Herrera applauds Court of Appeal ruling preserving Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

A three-judge panel of the California Fifth District Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case

SAN FRANCISCO (July 10, 2018) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement after the California Fifth District Court of Appeal on Monday unanimously upheld a lower court’s decision dismissing a lawsuit that sought to drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir:

“The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir has played a crucial role in supplying water to San Francisco and the surrounding area for more than 100 years. Draining it is a terrible idea that would jeopardize the water needs of Bay Area families. San Francisco voters recognized this in 2012 when they overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure to drain it, and this lawsuit was a futile attempt to defy their wishes.

The lower court previously issued a well-reasoned ruling dismissing this lawsuit, and I am grateful that the Court of Appeal affirmed it. I’m also thankful to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, under the capable leadership of Harlan Kelly, for supporting our efforts in this litigation, and also for maintaining a pristine water system that serves clean water and clean energy to our residents.”

Case Background
In its lawsuit filed in 2015, the Oakland, Calif.-based advocacy organization, “Restore Hetch Hetchy,” sought to drain the century-old reservoir that serves the water needs of 2.6 million Bay Area residents and provides clean hydroelectric power. They alleged that the operation of the O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir violate the California Constitution. Herrera’s office countered that the lawsuit was preempted by federal law, and time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
In April 2016, a Tuolumne County Superior Court judge rejected Restore Hetch Hetchy’s challenge and granted Herrera’s motion to dismiss the case. In doing so, the Sonora, Calif.-based judge largely agreed with Herrera’s arguments that the plaintiffs’ proposed constitutional interpretation was both pre-empted by federal law (specifically the Raker Act of 1913) and also time-barred by nearly nine decades.
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; Court of Appeal Case No. F074107. For additional information on the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, visit www.sfcityattorney.org.