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Phil Matier: Conservative Congressman Pushes To Tear Down Hetch Hetchy

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Sacramento County Congressman Dan Lungren wants to do away with the dam that holds back Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Lungren, a Republican, said that he wants to give the world a "second Yosemite Valley."

The Hetch Hetchy Valley is in Yosemite National Park, but is buried under 300 feet of reservoir water. The reservoir provides drinking water to San Francisco and other places in the Bay Area.

Lungren has asked the federal Interior Department to investigate whether San Francisco is violating a federal act which authorized the dam.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier Comments:

Critics of Lungren's idea have said that he's not serious about the dam-removal idea, and is either taunting San Francisco liberals, or positioning himself for a re-election race. Lungren, who is on the same side as environmentalists in the Hetch Hetchy issue, is expected to face Ami Bera, a Democrat with a pro-environment record.

Opponents of the dam-removal concept include Senator Dianne Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the regional business lobbying group the Bay Area Council, among others.

"I have a feeling that if Hetch Hetchy were serving people in Modesto or San Diego or LA, San Francisco would probably go on record to restore it to its natural habitat," said KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier. "Feinstein and Pelosi are big environmentalists, but their taps come from Hetch Hetchy."

Meantime, San Francisco voters may get to weigh in on the idea in November. The group, "Restore Hetch Hetchy," needs to collect 7,500 signatures to get a measure on the ballot.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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