The O’Shaughnessy Dam and its accompaniment Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park sits serenely in Yosemite National Park under a cumulus of controversy, and right now, intense smoke from the wildfire blazing out of control. In the late 19th century naturalist John Muir rallied support to keep Hetch Hetchy Valley a nationally protected wilderness that would be unspoiled for future generations to enjoy. But Hetch Hetchy’s massive natural resources seemed unmatched by alternatives, and the O’Shaughnessy Dam was completed in 1923. Now supporting over 2.5 million people in the San Francisco and Bay area with pristine water and hydroelectricity, it seems a tough call to reverse the flow and tear down the dam. But over 90 years later, conservationists in opposition to the dam still suggest just that.
It’s an environmental predicament – tear down the dam, restore Hetch Hetchy to its former ecological condition and find costly alternatives for water and power? Or retain the dam and deny Yosemite National Park its original state (if that’s even possible)?
In the meantime, nature runs its course as the bushfire dubbed ‘Rim Fire’ burns about 6km west of Hetch Hetchy reservoir, threatening San Francisco’s electricity and water supply. Seems like nature has a way of restoring the balance.