Most recently the George W. Bush administration tried funding a feasibility study, but it was quashed politically by Democrats when Pelosi was Speaker of the House.
"San Francisco is known as a progressive city in many ways, especially environmentally. But in water, it's just not the case. We've got a very sweet deal," said Spreck Rosekrans of Restore Hetch Hetchy, who has studied the issue for 20 years. "Restoring the valley would undo the greatest wrong that has ever been done to a national park."
Studies by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, the state Department of Water Resources and others show restoring the valley is technically feasible. The cost estimates range from $3 billion to $10 billion.
"On top of that staggering price tag, replacing the water supply is unrealistic when California already lacks infrastructure to provide enough water for its economy or environment," said Feinstein. "We should move past this debate and focus on real solutions to California's water challenges."
The opposing sides also dispute the impact of reservoir removal. The Hetch Hetchy group says the city would lose 20 percent of its 1.7 billion kilowatt power-generating capacity, roughly the amount of excess production sold at cost to the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts. The city says it would lose about twice that much, which would cost $41 million.
In addition, utilities officials say water rates would increase by up to $2,777 per household a year and the city would be vulnerable during droughts.
Mayor Lee and others argue that the timing is wrong to spend so much money on a project that ultimately could make Bay Area water deliveries less reliable.
Proponents say passage of the measure in November would give San Francisco a chance to plan for restoration on its own terms. Voters would decide in four years whether to move forward with the plan.
"The opposition to removal is akin to the famous expressions many years ago about relinquishing the Panama Canal: 'We stole it fair and square and we should keep it!'" Hodel said.
Dearen reported from San Francisco. He can be reached on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen
Cone is at http://www.twitter.com/TConeAP
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