Interior Secretary Donald Hodel is accusing a fellow Cabinet member of opposing Hodel's proposal to dismantle a famous California dam out of worry over his future job prospects.

Hodel said Energy Secretary John S. Herrington contacted him last fall after Hodel called for tearing down the O'Shaughnessy Dam in Yosemite National Park and restoring the Hetch Hetchy reservoir to the forested valley it was before the dam was completed in 1923.

Herrington "seemed to be concerned about only one thing, and that was {that the idea} was something that would adversely affect his going back to the San Francisco area to be employed," Hodel was quoted as saying in an interview with the trade publication Inside Energy with Federal Lands.

Hodel's spokesman, David P. Prosperi, confirmed the report Tuesday. Prosperi reported Herrington's comment in substance as, "I have to go back to California when this is over and this is going to be an aggravation for me."

A Herrington spokesman termed the accusation "absurd."

Early last month, Herrington released a report arguing that nothing should be done about Hodel's plan until the dam had to be retired. It did not say when that would be, but noted that the structure was designed to last until 2023.

The report also said that converting the area to forested valley "can only be accomplished at great economic and environmental cost."

Hodel told the newsletter that he was "taken aback that a Cabinet officer would be focusing on that kind of an issue instead of the merits."