Most San Franciscans know that their drinking water, among the best in the world, comes from Hetch Hetchy in the Sierras. Hetch Hetchy dams the Tuolumne River which originates in Yosemite National Park.
Many San Franciscans probably have no idea that the City has been told by the state to leave a little more water in the river to help heal severe harm to salmon and the health of the San Francisco Bay and Delta. Instead of doing its part, at the urging of the SFPUC staff, the City has sued the state to block these stronger protections.
Instead of being a river of pure snowmelt full of salmon and trout, today the Tuolumne, downstream of the dams, is a trickle of warm water inhospitable to salmon and other native wildlife.
Further downstream, where the Tuolumne water once fed the Delta and Bay, stagnant water now turns to cesspools of toxic blue green algae. Getting more Sierra river water flowing back through the Delta and Bay is the solution identified by state environmental officials, but San Francisco, under the direction of SFPUC staff, is refusing to do its part. This flies in the face of San Franciscans’ value to protect the environment.
Toxic blue green algae in the Delta
Once abundant salmon runs that helped feed the Bay Area and beyond are weak and sick. As a result, the billion dollar recreational and commercial fishing industry that helped build fishermans wharf is suffering badly - after being shut down completely a decade ago. The answer is for the City of San Francisco to lead the way in restoring the river and to do its part to help restore the Delta and Bay.
We know there’s enough water to supply the City while protecting the environment because San Franciscan cut a third of their water use during the last drought. Instead of reflecting City residents’ experience and values, the SFPUC now argues that conserving won’t work and they’re using faulty studies to argue for the keeping the status quo.
Recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service commissioned a group of independent scientists to examine studies the SFPUC staff paid for to prop up its no compromise position. The independent scientists found they had little to no scientific validity.
The SFPUC is woefully behind other major California communities including Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County in using water wisely. Water recycling, and other 21st century water tools, can reduce our dependence on the rivers supplying the Bay-Delta, particularly in dry years. They can also reduce the risk to our water supply from climate change. Instead of working with local groups to adopt such tools, the SFPUC is teaming up with anti-environmental San Joaquin Valley agribusiness.
Recently the General Manager of the SFPUC resigned after he was indicted on corruption charges. This indictment and the SFPUC staff’s anti-environmental positions highlight the need for new leadership at the agency.
Mayor Breed didn’t create this problem. She just had the bad luck of inheriting it. Mayor Breed and the SFPUC Commission will now appoint a new General Manager and it’s crucial the Mayor bring in a highly qualified, environmentally responsible outsider who can clean house. Many highly qualified candidates would jump at the chance of guiding San Francisco back to being a progressive, high tech, environmental leader.
Ask San Francisco Mayor London Breed to hire a new general manager to run the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission who reflects San Francisco’s values and leadership in protecting the environment.
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