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The Raker Debate Overview:

    This activity is designed to provide participants with background on hydroelectric development facts and issues. Through simulation of the Raker Act Debate, which actually took place around the turn of the century, participants will have the opportunity to re-decide whether or not to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to provide water and power to the City of San Francisco. The simulation is intended to stimulate each participant to delve deeply into the facts of the issue and develop articulate and persuasive ways of presenting the information. Although this particular simulation is based on an historic event, the arguments are still raging in Alaska, California, Maine, Utah, Wyoming, and other states. Ultimately, as with the Raker Act, the final decision hinges on the perception of greatest public benefit.
    Each participant should receive the background packet on the Raker Act. Adequate time should be allowed to read this background material before the activity begins. Attached are pages describing the viewpoints of the six special interest groups involved in the Raker Act Debate. The participants should be divided into six groups of equal parts to represent each position and given the appropriate
information card. The person who initiates the activity is the presider.
    One member of each group should read the card to the group. Be sure that everyone in the group understands what the card says. The group should discuss and develop reasons why their position is the best. Review information from the background packet to support your view.
    Another member of the group should be selected as a liaison to the other groups with similar positions with whom you fell you can make alliance. Political decisions are often made through compromises between groups with complementary interests. The liaison will meet with other groups to find common ground and strategize on how they can work together to get as much of their position approved as possible. You may want these negotiations to remain secret.
    Once coalitions have been finalized, the group needs to decide on the three main arguments why the Raker Act should be decided in their favor, or their coalition's favor. A main spokesperson and an assistant spokes person should be selected from each group to prepare a 2 minute presentation using the three arguments. The group will need to select two spokespersons. Props are available for developing characters, to assume the roles of fictional representatives or the real people. Props are available for developing characters.

Debate Rules


City of San Francisco
Army Corps of Engineers
San Joaquin Valley Farmers
Spring Valley Water Company
Gifford Pinchot and Conservationists
John Muir and the Society for the Preservation of National Parks

    Begin the debate by reading the text, which describes Hetch Hetchy Valley and introduces the Raker Act.
    Each group will be assigned a number by the presider of the Debate. Numbers will be drawn from a hat to determine the order of presentations.
    Following each presentation, other groups may ask questions or ask for clarification from the group presenting their case. There is a 5 minute limit for these questions.
    After all groups have made their presentations and time has been provided for questions, groups will meet for 10 minutes to prepare a summary statement. Liaisons may want to continue negotiations for their positions. The assistant spokesperson for each group will present this summary statement.
        A paper vote with either a "yes" Hetch Hetchy Dam should be built or a "no" Hetch Hetchy Dam should not be built will be made and counted by the presider. Participants will cast the secret vote according to their real viewpoint and their viewpoint based on the outcome of the debate. Presenters will be graded using a
rubric that will be scored by the students and the presider.

Last Updated: 9/30/09
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