The Bay Area Council today (July 24) issued the following statement following a recent visit by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Yosemite National Park where he signaled that the Trump administration may consider a misguided and dangerous plan to tear down the Hetch Hetchy clean water and energy system serving 2.6 million California residents and businesses.

“Spending $10 billion tearing down perfectly good water storage infrastructure would merely be a monumental waste of time and money, if it wasn’t also a cynical and nefarious plot to steal the region’s water supply under the patina of environmentalism,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Hetch Hetchy is the primary water source for 2.6 million Bay Area residents and businesses. Eliminating water storage at a time of increased drought is economic suicide, but dehydrating the leading nation’s innovation economy is economic sabotage. We invite Sec. Zinke to meet with us and learn why this disastrous proposal has been defeated over and over again in the courts and at the ballot box and why we would be better served investing to expand our water storage infrastructure rather than getting rid of it.”

The Bay Area Council for decades has been the leading advocate for maintaining the regional Hetch Hetchy system, which provides reliable, clean drinking water to 2.6 million people and businesses in 30 cities across four counties, and generates 1.6 billion kilo-watt hours of carbon free energy each year. According to estimates from the California Department of Water Resources, draining and replacing the reservoir would cost $10 billion, and result in a less reliable, lower quality, and more expensive water supply and increased carbon emissions.

Sixty percent of California’s managed water supplies, including Hetch Hetchy, originate in the Sierra Nevada as snowpack. State water officials estimate the Sierra snowpack will shrink between 25 and 40 percent by 2050, and a recent UCLA study estimates that the snowpack could be entirely gone by 2100. In 2012, the Bay Area Council led the opposition against a San Francisco ballot measure that would have forced the city to spend $8 million studying draining and replacing Hetch Hetchy. The measure was rejected by 77 percent of city voters.