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Hearing before the Senate Committee on Public Lands (Sixty-third Congress, First Session) on H.R. 7207, a bill "granting to the city and county of San Francisco certain rights of way in, over, and through certain public lands, the Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest, and certain lands in the Yosemite National Park, the Stanislaus National Forest, and the public lands in the state of California, and for other purposes."
The Chairman. We will now hear from Mr. Herbert Parsons, of New York City.


Mr. Parsons. Mr. Chairman, I appear in opposition to the bill. I appear as a nature lover. I was a member of the Sixtieth Congress and of the Public Lands Committee of the House of Representatives of that Congress. The matter of Hetch Hetchy as a reservoir for San Francisco, being taken up, was exhaustively considered by the Public Lands Committee of the House of Representatives in the Sixtieth Congress. Every person interested was heard, and elaborate reports were prepared by members of the committee. I submitted a report myself in opposition to the bill. I took the position then that if San Francisco absolutely needed Hetch Hetchy Valley as a reservoir, San Francisco should have it, but the burden of proof was on San Francisco to show that she could not get another source of supply.

One argument made then before that committee was that instead of the reservoir spoiling Hetch Hetchy it would make it still more beautiful. I made up my mind that at the first opportunity I would go there to see for myself, and so in August, 1910, I visited Hetch Hetchy Valley, Lake Eleanor, and the Stanislaus National Forest. I first went to the Yosemite and up to the Merced River, then over the Vogelsang Pass into Lyell Park, down the Tuolumne Meadows and then back to some of the lakes, Benson Lake among them, then to Hetch Hetchy itself, and camped on the banks of the Tuolumne River for the night. Then the next day I went on the Lake Eleanor.

The beauty of the Hetch Hetchy is the floor of the valley. The valley gives you a parklike effect. There is a considerable variety of trees, I see that that is admitted, I think, by Col. Biddle in the House hearings. The beauty of the valley consists in the meadows and trees, combined with the rocks and the river meandering through; and then, there is a waterfall there, although that really was not such a great feature when I was there, because it was late in August and there had been no rainfall for three months and a half.

You do not need a lake in the Hetch Hetchy Valley in order to induce people to go there. The valley of Yosemite Park is filled with lakes. There are lakes everywhere. I spent 10 nights, I think, traveling through the park, and half of those nights, I think, we camped on the shores of lakes. They are all rock-bound lakes, with the exception of those like Lake Eleanor, which have wooded shores.

You do not need a reservoir in Hetch Hetchy in order to have a rock-bound lake. The impressive part of Hetch Hetchy is that, after you have traveled through the park, through what you might call its waste portions and its rock-bound lakes, you come down to this gem of a valley, with its meadows, ferns, and trees, and the river meandering through. So that, with all due respect to the contention of my friend, Secretary Lane, anyone who has been there unprejudiced-and I think I was unprejudiced; there was no reason why I should be prejudiced-will realize that its beauty of the floor of the valley, which will be absolutely destroyed by the reservoir.

You get better perspectives of the rocks and the trees and the floor of the valley and the river in the Hetch Hetchy than you do in the Yosemite itself. It has a charm which the Yosemite has not.

There is another feature which was recalled to my mind when I read over the diary I kept on that trip, and that is that in the Hetch Hetchy there are more nature sounds than there are in any other part of the park which I visited.

Senator Thomas. More what?

Mr. Parsons. Nature sounds-the fish and deer and particularly the birds. I suppose that is natural in view of the features of the valley and its being a place where birds would naturally come.

Now, one argument in opposition. It comes down to a question whether this valley, having been taken by the people of the United States because of its remarkable scenery and having been preserved in that way, is to be given to San Francisco for a reservoir when San Francisco does not absolutely need it. As I understand from Col. Biddle's testimony before the House committee, San Francisco can get a water supply elsewhere, but it is cheaper to get it here.

Senator Thomas. Now, right there--

Mr. Parsons. May I just finish the statement?

Senator Thomas. I was going to ask how much cheaper; that is all.

Mr. Parsons. I think $20,000,000. The expense there, I believe, would be about $60,000,000. Is not that correct?

Mr. Raker. $77,000,000.

Mr. Parsons. $77,000,000. In other words, it is $77,000,000 as against $97,000,000, if you can compel them to go somewhere else. It is a pure gift; it is a gift by the people of the United States, and it is in direct contravention of the purposes for which Hetch Hetchy was put in a park. The very fact that it was put in a park is the reason, I venture to say now, why some individual or a number of individuals have not control there. If it had not been put in a park, then, in my judgment, from my experience on the Public Lands Committee and my travel through national forests, and so on, somehow or other private individuals would have got hold of it; so that if San Francisco wanted to take the Hetch Hetchy for a reservoir it would cost San Francisco just about as much as another water supply; but now if San Francisco gets it it will not cost her so much, because the people of the United States have preserved it for the people of the United States.

It does not seem to me, with all due respect to San Francisco, that it is a fair proposition to all the people of the United States that they should give up to San Francisco what they have preserved for scenic purposes, when if it had not been preserved for scenic purposes it probably would have cost San Francisco just as much as any other source, and there is only a question of 20 or 25 per cent difference in cost at any rate.

I know the objection is made that very few people go into the valley. Well, that is true of all reservations. We have found it so in New York; but we find that after a while people commence to come in greater numbers, and there is no question but that in time the numbers who go to Hetch Hetchy Valley will enormously multiply.

I should be glad to answer any questions, if I can. I do not want to offer anything in the way of evidence that is to be kept by the committee, Senator Pittman, but I did take some photographs while I was there. They do not show the scenery to very good effect, for the reason that there were forest fires at that time and the distant views were poor because the atmosphere was filled with smoke, but if anyone would like to look at the photographs I will be glad to have him see them. I want them back, however. I do not want to leave them with the clerk of the committe.

Senator Chamberlain. I think it is fair to state here to the stenographer, so that it may go into the record, that the committee itself had no particular objections to having this testimony taken down officially, but the committee had agreed that it would not have a hearing.

Mr. Parsons. I understand perfectly, Senator Chamberlain. And in that connection I should like to state why I did not appear before the House committee. I wrote to Mr. Ferris, chairman of the House committee, some time in July, not knowing that the hearings had been finished. He wrote me that the committee had finished the hearings and decided not to hear anyone else and therefore that he would read my letter to the committee, but that I could not be heard. For that reason--

Senator Norris. Of course, Mr. Parsons, you understand, as a former Member of Congress, that there must be an end to these cases.

Mr. Parsons. Exactly.

Senator Norris. We can not be taking testimony all the time, and, as I look at it, the extension of time here is simply an act of courtesy on the part of the committee to gentlemen who want to be heard. As Senator Chamberlain has said, there has never been any intention of shutting out anybody, but we have got to stop some time. We had stopped several weeks ago, and by agreement of both sides, just as Senator Pittman has said.

Mr. Parsons. I have some other photographs of other parts of the valley.

Mr. Raker. Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask Mr. Parsons a question.

The Chairman. You may proceed.

Mr. Raker. Is it not a fact, Mr. President, that you were in New York when the hearings were being held in the House?

Mr. Parsons. Yes.

Mr. Raker. Nobody ever suggested, Mr. Parsons, did he, that you would not be heard before that committee?

Mr. Parsons. Some time in July I wrote to Mr. Ferris, and he wrote back to me that the hearings had been closed.

Mr. Raker. That is, you did not write to him until after the hearings had actually closed?

Mr. Parsons. I did not know by the papers that they were closed. I saw that they were having hearings, and from my experience-sometimes hearings do go on forever-I supposed that, having a good deal of time on its hands, and probably Members being away, the hearings would not be closed. So, when I wrote I did not know that the hearings had been closed. I know that Mr. Ferris would have given me an opportunity to be heard if the hearings had not been closed.

Senator Ransdell. I should like to ask a question if I may do so now.

Mr. Parsons. I have here a few photographs of some of the lakes of the Yosemite Park which are outside the Yosemite Valley and outside the Hetch Hetchy, which show the general character of the rock-bound scenery of the lakes which would simply be reproduced in Hetch Hetchy if you make a reservoir of it. Hetch Hetchy might be larger-I suppose it would be larger-than any of the other lakes, but the effect would be the same.

Senator Norris. Now Mr. Parsons, will you let me ask you there what was your object in taking the pictures of these lakes which, as you say, are outside the Yosemite and outside the Hetch Hetchy?

Mr. Parsons. Well, I did not take any of the pictures for the committee; I took them for my own pleasure.

Senator Norris. Exactly, that is the point I want to make. You thought they were beautiful, did you not? You select them as beauty spots.

Mr. Parsons. I selected them as spots typical of the scenery of a certain kind of beauty; but you have an endless amount of that kind of beauty, and the Hetch Hetchy is the absolute contrast to it. If you flood Hetch Hetchy you do not have the contrast. The Hetch Hetchy is far more beautiful than any of those lakes in my opinion.

Senator Norris. The scenery in Hetch Hetchy now without any lake or dam is the same as in other parts of the park, is it not?

Mr. Parsons. The only place that compares with Hetch Hetchy in the park is the Yosemite Valley itself.

Senator Norris. Well, it is really a miniature of that, is it not?

Mr. Parsons. I do not think you can say it is a minature, because that gives you an idea that it is much smaller. It is a duplication-not quite so grand; but in Hetch Hetchy you get certain effects which you do not get in the Yosemite Valley-the effects of scenery, the perspectives.

Senator Norris. Do you think we could take any of those lakes of which you have taken pictures out of the park without destroying its beauty somewhat?

Mr. Parsons. Yes.

Senator Norris. You would just as lief [e.g. gladly or willingly] not have so many?

Mr. Parsons. Yes; there is no objection to taking Lake Eleanor. Lake Eleanor is a very pretty wooded lake, but there are thousands of lakes like Lake Eleanor in this country.

Senator Thompson. Is it your idea that they could supply the water for the city of San Francisco from one of these lakes?

Mr. Parsons. Well, Lake Eleanor they already have, but they can not get these lakes of which I have taken photographs because some of them are in the watershed of the Merced River and others in the watershed of the Tuolumne River, but farther up the Tuolumne than the Hetch Hetchy Valley itself.

Senator Ransdell. The question I desired to ask Mr. Parsons was this: I have been told that if this reservoir is constructed it will flood only a very small area of the valley and will not interfere with the use of the valley for purposes of sight-seeing by tourists, but will in fact, in many ways make it better for the sight-seer than it is now. I should like to have you answer that suggestion.

Mr. Parsons. I answer the suggestion that it will only flood a part of the valley by saying that that is absolutely incorrect, unless you count as part of the valley the cliffs fifty or a hundred feet above. So far as the floor of the valley is concerned, it will flood all of the floor of the valley.

Senator Ransdell. It will flood about 1,400 or 1,500 acres.

Mr. Parsons. I can not state accurately.

Senator Ransdell. Well, it is a good large area, is it not?

Mr. Parsons. Yes.

Senator Ransdell. A good many square miles.

Mr. Parsons. That calls for calculations. Somebody has said 1,500 square miles.

Senator Ransdell. Are there any roads at the present time that enable tourists to get around to see the valley?

Mr. Parsons. There are trails in there.

Senator Ransdell. Trails, but not roads.

Mr. Parsons. I believe there is a road coming directly from the Yosemite. I did not go that way. I made an extended trip around.

Senator Ransdell. This plan contemplates a road that will enable the ordinary American citizen to get there in fairly good comfort, does it not?

Mr. Parsons. I presume it does; but he will not see the Hetch Hetchy Valley when he gets there. He will only see the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Senator Thomas. Mr. Parsons, the city of San Francisco has been afflicted more sorely than any urban community in the world of our times. Its losses have been prodigious. It has recovered to a very large degree from that affliction through the enterprise and hopefulness and energy of its people. It is largely in debt. Now, do you think that what in your community might be a trifle of $20,000,000 might not prove all the difference between the successful establishment of municipal waterworks and the failure to do so in a community of that sort? Do you think under these circumstances that a great community, needing an absolute necessity of life and put to it to raise money enough to get what it needs and must have if it is to survive, ought to be prevented from doing that, because in the accomplishment of that great purpose for 700,000 people the beauties of nature might be marred to some extent?

Mr. Parsons. I can not altogether accept your premises, Senator. May I say that the question of expense may determine whether or not San Francisco can have a municipal water supply is an argument which I do not recall was used before the House committee in the Sixtieth Congress?

Senator Thomas. I understood you to say that there were some other sources of water supply that would only cost about $20,000,000 more than this, and that, as a consequence, San Francisco might leave this spot as it is and avail itself of these other sources of supply, the only difference being a sum of $20,000,000, or such a matter.

Mr. Parsons. An increased cost of 25 per cent.

Senator Thomas. Should the Congress of the United States impose that additional burden upon the great city of San Francisco simply to preserve some beauties of nature that are duplicated all over the Rocky Mountains, or, if not duplicated, there are other places quite as attractive and quite as beautiful?

Mr. Parsons. I do not think that the Hetch Hetchy is duplicated except in the Yosemite.

Senator Thomas. Not duplicated perhaps in the sense that there is anything exactly like it, but duplicated in the sense that the Rocky Mountains region is a storehouse of nature's wondrous beauties in manifold form.

Mr. Parsons. But the point about Hetch Hetchy is that it is unique.

Senator Thomas. Oh, yes; and the situation is unique; but when there is a source of supply of water which humanity must have, because the place from which the water comes is unique, must that place be left untouched? Is not our first duty to the men, women, and children of this country?

Mr. Parsons. It is not a fact that San Francisco must have this water supply.

Senator Thomas. I understand that, but it must spend $20,000,000 more, at least, to get it somewhere else.

Mr.Parsons. Yes.

Senator Thomas. Now, why should we require San Francisco and her people to assume this additional burden simply because this project interferes with Hetch Hetchy?

Mr. Parsons. With all due respect, Senator, you are not requiring San Francisco to spend more. The question is whether you shall give to San Francisco something which appears to have a value of $20,000,000 and belongs to all the American people.

Senator Chamberlain. San Francisco has quite a large sum invested in lands there now, has she not?

Mr. Parsons. Of course, that investment does not amount to anything unless they can get the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. They are not going to use it as a ranch.

Senator Chamberlain. You do not look upon a grant to a large municipal corporation in the same light that you would a grant to an individual, do you, where the grant is for domestic purposes?

Mr. Parsons. I think there is a distinction; there is some difference, and yet it is a gift to a fraction of the American people by all the American people.

Senator Thomas. What percentage of the American people go to Hetch Hetchy?

Mr. Parsons. Of course when you speak of that you get a very small number.

Senator Thomas. My experience is that about 99 per cent go to Switzerland. There is nothing in this country that is sufficiently attractive for them.

Mr. Parsons. I think the Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy Valley- the Yosemite National Park generally-are quite finer than anything you can see in Switzerland, but if you take Hetch Hetchy Valley and turn it into a lake you have taken away about 50 per cent of the superiority of the scenery of the Yosemite National Park as compared with Switzerland.

Senator Thomas. Hetch Hetchy is about 70 miles from the Yosemite Valley proper, is it not?

Mr. Parsons. I think not. My recollection is about 14 miles.

Senator Thomas. By what road?

Mr. Parsons. That is my recollection. I did not go by the road. I understood we could get over there in a day, but we wanted to make a general tour, and we made a general tour through that section, and went by an entirely different direction.

Mr. Vogelsang. You went through Vogelsang Pass, and that must have taken you more than one day. It must have taken you several days. The only other way is to come down and go in by way of what is known as Portulacca, which used to be known as Hog Ranch.

Mr. Parsons. You can go from Yosemite right through to the Tuolumne Meadows.

Mr. Vogelsang. To the Tuolumne Meadows, oh, yes; but that is many miles above where any enterprise of the city is contemplated.

Mr. Parsons. You say that that is the only other way. As a matter of fact, it is shorter to go from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows direct than it is to go by way of Vogelsang Pass.

Mr. Vogelsang. I am speaking about getting into the Hetch Hetchy Valley. You must go around one way and then around another. There is a tremendous ridge of granite mountains between the Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy.

Senator Thomas. I am told that the distance is 20 miles in an air line.

Mr. Vogelsang. Twenty miles in an air line. From the Tuolumne Meadows to Hetch Hetchy is another 20 miles in another direction.

I should like, if you will permit me, to ask one question of Mr. Parsons, and that is this: What do you consider is the gift which we are asking from the Government? You have been speaking here of this as a gift. I should like to know what your idea is of the extent of that gift. You realize, I presume, in saying this that we own most of the floor of the valley-all the trees, the ferns, the meandering streams, the nature sounds, and everything else-

Mr. Parsons. Not the nature sounds.

Mr. Vogelsang. And it is subject to commercial exploitation, if it were necessary.

Mr. Parsons. Of course, only you did not buy the floor of the valley.

Mr. Vogelsang. Indeed, we did.

Mr. Parsons. Except in the hope of having a reservoir made out of it.

Mr. Vogelsang. Certainly; we have spent a million and three-quarters dollars in this enterprise since its inception. We have that much investment now in this enterprise.

Mr. Parsons. You did it, if I may say so-I will try to be fair-so that you could come here and say "We have spent all this money and now having spent it"--

Mr. Vogelsang. I beg your pardon.

Mr. Parsons. "With no right except a revocable permit at one time, therefore you should give us something which should be worth $20,000,000 to us."

Mr. Vogelsang. Let me answer that by saying that we spent it because certain rights were granted to us. We had no idea when we undertook this that it would take us 12 years to get from the Government of the United States the concession of a right of way and an opportunity to erect a dam and flood our own lands. We have spent that amount in the course of the 12 years we have been struggling here for this right; but we did not do it with the expectation by any means that we might come here and say, "Gentlemen of Congress, the city of San Francisco has spent a million and three-quarters dollars and now want you to make a gift to us." Not by any means. We have spent it in protecting the rights that were preliminary granted to us by the Government of the United States.

The Chairman. The committee is glad to have questions asked, but it would really be better to let the speaker proceed without counter-speeches being made.

Mr. Parsons. I understand, Senator, and I find I have already taken more than my half hour. I had expected to be very brief.

Senator Thomas. The interruptions do not count.

Mr. Parsons. And I had hoped to be able to yield some time to some one else.

The Chairman. I spoke in the interest of economy of time, but you shall have your full half hour.

Mr. Parsons. I have made all the points that I have to make.

Senator Thomas. I do not think interruptions ought to count against the time allotted.

The Chairman. I have ruled that they shall not be.

Mr. Parsons. I have made my argument. I was just answering questions, and I will be glad to answer any more.

The Chairman. I think you are entitled to about 12 or 15 minutes more for argument; but if you say you are through, and there are no more questions to be asked, then the next gentleman will be heard.

Mr. Parsons. Just to sum up, I will say that if you make this gift to San Francisco you will take from the American people one of the most unique and extraordinary pieces of scenery in this country, something which is only duplicated in the Yosemite Valley itself, and which in some ways is superior in beauty to the Yosemite Valley. Considering the amount of money that has been spent through taxation by the people of this country to preserve things of beauty-we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the State of New York-it seems to me that it is not a fair proposition to make this gift to San Francisco when it can get water elsewhere, although at an increase in cost of, say, 25 per cent. I thank you very much for your attention.

The Chairman. Do any members of the committee wish to ask any questions of Mr. Parsons? If not, we will consider his statement concluded.

Statement of Edmund A. Whitman
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