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HETCH HETCHY VALLEY: Should It Be Dammed?
In the early 20th century, San Francisco, California, needed a reliable source of water. As the financial center of the West and the state’s biggest city, its future as a magnet for commerce depended on it. Engineers determined that the Tuolumne River in the Hetch Hetchy Valley, a scenic region in the northern part of Yosemite National Park, would be the best new source for this water. To provide the water, however, a dam and reservoir would need to be built. Supporters of damming Hetch Hetchy argued that the water of the Tuolumne was plentiful, pure, and could be delivered to the city at a reasonable cost, ensuring continued growth for San Francisco. Opponents of the project, however, argued that the dam would ruin the valley, destroy its forests and meadows, and drive away its wildlife. It would also, they added, set a dangerous precedent of developing land in a national park.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Should San Francisco be allowed to dam the Tuolumne River to build a reservoir in the Hetch Hetchy Valley? Or should the valley be preserved for its beauty and wilderness? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the arguments surrounding the Hetch Hetchy Valley dam this month.
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