Herrera seeks to dismiss suit pushing ‘terrible idea’ to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Advocacy group’s lawsuit challenging reservoir’s legality defies the will of Congress and San Francisco voters, could devastate water system used by 2.6 million people

San Francisco City Engineer Michael O'Shaughnessy led Hetch Hetchy Reservoir project honored in City Hall.
San Francisco City Engineer Michael O’Shaughnessy who led Hetch Hetchy Reservoir project honored in City Hall.

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 22 2015)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed a pre-trial brief seeking to dismiss a lawsuit by an Oakland, Calif.-based advocacy organization called “Restore Hetch Hetchy,” which aims to drain a reservoir that serves the water needs of  2.6 million Bay Area residents and also provides clean hydroelectric power.  Although San Francisco voters rejected a related proposal by an overwhelming 77 percent of the vote in 2012, Restore Hetch Hetchy contends in its suit filed on April 21, 2015 that the operation of the O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir violates the California Constitution.  However, City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s pleading filed in Tuolumne County Superior Court today argues that the plaintiffs are baselessly urging the court to do what city voters refused to do in 2012.  Herrera also contends that the lawsuit is preempted by federal law and is time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations.  Congress authorized San Francisco to construct the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the Raker Act, which President Woodrow Wilson signed in 1913.

“Draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a terrible idea, which seeks to reopen a century-old debate and defies the wishes of the overwhelming majority San Franciscans who voted against the idea in 2012,” Herrera said.  “Hetch Hetchy Reservoir plays a vital role in providing water to our city and the region.  In the midst of a historic drought, San Francisco uses the water responsibly, and indeed, the San Francisco Bay Area has the lowest per capita water use of any region in the state.  With our pleading today, we are asking the courts to dismiss this lawsuit and uphold the decision that Congress made more than 100 years ago so that current and future residents can continue to receive the benefits Hetch Hetchy Reservoir provides.”

The case is: Restore Hetch Hetchy v. City and County of San Francisco et al., Tuolumne County Superior Court, Case No. CV 59426, filed April 21, 2015.  For additional information on the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, visit https://www.sfcityattorney.org.

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