Olivier Douliery / ABACAUSA.com

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., takes a break in her Washington office, where an 1878 painting of Hetch Hetchy Valley hangs.

The Swarm blog: Feinstein sees Hetch Hetchy in its natural state – in a painting

Published: Sunday, Apr. 1, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3E

Posts from The Bee's editorial board.

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Feinstein sees Hetch Hetchy in its natural state – in a painting

Posted by Pia Lopez

Hope springs eternal. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, it appears, deeply appreciates Hetch Hetchy Valley in its natural state – at least in a painting.

Behind the senator's desk is a painting of Hetch Hetchy Valley – with beautiful trees and the Tuolumne River meandering through. No dam or reservoir.

Communications Director Brian Weiss writes that, "Senator Feinstein is a fan of 19th century art, particularly paintings that depict California landscapes. She has also hung scenic paintings of Yosemite and San Francisco in the Washington office."

The painting is "The Hetch Hetchy Valley on the Tuolumne River, California" (1878) by Frank Henry Shapleigh, a Boston artist who was the first to paint the Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Shapleigh had spent six weeks in Yosemite and met John Muir, who wrote about a July 1870 visit: "Oh, what a world is there! I passed, no, I lived another night there two weeks ago, entering as far within the veil amid equal glory, together with Mr. Frank Shapleigh of Boston. Mr. Shapleigh is an artist and I like him. He has been here six weeks, and has just left for home."

This is the same Sen. Feinstein who has written, "There is simply no feasible way to replace the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, return the valley to its original condition and still provide water to the Bay Area."

The Hetch Hetchy Valley, however, does not have to be a "lost" landscape, appreciated as one might appreciate a painting of the extinct Labrador Duck. Seven major studies since the 1980s have said Hetch Hetchy Valley could be restored without adversely impacting San Francisco's water supply.

It may be wishful thinking, but perhaps the painting behind the senator's desk might inspire a new Feinstein vision of what Hetch Hetchy Valley could be in the future – with the reservoir drained and the river allowed to take up its winding path again.

Sacramento hopes 'smart' manhole covers stop overflows

Posted by Foon Rhee

Sacramento's Utilities Department now has the go-ahead from the City Council for three years of double-digit rate hikes to finance more than $260 million in water and sewer repairs.

It also is seeking far less expensive ways to avoid costly and messy sewage overflows.

One approach is to test "smart" manhole covers on the city's antiquated system of sewage pipes. In big storms, the deluge can flood streets and basements with a disgusting and toxic brew.

Sensors on the underside of the manhole covers measure water levels. If there's a dangerous spike, a supervisor will be alerted and a repair crew can be sent out.

The city just bought 10 of them, for a relatively cheap $4,500 a piece. It plans to install them at 10 "hot spots" that have a history of overflows.

Here's the list:

• 68th Avenue and 21st Street

• River Park (exact location to be determined)

• Rio Linda and Acacia Avenue

• John Still Drive and 24th Street

• South Land Park Drive and Ridgeway Drive

• Detroit Boulevard

• Strawberry Manor (exact location to be determined)

• Old Sacramento (exact location TBD)

• Greenhaven Drive near Florin Road

• Hollywood Park (exact location TBD)

If they work, the city has plans to put in 10 more a year for the next five years.

Other cities are also testing the manhole cover sensors, according to an article on Atlantic Cities, the magazine's website on municipal issues. Municipalities are hoping that this will be a cheaper way to comply with federal clean water rules to prevent overflows.

Many of these cities – mostly in the Northeast, Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest – have combined sewage systems like the network that covers downtown Sacramento and some older neighborhoods where pipes collect both sewage and stormwater.

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