Hetch Hetchy infrastructure: The $5 billion plan

Nov 27, 2015


When it comes to big public projects, we hear all about the Bay Bridge, the Twin Tunnels in the Delta and the bullet train, but how about this one: The $5 billion plan to improve the earthquake safeguards of Hetch Hetchy's infrastructure, from which 2.6 million Bay Area residents get their water. This is a big deal in an area with fault lines galore.

KQED's Sheraz Sadiq tells the tale: "Since July 2010, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has been hard at work on one of the biggest engineering projects in the nation, the Hetch Hetchy Water System Improvement Program. At a cost of nearly five billion dollars, the program will seismically upgrade and replace aging infrastructure that brings water from Hetchy Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park, 167 miles away, to the Bay Area."

"We have the Calaveras fault, the Hayward fault in the East Bay, and then of course the San Andreas fault on the Peninsula,” said Dan Wade, Director of the Hetch Hetchy Water System Improvement Program. “And our water system crosses all three of those major faults.” 

"According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there is a greater than 60 percent chance of a major earthquake taking place in the Bay Area in the next 20 years. The Hetch Hetchy water system has been operating for more than 80 years, and much of its infrastructure – including pipes, local reservoirs and a 90-year-old rock and earth-filled dam – is in need of a makeover to shield it from earthquakes."


Speaking of water, after the drought ends -- hopefully, soon -- farmers say the future holds the prospect of land being taken out of production because of new rules on groundwater.


Thye Bee's Dale Kasler tells the story: "Land retirement is coming to California agriculture. The drought will end someday, maybe even this winter, but farmers will still face long-term shortages of water. The driving force: a new state law regulating the extraction of groundwater."


"The relentless groundwater pumping that has kept hundreds of farms going the past four years is coming to an end. California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, set to take effect in 2020, will limit how much groundwater can be extracted over the long haul. While details of what constitutes “sustainable” pumping are still being fleshed out, water policy experts say many farmers will gradually have their water supplies curtailed – and the nation’s leading agricultural state will farm fewer acres."


“It’s not a question of if – it’s a question of how much and where,” said Chris Scheuring, a lawyer and water expert at the California Farm Bureau Federation."

Thanksgiving is a special holiday for many people, but for Native Americans it has an even deeper meaning -- and for some it's even a day of mourning.


From Sarah Parvini in the L.A. Times: "Mchael Reifel was 10 years old when his parents' complicated relationship with Thanksgiving started trickling into conversations during the holiday feast. They were grateful for what they had, they would say, "but at the expense of our land." His father would recount tales of when Thanksgiving meals came from the hunt. Deer instead of turkey. Wild turnips instead of sweet potatoes..."


"Thanksgiving has long carried a distinct resonance for Native Americans, who see the holiday as more than an embellished story of Pilgrims and Indians looking past their differences to break bread. For some, it is a "national day of mourning."


"For Reifel, along with members of other tribes in the group United American Indian Involvement, the holiday's meaning is twofold. Serving a holiday dinner to those in need presents an opportunity for the community to get together, pass on history and give thanks the way their ancestors did long before settlers arrived."


Not everybody sat down to eats on Turkey Day. Some said "no food" as a sign of protest.


From the Orange County Register's Sean Emery: "More than 30 inmates at two Orange County jails held a hunger strike to protest against the housing of immigrants. Authorities confirmed Thursday that 21 inmates at the Musick Jail near Irvine and 14 at the Theo Lacy Jail in Orange took part."


"The inmates are being held at the immigration detention facilities at the jails. Immigration officials have a deal with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to house the federal detainees in local lockup."


"The inmates are reportedly protesting the indefinite detention and the deportation of undocumented immigrants."


San Diego, known best for its benign climate, is known for something else, too: A population of homeless people.


Lauryn Schroeder in the LA Times has the story: "The homeless population in San Diego city and county is now the fourth largest in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nearly 48% of those without housing are sleeping on the streets."


"San Diego's homeless population rose to 8,742 this year from 8,506 in 2014, a 2.8% increase that bumped it into the top four for the first time behind the metropolitan areas of Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City."


"San Diego was the 12th-ranked metro area in 2007, and has steadily made its way up to the No. 4 spot, according to the federal data."


And finally, from our Rocky Road file, comes word of a weird buckling of a two-lane highway in Southern California. The dramatic images look like something out of a 1950s sci-fi film.


"A stretch of road suddenly buckled last week in Santa Clarita, Calif. Within a period of only three hours Vasquez Canyon Road became undriveable with hills and massive cracks. The upheaval of soil also disrupted power lines that are now leaning haphazardly over the roadway."


"Local geologists are baffled."