We understand that Stanford University will soon decide on whether to remove the 123 year old Searsville Dam on its campus.
Dam removal would open large areas of spawning habitat for steelhead trout upstream of the dam – likely the best in the Bay Area. Dam removal would also reconnect all the communities that lie along San Francisquito Creek – Woodside, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.
It is an exciting prospect. Anyone interested in learning more might peruse the plethora of materials available at Beyond Searsville, an organization led by Matt Stoecker - a good friend of Restore Hetch Hetchy.
Restore Hetch Hetchy is not of course against all dams. In semi-arid places like California, it is essential to evaluate the benefits that a dam may provide when considering removal.
Searsville was originally built as part of San Francisco's water system but is no longer used for water supply. Nor does Searsville provide effective flood control as the reservoir now contains far more silt than water. In fact, it is likely that complete dam removal will need to occur over several years so that a sudden release of silt does not devastate the creek bed and communities downstream.
Silt will not be a significant problem for the restoration of Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley, as little has accumulated in the granite dominated Tuolumne River watershed (see 1987 National Park Service report). When Hetch Hetchy is restored, however, some additional water supply investments will be needed. As we have written extensively, these investments are a small fraction of what other California water agencies have done in recent decades to reduce their impact on the environment.
We are pleased Stanford is considering restoration, albeit after many years of pressure to do so. We hope they will choose restoration.