Activist group targets Searsville Dam | April 16, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 16, 2010

Activist group targets Searsville Dam

Proponents of plan to remove dam aim to pressure Stanford University

by Sue Dremann

Saying the time is now to get Stanford University to commit to demolishing Searsville Dam, a group of local activists galvanized more than 200 people at a kickoff event Tuesday evening.

This story contains 684 words.

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Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Jane, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2010 at 10:25 am

It's easy to fire up a group of people around what seems a good cause. This article is well written to give a balanced point of view. Good people with the right values can see good reasons not to remove the dam because of the initial situation rather than today's situation, which has changed.


Posted by janet, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 14, 2010 at 10:50 am

The entire downstream area from the dam is clearly shown on the 1986 San Mateo County General Plan to be an inundation hazard area because of the potential for dam failure. The county has, for decades, been negligent in allowing construction in that area, and several people over the years have been foolhardy enough to build out even into the creek channel. Now they complain that the are subject to flooding! There IS however, an environmental issue with respect to the wetland that has been created because of the sedimentation, and an issue of what to do with the sediment. It is a complicated issue and one that needs a lot of study, not just by Stanford. Hopefully there will be some resolution before the dam fails. Matt is doing everyone a service by shining a spotlight on the issue


Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2010 at 11:22 am

Can we also put the mouth of the creek back where it was and flush out our natural harbor?

Web Link

qq


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2010 at 11:30 am

The danger of dam failure is extremely low. The dam is made from huge blocks of Granite that sit one on top of the other and form a kind of horizontal-oriented keystone arch. Even a large earthquake would just shuffle the blocks around a bit, and the chance of collapse is extremely low even then.
In contrast, the idea of removing the silt is absurd. It would take a year or more even if a continuous stream of dump trucks, 24 hours a day, were used to haul the silt from the dam site to the dump site (and where in the world would that be?)


Posted by Beth, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 14, 2010 at 11:31 am

I've patrolled the dam area as a JRBP ranger. It's beautiful. The ecosystem around the dam (except for the fish, of course) appears to have adapted to its presence. Tearing it out would change the area immensely and probably disrupt a lot of the experiments that are being conducted there.

However, its failure would be far worse. I hope a solution can be agreed upon and funded before that happens. I worry that both sides will instead fight until it fails.

Any chance of installing a fish ladder?


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

This dam, and Chrystal Springs, survived the big one so I am not concerned about seismic problems. The rational solution is to install a mud siphon that will entrain a silt load and carry it downstream.


Posted by William, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm

If they don't remove the dam, constructing a bypass or ladder for steelhead to navigate should be required. Birds and waterfowl can fly and select another body of water, Steehead with dna programmed to the water here cannot.


Posted by Matt Stoecker, a resident of Portola Valley
on Apr 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Thanks for a well written article Sue.

Howard- A couple comments to your statements above.

Howard-"The danger of dam failure is extremely low. The dam is made from huge blocks of Granite that sit one on top of the other and form a kind of horizontal-oriented keystone arch. Even a large earthquake would just shuffle the blocks around a bit, and the chance of collapse is extremely low even then."

Matt- The dam is made of concrete, not granite, and the foundation has not been thoroughly inspected by the Division of Safety of Dams for 43 years. They have asked for this inspection 3 years ago.

Howard- "In contrast, the idea of removing the silt is absurd. It would take a year or more even if a continuous stream of dump trucks, 24 hours a day, were used to haul the silt from the dam site to the dump site (and where in the world would that be?)"

Matt- We have never advocated for a particular sediment management alternative such as trucking it all away, nor would we want to see it go to a dump. Options would likely include keeping much of it in place and stabilized with existing vegetation and habitat in place. Some sediment may be moved to another nearby location such as Webb Rnach for agricultural benefits or to the SF Bay wetland restoration projects, which are in need of millions of cubic yards of sediment and could help pay for the costs. Overall, we are looking to find the plan that will be beneficial to flood protection needs downstream and improve watershed health. We support actions to address the flooding problem, such as levee improvements and new bridges that do not restrict high flows and cause overtopping. Thanks.


Posted by AH, a resident of Portola Valley
on Apr 14, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Thanks for a balanced report of all sides of the issue.
I am thankful that we have amongst us "activists" like Matt and his group that keep the discussion moving forward. What I do know is that these functionally useless dams are coming down all across the country. This one will just take longer, since there are more groups involved, and Stanford (again) will delay until we all pass away.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Conway Cruickshank, a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 14, 2010 at 4:08 pm

The Searville Dam needs to come down. Sooner would be better than later. If 10ft of dam were removed each year then the sediment would be released slowly over time. If at a certain point excessive sediment was released then more than a year between dam removal to allow natural processes to send the excess sediment down stream. Eventually. Nature would restore itself. Some of the blocks of concrete or granite or whatever the dam is made of could be used as structure within the creek to provide cover for fish etc. I don't buy into all the side stepping/ smoke screen Stanford comes up with. I think they are worried more about the bottome line, so funding should be found elsewhere.


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