If you visit the website, and read "The Plan", there is nothing so outlandish about it, you find that the reservoir only has a modest portion of SF's water supply, and that this portion could be handled in other ways.
Seeing how it could come back over a period of years would be an exciting thing for scientists and others who are interested. It wouldn't have to become the organic Disneyland type environment of YV with concessions and the like. You could keep the concessions, parking, etc. outside and below the Valley itself.
The problem with water in California is not a shortage of water but the high levels of water consumption. If water demand was reduced (which is entirely possible... many examples around the world) it would be possible to 'free hetch hetchy'.
Also, desal is not the answer... too expensive and should be a last ditch option. Reduce water demand by appropriate pricing, improving efficiency and promoting rainwater and stormwater harvesting. Once you build a desal plant you gotta pay for it and there is no going back. The water that comes out is not cheap!
As a "true" local to the area (I have lived less than 1 mile from the entrance to Hetch Hetchy for almost 7 years, off and on), I find it fascinating to see so many varied opinions on what should happen to my backyard. Even more entertaining is the fact that SF gets to vote on what happens where I live and I do not. Do not get me wrong, my concerns are not the economic effects to the area because regardless of what happens, where I work will do fine and in fact will probably flourish with increased traffic. I am more concerned with the environmental impact of the proposed deconstructionism.
In my opinion, I feel that environmentalists and Gov't officials can do as much damage or more than the tourists. I am not even thinking about what it would take to remove the dam itself. I have all the books and studies talking about it and most of what they say is ridiculous. But briefly imagine the aftermath, if the dam comes down then how many environmentalists will want access to the area to study? How many trails/roads/campsites will be needed for them to access and study the area for the next 5/10/20 years?
You think climbers will have any kind of timely access to the valley floor and the meager 200' climbs that have been buried under water?
And during/after the environmentalists, then comes the tourists. How many people will want to see the famed Hetch Hetchy Valley drained and in all its gory/muddy glory? What will it take to accommodate them? And 20/30 years from now, when the enviro's are done and bored of this place, what happens then? How about a few campsites, maybe a hotel and concessionary...plenty of space and money to go around...belated sorry for the smog, traffic and crowding like the Valley has.
Or imagine a pristine lake, a pristine valley, that it seems time has forgot. Imagine classic granite climbs that nobody has climbed before because they are too lazy to simply walk an extra few miles.
And don't get me wrong, HH has more than a few surprises for those who would ventures into her bosom. Doesn't matter the time of year, you have: heat, lack of water (ironic, no?), rattlesnakes, poison oak, camping restrictions, etc...
To selectively quote Rowell from Climbing #1, pg. 5 (thanks to my friend CC who transcribed this):
While climbers made over 400 routes in Yosemite, no technical climbs were made in Hetch Hetchy. Climbers had told each other legends of half submerged walls rising out of water and accessible only by boat. Boats are not allowed on the reservoir and swimming becomes rather more difficult when carrying many pounds of hardware.
Once again the sun was setting but now we were on the summit to enjoy instead of fear the ending of the day. The urgency of the climb was gone, and the view was to be savored and indelibly imprinted in our memories. We walked over the top of the rock to where the stream flowing over Tueeulala Fall crosses the granite slabs. We washed. We savored. The wildness of the area was our reward. Nowhere was the hand of man visible. The day is long gone when only nature's grandest sights thrill the heart of man. Wilderness is such a rare commodity that any really untouched place is per se beautiful. Leaving Hetch Hetchy we were thankful for the experience just finished and for the discovery that Hetch Hetchy is not a total ruin after all. The dam which had ruined it in comparison with other wilderness areas fifty years ago, has saved it from being over used.
With so few actual locals, I feel Hetch Hetchy lacks a voice like so many other prominent areas have. And in some small way I want to squeak for the status quo...
edit: I should be focusing on my Secret Santa project but you guys piqued my interest and I couldn't help myself.