[William E. Colby]
Editor of the Call
"To explore, enjoy, and render accessible the mountain regions of the Pacific Coast; to publish authentic information concerning them; to enlist the support and co-operation of the people and the Government in preserving the forests and other natural features of the Sierra Nevada Mountains."
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Board of Directors-1907-1908
Mr. John Muir, President Martinez
Prof. A. G. McAdie, Vice-President San Francisco
Prof. J. N. Le Conte, Treasurer Berkeley
Mr. William E. Colby, Secretary Berkeley
Prof. Wm. F. Bade Berkeley
Prof. George Davidson 2221 Washington St., S. F.
Prof. W. R. Dudley Stanford University
Mr. Warren Olney San Francisco
Mr. E. T. Parsons University Club, San Francisco
Mr. Wm. E. Colby, Chairman
Prof. J. N. Le Conte Mr. E. T. Parsons
Prof. George Davidson San Francisco
Mr. R. U. Johnson The Century, New York
Pres. David Starr Jordan Stanford University
Mr. Gifford Pinchot Washington, D. C.
Committee on Publications
Mr. Elliott McAllister, Editor San Francisco
Prof. Wm. F. Bade, Book Reviews Berkeley
Prof. Wm. R. Dudley, Forestry Notes Stanford Univ.
Mr. Alex. G. Eells Prof. H. W. Rolfe
Mr. E. T. Parsons Mr. Willoughby Rodman
November 26th, 1907
Editor of the Call,
San Francisco, Cal.
Without desiring to unnecessarily prolong a discussion on the Hetch Hetchy water project I feel that, in view of your editorial of the 24th Inst., I should explain my position a little more fully.
I do not think we are so far apart on the proposition that considerations of utility should control the decision, rather than beauty. If the Hetch Hetchy system were absolutely necessary for the welfare of San Francisco, I would be one of its most earnest advocates. Where we probably differ is as to the impelling force of the particular necessity and the weight to be given the consideration of expense. My attitude is that where there are other adequate systems available, even if their acquisition means increased expense, it is only just to the nation at large, which is interested in preserving the wonders of the Yosemite National Park that we should avoid their alteration or destruction if It is possible to do so as it certainly is when the question resolves itself into one of mere expense. As a tax payer I am willing to pay my share of the slight increase in taxation which might result.
However, I do not think this even necessary for I am satisfied that there are other systems available for the supply of San Francisco which will not cost any more and probably less than the Hetch Hetchy system. Your editorial states that I have not supplied any "material evidence" in support of my belief. In this I think you do me an injustice for I cited you certain statements of Prof. C. D. Marx, made in a most impartial discussion of the question before the Commonwealth Club. It is needless to repeat them because you already have them before you. They may not be strictly material evidence but they certainly bear on the question. You may well say that this evidence is not conclusive and I admit as much, but it has weight for I have never heard Prof. Marx' ability or standing ques-
tioned. Not being an engineer myself I must go to an engineer for my information on the subject. This I have done, and while I have not considered the subject exhaustively I have acquired enough information to convince myself that there are other water systems available and probably capable of furnishing a supply at less expense than the Hetch Hetchy system would cost. To present the data upon which I base my conviction would be impossible in a newspaper discussion, for it would consume many times the space you would allot to it and engineering problems of such intricacy could never be properly treated or decided in such a forum.
In view of the doubt expressed by many leading engineers on the subject, and in view of the claim made, based on professed data, that the following water systems will satisfy the requirements of San Francisco:
1. Cherry River & Eleanor Creek combined.
2. Stanislaus River Power Company system.
3. Sierra Nevada Co.- Mokelumne River system.
4. Consumnes & S. Fork of American-Bay Cities Water Co.
6. N. Fork of American - Dunn.
6. Eel River-Snow Mountain Power Co. etc. etc.
I maintain that the whole question should be submitted to a board of competent engineers who are not wedded to any particular source of supply before the city takes any steps which will commit it to advocate any particular system. Of course I do not maintain that all of these systems will satisfy the requirements but I maintain that some one of them will.
As I understand Mr. Grunsky's claims, he favors the Hetch Hetchy system, primarily upon the ground of cheapness, and not because there are no other systems available, for he has admitted to me personally that there are. Mr. Grunsky is a very distinguished engineer and I have great admiration for him but there are other eminent engineers who differ with him as to the cost and claimed carrying capacity of his proposed Hetch Hetchy system.
Very truly yours,
1907 Nov 26
Original letter dimensions: 28 x 21.5 cm.
Colby, William E., "Letter from [William E. Colby] to Editor of the Call, 1907 Nov 26." (1907). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 3842.
Reel 16, Image 1227
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