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Vote No on San Francisco Prop A:

Don't Expand the Water System

Measure on November, 2002 Ballot would divert more Sierra water for suburban sprawl

The Sierra Club urges San Francisco voters to vote No on Proposition A. Prop A would fund a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) plan for the Hetch Hetchy water-supply system, including long-delayed repairs to aging infrastructure and measures to address earthquake preparedness. Alas, the plan also includes an unnecessary expansion of the water system to bring more water to new sprawl developments. Several of the projects would have disastrous environmental consequences. Problems include:
  • a seven-fold increase in the size of the Calaveras Reservoir adjacent to the Sunol Regional Wilderness. The new Calaveras would hold 670,000 acre-feet - twice the volume of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. This expansion would destroy habitat of federally listed threatened species such as the California red-legged frog and the Alameda whip-snake. It would hurt fish in Alameda Creek, including steelhead and salmon, and would harm the Sunol Wilderness.
  • increased water diversions from the Tuolumne River. The Tuolumne is a federally designated wild-and-scenic river. Removing more water at the scale proposed in the PUC plan would damage the river's ecosystem. Missing from Prop A is funding for water conservation or reclamation projects.
  • a fourth pipeline across the San Joaquin Valley, bringing 30% more water to the Bay Area. Since 70% of system water goes to customers outside San Francisco, this additional water would go entirely outside the city, encouraging urban sprawl. This new water source would give the green light to huge sprawl developments previously stopped for lack of water.
  • no consideration of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Our preliminary analysis shows ways to meet water-supply needs while restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley. Given the scope of the ballot measure, now is the best time to consider the feasibility of restoration.
  • the lack of a regional or long-term approach. With the PUC's plan divided into 77 projects, we fear there will be no environmental review of the regional effects, such as increased sprawl. The PUC does not even have a long-term strategic plan for the water system.

The Mayor's Public Utilities Infrastructure Task Force described the PUC plan as a hodgepodge of discrete projects with no discernible organizational structure. The task force, which included water-policy experts, environmentalists, engineers, and economists, studied the plan for two years. Its final report, released in June, recommends against the PUC's expansion plan, and instead recommends an $800 million bond measure. For instance, the report recommends a $20 million retrofit of Calaveras Dam - not the $170 million enlargement in Prop A.

By ignoring the task force recommendation, the Brown administration and the PUC are following the same path as the San Francisco Airport - chasing a multi-billion-dollar, decades-long construction project without considering more environmentally sustainable, less costly alternatives. And in the short term the PUC doesn't even have an emergency plan for an earthquake in the next decade. Join the Sierra Club in asking City Hall to give us a reasonable water-system repair plan that focuses on earthquake retrofitting and not expanding the system.

What You Can Do

Vote No on A on Tuesday., Nov. 5. Volunteer to help with our campaign (even if you live outside of San Francisco).

Contact Jonna Anderson Papaefthimiou at (510) 848-0800, ext. 312, or:

From October/November, 2002 Issue, The Yodeler, newsletter of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club.

contact information

For more information, contact Sierra Club Hetch Hetchy Restoration Task Force Chair Ron Good, P.O. Box 3591, Walnut Creek, CA 94598. Telephone: (925) 933-4489; e-mail:

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