPUC factored a certain percentage for repairs. We have now learned that much of that money was NOT spent to repair the infrastructure.
In November 2002 a bond measure will ask the constituents of San Francisco to pass a bond in the amount of $1.6 billion dollars. Only if this bond is passed - the other regional counties will pool in $2 billion dollars. The total of $3.6 billion can permit the SFPUC to attend to most of the infrastructure repairs. But, it is conditional that if the $1.6 billion-dollar measure does not pass Ð the prospective $2 billion dollars may not be delivered.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is 8 miles long and has a maximum depth of 306 feet. It can store up to 117 billion gallons of water. Wow!
Hetch Hetchy produces more than 1.7 billion kilowatts hours of hydroelectric power each year. Why do we need PG&E?
By October 1934, San Francisco voters had authorized seven bond issues to finance the Hetch Hetchy project. $600,000 in 1910. Another $45 million in 1910. $10 million in 1924. $24 million in 1928. $6.5 million in 1932. $3.5 million and $ 1.95 million in 1933.
November 1997 $304 million bond measure was passed for seismic upgrades and other improvements. I am sure millions of dollars were set aside to improve the system but there has not been too much accountability and transparency.
Many San Francisco voters want to see a clear blue print before they can vote to pass the $1.6 billion dollar bond measure. Other feel that proper field inspections have not been conducted by engineers to evaluate the pipes and the machinery those needs some repair but not a complete overhaul. The debate goes on and the SFPUC reminds us that the next "earthquake" could be the answer to all our protests.
When the Hetch Hetchy project was first conceived many thought that such an engineering feat would never be accomplished. Engineers all over the world marveled at the concept. Especially the fact that the water could travel for over 160 miles on its own gravity! Engineers marvel at the feat today.
There is no doubt that the Hetch Hetchy system needs some tender loving care. There is no doubt there will be another earthquake. We all cannot do without water and we should be thankful that we have plenty of good quality water. Pat Martel who is the SFPUC General Manager is a fair person and has inherited a lot of the inherent mess linked to accountability and transparency within the SFPUC.
In my opinion the SFPUC Commissioners have NOT done their job for the last 10 years. The City's Mayors have taken Hetch Hetchy system for granted. In fact they have abused it by dipping into its treasury.
The voters should be better informed and some detail facts should be placed on the table. A dialog will help and nothing should be hidden from the voters. In past years bond measures were passed but the money cannot be accounted for and much needed repairs paid for by the voters were not executed. To the many questions posed we continue to get few answers.
Will the $1.6 billion dollar bond measure pass this coming November 2002?
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