The Hetch Hetchy Ballot

The Hetch Hetchy Ballot

19.11.2012 - Posted by Matt Francey
On the 6th of November 2012 Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in the race for the US president by 332 to 206 electoral votes. Another, less publicised, ballot on that day was Proposition F in San Francisco – on the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Initiative.

The initiative was controversial as, among other things, it proposed an $8M study into the removal of the O’Shaughnessy Dam from the Tuolumne River and restoration of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. When the dam was constructed in the 1920s, a landscape that was seen by many as an equal to its neighbour, the world famous Yosemite Valley, was submerged. During a seven year campaign in the early 1900’s against the dam’s construction the naturalist and writer John Muir wrote ‘Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.’

Hetch Hetchy Valley circa 1914 (Source:

Proponents of Proposition F claimed that San Francisco’s current reliance on the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir could be relatively easily substituted by a mix of better water efficiency, stormwater recycling and the use of groundwater.

Opponents quoted on ballotpedia ( were vocal:
• San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that the measure is "stupid" and "insane"
• The San Francisco Bay Guardian wrote it was "...a huge waste of time and money"
• The San Francisco Chronicle called it "...a misleading measure that will squander taxpayer money"

Propostion F did not fare as well as Obama. The measure was defeated: 77% to 23%. The US equivalent of the Lake Pedder campaign, I guess.