chapter  5
20 Pages

The Hetch Hetchy Controversy


Just before midnight on Saturday 6 December 1913, the U.S. Senate nally voted on the Raker Act: forty-three yeas, twenty-ve nays, and twenty-seven absentees. It was the culmination of a thirteen-year struggle by San Francisco to gain the right to dam a spectacular glacial river valley within Yosemite National Park. Michael O’Shaughnessy, the Chief Engineer of San Francisco, was jubilant. He and his San Francisco delegates had been listening intently to oor debate from the balcony for six days. Now victory was at hand. ey gleefully returned to the Willard Hotel, intent on raising a few glasses of whiskey to their triumph. However, Sunday had arrived, and the bartender could sell no liquor. Still pleased, but unable to satisfy their expectations, they toasted their triumph with cold water-not so satisfying, but perhaps more symbolic.1