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KCBS In Depth: Restoring Hetch Hetchy

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A group that is looking to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to its natural state has begun the process of qualifying an initiative for the November ballot.

Restore Hetch Hetchy Executive Director Mike Marshall explains the goal behind the "Water Sustainability and Environmental Restoration Planning Act of 2012."

"It's a very simple proposal which is to ask the voters to approve a planning process that reforms San Francisco's 19th century water system and looks at how we can reduce the damage we've done to the environment over the last hundred years, primarily in Yosemite and to the Tuolumne River," said Marshall. "It's just a planning process with the idea being to bring that plan back to the voters four years later and have them approve it."

KCBS Interviews Mike Marshall and Ed Harrington:

Marshall said the measure does not specifically call for the dismantling of the O'Shaughnessy Dam, although that is something they are looking at. The group is more interested in creating a water recycling capacity and filtering the water from Hetch Hetchy Valley.

But Ed Harrington, General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said it's not that simple and some of the facts are being skewed.

"We should always be doing more. One of the arguments used by Restore Hetch Hetchy is that Orange County does such a better job of recycling water. San Francisco uses less water than almost anyone else in the state of California," said Harrington. "You look at a water measure called per capita water use, what we use against our population. We use about 80 gallons a day of water on average in San Francisco. On average, Orange County uses 170 gallons a day. They recycle 11 gallons a day per person. So all told, they still use almost twice what we use."

Harrington said the city is working on a recycling plan but that they will never be able to make up the difference of the storage capacity of Hetch Hetchy.

You can hear KCBS In Depth, a weekly half-hour news interview, Saturdays at 5:30a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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