San Francisco's drinking water comes from the Tuolumne River which originates in Yosemite National Park.
Many San Franciscans probably have no idea that the City has been told by the state to leave a little more water in the river to help heal severe harm to salmon and the overall health of the San Francisco Bay and Delta.
Instead of doing its part, at the urging of the SFPUC staff, the City has sued the state to block these stronger protections.
Instead of being a river of pure snowmelt full of salmon and trout, today the Tuolumne, downstream of the dams, is a trickle of warm water inhospitable to salmon and other native wildlife.
Further downstream, where the Tuolumne water once fed the Delta and Bay, stagnant water now turns to cesspools of toxic blue-green algae. Getting more Sierra river water flowing back through the Delta and Bay is the solution identified by state environmental officials, but San Francisco, under the direction of SFPUC staff, is refusing to do its part. This flies in the face of San Franciscans’ value to protect the environment.
Once abundant salmon runs that helped feed the Bay Area and beyond are weak and sick. As a result, the billion dollar recreational and commercial fishing industry that helped build fishermans wharf is suffering badly - after being shut down completely a decade ago. The answer is for the City of San Francisco to lead the way in restoring the river and to do its part to help restore the Delta and Bay.
We know there’s enough water to supply the City while protecting the environment because San Franciscan cut a third of their water use during the last drought. Instead of reflecting City residents’ experience and values, the SFPUC now argues that conserving won’t work and they’re using faulty studies to argue for the keeping the status quo.
Recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service commissioned a group of independent scientists to examine studies the SFPUC staff paid for to prop up its no compromise position. The independent scientists found they had little to no scientific validity.
The SFPUC is woefully behind other major California communities including Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County in using water wisely. Water recycling, and other 21st century water tools, can reduce our dependence on the rivers supplying the Bay-Delta, particularly in dry years. They can also reduce the risk to our water supply from climate change. Instead of working with local groups to adopt such tools, the SFPUC is teaming up with anti-environmental San Joaquin Valley agribusiness.
Recently the General Manager of the SFPUC resigned after he was indicted on corruption charges. This indictment and the SFPUC staff’s anti-environmental positions highlight the need for new leadership at the agency.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed's general manager nominee, Dennis Herrera, filed a lawsuit on May 13 challenging the state's authority to protect the Tuolumne River and other California waterways. Herrera made comments to the press clearly indicating he rejects the need to bring environmental responsibility to the SFPUC. Many of sf4water.org's coalition partners sent a letter to Mayor Breed and SFPUC Commission president Sohie Maxwell voicing opposition to Herrera as the next general manager.
San Franciscans need an SFPUC general manager who reflects San Francisco’s values and leadership in protecting the environment and the City's salmon fishing industry. Dennis Herrera has made clear he's not that person.