Hetch Hetchy:Preservation or Public Utility-MyWorl
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California’s Hetch Hetchy Valley bears a remarkable resemblance to Yosemite Valley twenty miles to the south. It is roughly the same length (about seven miles), but only about half as wide. The granite cliffs are not as high, but visitors commonly mistake peaks in one valley for counterparts in the other.
In fact, Hetch Hetchy Valley was a part of the new Yosemite National Park when Congress approved the Raker Act in 1913. With President Wilson's signature the act became law following more than a decade of controversy giving San Francisco the right to build the dam and flood the valley. The battle to dam Hetch Hetchy was national in scope and pitted two sides of the country's new conservation movement against one another. Preservationists, led by John Muir, argued against the dam and for the sanctity of the valley in religious terms and with religious conviction. Utilitarians, led by Gifford Pinchot, creator of the nation's Forest Service, argued for the dam and for careful stewardship of the nation's resources in order to gain the greatest good for the greatest number.
The battle for Hetch Hetchy did not end a century ago, however. It has been renewed. Efforts are underway today by preservationists, the state of California, and the federal government to explore the feasibility of removing the dam and restoring the valley.
The GIS activities included here are part of a larger unit on the history of the Hetch Hetchy controversy. In addition to these activities the unit also includes more traditional primary and secondary resources including: government documents, newspaper articles, political cartoons and editorials, essays, art work, and photographs. The unit allows students to explore over a century of ideas Americans held about the natural environment, the geology and geography of Hetch Hetchy Valley, its early history, the controversy to build the dam, and, finally, to examine of the impact of breaching the dam today.
The entire unit can be accessed on the web at:
Sample lesson materials are included here, but teachers are encouraged to adapt the resources in the collection to best meet theirs and their students’ needs.