Attorney Who Gummed Up Bike Lane Network Eyes SF Water Works

Categories: Environment

1922 Map of Spring Valley Water Company holdings, later bought by SF to become Hetch Hetchy Water System

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission general manager Ed Harrington seemed to be twitching his foot in exasperation Thursday as one neighborhood activist after another demanded he re-explain a deal he cut with environmental groups to limt San Franciscans' water use.

"We came to agreement with these groups because we did not want to be sued," Harrington said.

San Francisco recently signed a deal with suburban users of water from the Hetch Hetchy system, recommending a limit of 264 million gallons per day the amount of water drawn from the Tuolumne River in the Sierra Nevada. Harrington feared groups such as the Tuolumne River Trust might challenge environmental studies conducted as part of a $5 billion Hetch Hetchy system upgrade, unless they obtained a concession limiting water use.

Some San Francisco homeowners groups don't like the water deal because they believe it will eventually lead to higher water bills. Harrington had called a meeting to tell his agency's side of the story, that San Franciscans would have been worse off without a deal in place.

"Have you watched what happened to the bicycle plan in San Francisco? You couldn't add a bike rack in San Francisco for five years. There are people who take the environmental review process very seriously," Harrington said.

No kidding.

Sitting to Harrington's right happened to be a tall woman with white curly hair who had spent the previous hour hunched over a note pad scribbling furiously. Mary Miles is a San Francisco attorney who filed the now-famous challenge to environmental studies accompanying a planned bike-lane network. She succeeded in obtaining a court injunction prohibiting the city from installing any amenities for cyclists until a years-long study had been completed.

The injunction has been tentatively lifted, and city workers have been seen about town during the past few weeks striping new bike lanes.

So is Miles now seeking an angle for taking on the Public Utilities Commission?

"I'm not going to comment right now on any of that," Miles said.

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