Here's a fellow Restore Hetch Hetchy member's take on the PUC meeting, which I attended (much to the delight of RHH supporters, who suddenly had a pregnant mom on their side). I don't agree with his characterization of Ellen Levin (she's just a cog, sent by ambivalent superiors who can't be bothered), but the back-of-the-envelope quote was a defining moment.
The San Francisco PUC Citizens Advisory Committee, foisted on the imperial PUC by the Board of Supervisors, met August 15 to consider a Resolution urging the CAC to recommend that the SF PUC "fully cooperate with" the Governor's review of Hetch Hetchy restoration options, and that the CAC recommend that the SF PUC include an alternative in their Capital Improvements Plan that would explore storing water outside Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Those not present at the meeting missed a great display. The SF PUC representative (Ellen Levin) was bristling with hostility in her very bearing; she introduced herself by saying that she was the 'lucky one' chosen to speak for the agency (implying that people above her found other things to do at that time), and that she was not happy to be there, that she would read a prepared statement, and would not venture to answer questions other than what she was clearly authorized to do. She said, in effect, that the PUC has no intention of cooperating with efforts to restore the Valley. All this was expressed in an imperial manner, exuding disdain. When asked how the PUC arrived at its figure of $9 billion for a Hetch Hetchy Valley restoration, she said that it was probably "a back-of-the-envelope" calculation.
Great show, PUC!!
Questions from the audience directed at the PUC representative included:
1) expressions of hope that the SF PUC and the City & County of San Francisco would see the restoration of Hetch Hetchy as an opportunity to have people all over the State of California and the United States help pay for the $4.3 billion capital improvements costs that are facing water ratepayers in SF and the suburbs in exchange for their cooperation on Hetch Hetchy's restoration, and PUC was asked why the SF PUC isn't availing itself of this opportunity;
2) hope that the SF PUC and the City & County of San Francisco would see the restoration of Hetch Hetchy as an opportunity to have people all over the State of California and the United States help pay for the costs of filtering the water (making it cleaner than it is now in its unfiltered state) in exchange for their cooperation on Hetch Hetchy's restoration, and they were asked why the SF PUC isn't availing itself of this opportunity.
3) asked the SF PUC panelist to provide backgound information about its cost estimates for restoring Hetch Hetchy's (ranging up to $10 billion). RHH estimates the cost to be around $1 billion, and Environmental Defense estimates the cost to be between $0.5 billion and $1.65 billion.
4) asked what would be wrong with using pumps to pump water from the Don Pedro Reservoir (where water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir could be stored) into the Foothhill Tunnel (which runs underneath the Don Pedro Reservoir) when the current water system already has 23 pump stations (according to the SF Chronicle article of Sept. 2002 by Susan Sward and Chuck Finney, and RHH's technical review of the system that identifes many pump stations).