News


Guest Opinion: Keeping Searsville Dam in place is a good solution

Cautious path forward provides opportunity to assess impact, risks

On May 1, the day Stanford University released its plans for Searsville Dam, an article titled "1000 dams down and counting" was published in the journal Science. This study showed that stream ecosystems are resilient and respond quickly and positively to dam removal. It also cautioned that current models are not very effective at predicting downstream effects. With that in mind, what should be the fate of Searsville Dam?

Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society and the Committee for Green Foothills started grappling with this question in 2011 when we were asked to support dam removal. Although removing a dam that no longer serves its original purpose of water storage is clearly an appealing idea, we were concerned about the many unknowns and decided not to take a position at that time.

We did not doubt that dam removal would facilitate passage of steelhead trout to their upstream historic spawning areas, but what were the likely impacts to other habitats and sensitive species that live in the watershed?

We were also concerned about increased flood risks to the 8,400 homes and businesses in the creek's historic floodplain in East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Menlo Park. No dam-removal project located above a similar highly developed flood zone has ever been attempted. We asked ourselves, what are the risks to cities downstream? And what opportunities are associated with the dam that could be lost if it is removed?

Since we wanted more information before taking a position, we expressed an interest in comprehensive studies of options that included evaluation of all the risks and trade-offs. We were invited to join the 25-member Searsville Alternatives Study Advisory Group, which began meeting in early 2013. Other stakeholders included local elected officials, regulatory agencies, environmental and conservation interest groups, representatives of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, and residents concerned with upstream and downstream flooding risks.

For two years we heard presentations from many disciplines, asked questions, and reviewed studies, models and engineering and technological solutions. Our Advisory Group evaluated risks, discussed benefits and trade-offs, and considered alternatives, with each stakeholder contributing his or her own unique perspective.

As representatives of environmental organizations working in the communities of the San Francisquito watershed, we focused not only on fish passage but also on the larger suite of habitats and resources and the potential results of any action on the myriad species (and people) that share the watershed.

A particular concern was the potential loss of open water at Searsville reservoir (at a great cost to bat species); potential loss of up to 200 acres of wetlands and wetland/riparian forest (at a great cost to migratory bird species); and unavoidable sedimentation of the creek downstream and the Bay (with potential impacts to several endangered species and increased flood risks).

Stanford's Faculty and Staff Steering Committee also intensively studied Searsville's options on a separate, parallel track. Their recommended course of action: Create an opening at the bottom of the dam to drain the reservoir and flush out the fine sediment, with the intent that this will allow fish passage and provide attenuation of peak flood flows. Some habitats will be restored under this plan, while others will be reduced, relocated or lost. A major advantage of this option is that it is reversible; if models of sediment impacts and risks of downstream flooding prove inaccurate, and adverse impacts become evident in the watershed, the opening in the dam can be closed.

The Searsville Alternatives process now begins an intensive new phase of public and environmental-agency review. This process will be rigorous, particularly since many questions remain and details need to be fleshed out. There will be many opportunities for public engagement, and shovels in the ground will be several years away.

We thank Stanford University for inviting us to participate in the Searsville Alternatives Study Advisory Group and thank the other stakeholders who made it such an engaging educational experience. We are glad the collective wisdom of this process has chosen a cautious path forward.

Shani Kleinhaus, environmental advocate for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, and Lennie Roberts, legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills, can be reached at advocate@scvas.org and lennie@greenfoothills.org respectively.

Related content:

Searsville Dam will stay for now; threatened fish to get more water

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 29, 2015 at 8:07 am

Thank you Weekly for publishing a thoughtful description of the process that helped Stanford select alternatives for Searsville dam. Clearly, a very complex situation and caution is paramount.


7 people like this
Posted by Mike Ferreira
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2015 at 8:10 am

Thanks to Shani and Lennie for this backgrounded report. There are a lot of moving pieces involved and it's good to see how they strove to assess matters from a broad perspective without being committed to a final outcome.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 29, 2015 at 8:29 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Appreciation for the time and effort. There needs to be some effort devoted to the continual elimination of silt into the dam - that means some fixing of the upper creek stability feeding into the dam.

The problem of upper creek maintenance should be part of the requirement on SU to properly maintain the water shed. The fact that silt moves down into the dam is an established fact - is there any record of upper creek maintenance to reduce the silt factor?

Most other lakes and dams have that technology in place - please make sure that SU follows through to reduce the silt. Other areas are skimming offensive plants and silt so not an unrealistic expectation.

SU should consider removal of the silt in layers and use on the campus as a soil enhancer so that the water level can increase its holding capability.


3 people like this
Posted by Neighborly
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 29, 2015 at 8:44 am

It should be noted that almost all the silt coming down is from the upper watershed outside of Stanford lands and is almost entirely natural background erosion. So there is little anyone can do to abate the amount of sediment coming down short of removing the offending mountains. A substrate of Purisima and Santa Clara formation in the upper Corte Madera Creek watershed account for about 90% of the sediment coming into Searsville Reservoir. There are no technological solutions to that short of constanting dredging, excavating and trucking.


2 people like this
Posted by Rachel
a resident of Los Altos
on May 29, 2015 at 10:01 am

Thank you Shani and Lennie for this article. I am glad to see SCVAS considering the issue from so many perspectives. I hope a solution is proposed that will not harm bat and bird habitat along the watershed, or that they can at least minimize damage as much as possible. --Rachel


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 29, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

So that raises the next question - if you can't stop the silt and it just keeps coming then there has to be a plan to reduce the amount in the lake so that it can hold water.

Rancho San Antonio has a small dam which is a holding pond - more than one - it is dry part of the time and partially filled part of the time but it is a flood control mechanism. They have thought this out and created the flood control mechanism.

Baylands - end of San Antonio Road - Mt. View has a number of deep holding ponds that are flood control mechanisms - you walk by them as you enter the walks. They have thought this out and created the flood control mechanism.

Can someone please explain what SU is actually doing now to alleviate the build up of silt - I see nothing specific other then they are "thinking".
There is a giant gap in the plan now in place to allow enough room in the lake to collect water during a high rain period.

What are they growing there that is so endangered by some removal of silt?


5 people like this
Posted by Eyes open
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 29, 2015 at 1:44 pm

This is the kind of planning and decision-making process we need, balancing all the factors to find necessary compromises. I am hopeful that some fish passage can be returned and that other species are sustained. But existing, intensive development downstream right up to the stream edges must be addressed. This is the stream of now, not of its wild past.


13 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2015 at 4:46 pm

With all due respect, the above guest opinion piece makes several troubling statements and omits important information.

1) "current (dam removal) models are not very effective at predicting downstream effects."

In addition to the mentioned studies in the journal Science, additional studies have shown that "rivers recovery natural conditions quickly following dam removal" (Web Link)
There is a growing list of studies showing qualitatively that dam removal results in improved watershed and ecosystem health. These are not "predictions"; these are actual results following successful dam removal projects. Similarly, top research institutions like the National Science Foundation and USGS have shown conclusively that dams harm watershed and ecosystem health.


2) "We were also concerned about increased flood risks to the 8,400 homes and businesses in the creek's historic floodplain in East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park."

It is import to note a few things: 1) The dam is currently causing flooding of private residents upstream of the reservoir in Woodside and this will get worse as more sediment is trapped over time. 2) The ongoing presence of the dam (including one with a hole in it) continues to present an ongoing dam failure risk to downstream communities. The US Army Corps of Engineers, State of California, and San Mateo County have all identified Searsville as a "High Hazard" dam whose failure would likely result in loss of life. Cutting a hole in a 125 year old dam that has 3 huge cracks in it and sits adjacent to the active San Andreas Fault is not without serious risk to downstream residents and businesses. The future structural integrity of the dam during a large earthquake or rapid filling with water, and safety of this particular hole-in-dam proposal, are unknown. 3) Dam removal eliminates dam failure and upstream flooding issues and risks. Here is a link to the San Mateo County Dam Failure Inundation Area map showing extensive flooding of downstream cities in the event of a Searsville Dam failure. Web Link 4) The Searsville study process we just finished, and previous efforts, identified multiple options that can be employed alongside dam removal to reduce downstream flooding including: off-stream floodwater detention basins, restoring and enhancing the historic floodplain and flood attenuation function of Confluence Valley currently submerged by the dam and reservoir, modifying the two upper marsh areas at Searsville to seasonally fill with flood waters, as well as implementation of needed downstream flood protection projects identified by the JPA.

3) "No dam removal project located above a similar highly developed flood zone has ever been attempted."

This statement is simply not true. Hundreds of dams that occur upstream of our nation's largest cities have been safely removed and have improved floodplain function and flood protection.


4) "A particular concern was the potential loss of open water at Searsville reservoir (at a great cost to bat species); potential loss of up to 200 acres of wetlands and wetland/riparian forest (at a great cost to migratory bird species); and unavoidable sedimentation of the creek downstream and the Bay (with potential impacts to several endangered species and increased flood risks)."

It is troubling that the above statement implies that the loss of reservoir surface area (open water) is a bad thing when countless studies have shown that reservoirs cause degraded water quality, toxic algae blooms, harbor non-native species, lose water to evaporation, prevent critically needed sediment transport downstream to the creek and Bay wetlands. Additionally, we observed in the Searsville study process that dam removal can result in the transformation of harmful "open water" into productive and natural riparian forest, stream, and sustainable wetlands. Studies also showed that the extent of open water can expand with dam removal and the proposed expansion of Felt Reservoir nearby. Stanford has also recently acknowledged what resource agencies have been saying for years now; that we desperately need to restore the flow of sediment downstream of dams to benefit creeks and Bay wetlands in the face of sea-level-rise. It is shocking that after years of participating in this process, the above statements could be made to mislead the public about net habitat impacts of various alternatives and to again imply that dam removal results in increased flood risks.

The overall ecosystem harm caused by dams and the ecosystem benefits from dam removal are also well documented. The negative impact of Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek and expected benefits from removal are not an exception. The California State Water Board notes that: "The environmental benefits of dam and levee removal include increased groundwater recharge (in some cases this can reduce downstream flooding); reduced streambed and shoreline erosion; enhanced aquatic and wildlife migration corridors; and restored riparian and aquatic ecosystem functions."


5) "A major advantage of this option is that it is reversible; if models of sediment impacts and risks of downstream flooding prove inaccurate, and adverse impacts become evident in the watershed, the opening in the dam can be closed."

This point misses several important facts: There has been no agencies indication that they would permit the implementation and then reversal of such a plan and eventual inundation of revived upstream habitat, revegetation, and wildlife migration. The opening in the dam can be used, as we have proposed, to safely manage sediment release downstream, stabilization upstream, and/or removal. After that has occurred, the dam can then be removed and other identified flood protection measures such as off-stream detention basins, and periodic removal of problematic sediment deposits in the downstream channel can ensure that adequate flood protection is provided into the future.


6) "We are glad the collective wisdom of this process has chosen a cautious path forward."

For starters, an actual path was not chosen by Stanford and there has been no commitment to a timeline or to actually implement any project. The hole-in-dam idea was not "collectively" embraced by the Searsville Advisory Group. In fact, it was not even rated in the group's top three preferred alternatives. The only permitting resource agency (CA Water Board) to weigh in on the alternatives studied supported dam removal and doubted the feasibility of the hole-in-dam and other alternatives studied.

Thankfully, Stanford's plan is surprisingly close to being a good one. For over a decade we have pushed for the reservoir to be eliminated, for non-native reservoir species to be eliminated, for Stanford to instead divert water further downstream at their existing damless diversion, to instead store water in their off-stream Felt Reservoir, to use a hole-in-the-dam strategy (or gradual notching) to safely transport sediment downstream, to support flood protection measures, and to restore sediment transport to the SF Bay for wetland replenishment and coastal community protection from rising seas. Stanford's hole-in-dam proposal agrees to do all of this, except take the final step of removing the dam. Now, Stanford needs to including removing the dam once the sediment has been safely managed and identified flood protection measures have been committed to downstream. A widely supported Searsville Dam removal, flood protection, and ecosystem restoration project that is supported by agencies and funders is increasingly close to becoming a reality.


Matt Stoecker

Director
Beyond Searsville Dam
Palo Alto


7 people like this
Posted by Sal
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on May 30, 2015 at 7:16 pm

That dam is an unnatural aberration that has significantly changed the drainage pattern of a portion of the Santa Cruz Mountains for more than a century. It's original purpose was never fulfilled, it's been deteriorating ever since, and now that it's filled with silt, it's little more than a costly footnote of history that now poses it's own hazards, and needs to be removed. If the dam is removed properly, the watershed should return to some semblance of what it should be in a few seasons


5 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 30, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Sal - I totally agree. If you look at Golden Gate Park, the Presidio - they are cleaning up their lakes and ponds and they are filled with all type birds. All the animals and birds want is a clean place with fresh water and they will come - you can't keep them away. The deer and other animals gravitate to clean water.

It is unclear what SU is doing at this location that is so secret. What ever it needs a fly over and clean up to get this place presentable.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 31, 2015 at 9:06 am

@ Matt Stoecker

If the dam is eventually removed, where would the detention ponds be constructed? Will the ponds be adequate in the event of a 100 year flood? A lot of us folks downstream do not really want to take that chance.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 31, 2015 at 10:04 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note this very pertinent Stanford comment:

"The key question is whether – and how – the sediment can be moved downstream," McCown said. "The possibility of releasing the sediment downstream presents a unique challenge that we must continue studying to ensure that we do the right thing, especially for the communities located downstream of the dam. "Our preferred approach does not preclude the possibility of someday removing the dam. But we have to be confident we don't need the check-dam function and that removal wouldn't cause unacceptable impacts in the watershed."

People may disagree but I find that a very sound position.


Like this comment
Posted by Sediment
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2015 at 1:28 pm

I am curious if they have looked at hydraulic mining as a way to move sediment safely downstream. I imagine that if this were done gradually each winter, they could move most of the sediment with winter water over a few years or a decade.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 31, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"if they have looked at hydraulic mining as a way to move sediment safely downstream."

That is precisely what the proposed solution will do - only using available rainfall rather than taking water from elsewhere to move the sediment.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I agree - the problem of sediment is not specific to this lake - it is a generic problem and is being addressed with regular maintenance everywhere else. There is no reason why regular maintenance is not being performed at this location. All lakes and dams in the Santa Cruz Mountains across the board are subject to this geological problem. There is nothing unique about the problem - only how it is being addressed.


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Posted by 2savetheoaks
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 31, 2015 at 7:50 pm

A photoshop mashup of Searsville Dam with a culvert is available at Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2015 at 9:50 pm

The article at the link with that Photshopped picture says:

"Stanford announced that it has preliminarily chosen to cut a culvert at the bottom of Searsville dam as its preferred option for allowing steelhead to travel past the dam."

When can we expect this work to be completed? If there is no timeline for completion, then why not? Stanford has had more than enough time to study and address the issue of dam removal. What happens if the Searsville Lake is allowed to completely fill with silt and turn into Searsville Meadow? Would it be able to mitigate downstream flooding afterwards?


4 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Resident 2 -
Thanks for the question and it is a good one. There have been several floodwater detention pond and attenuation options considered and studied: 1) The JPA and Stanford consultants have identified multiple detention pond locations and sizes downstream at Webb Ranch and within or adjacent to the Stanford Golf Course. 2) The original Searsville Reservoir footprint now consists of three different water bodies (main reservoir behind the dam, "Middle Reservoir" between a causeway/levee that Stanford built across the reservoir, and "Upper Marsh" on the west side of Portola Road. We have shown that the dam and main reservoir can be remove and the Middle and Upper marsh zones can remain as open water and/or seasonal wetlands enhanced for wildlife and to maximize their flood capture function with outlet controls. 3) In addition, the restored valley where the main reservoir once stood can be redesigned with large floodplains and overflow wetland features to further capture and attenuate flood flows. Therefore the number and sizing of these detention ponds, enhanced marsh areas, and floodplains can be designed to maximize flood protection benefits. Recent Searsville study results have shown that a combination of these actions can provide equal or greater flood protection than the proposed hole-in-dam while also eliminating future dam failure inundation risk and ongoing upstream flooding issues.


@Sediment-
Good thought! This is essentially what the proposed hole-in-dam plan is looking at, but with natural heavy winter rains and flows as the "mining" element to flush downstream and use the hole-in-dam to manage control of the sediment and water release in a safe manner. Once that is carried out, and other downstream flood reduction measures are employed, the dam cam safely be removed.

2savetheoaks and Kazu-
Stanford has not proposed a timeline or actual plan, so we are currently headed towards Searsville Meadow. Unfortunately, the photoshop effort is far from what Stanford is proposing. This rendition shows a natural-bottom arch culvert which would not be employed with the dam due to issues such as undermining the footing. Stanford has proposed to build a circular or box type culvert with concrete bottom and highly engineered internal baffles or other type of fish passage feature. This also requires extensive and highly engineered channel construction both upstream and downstream to address the "firehose" suction and expulsion of water into and downstream of the hole during peak flows. Such a proposal has not been shown to be feasible or carried out before in similar federally listed Critical Habitat for steelhead and other species. Besides adequate fish passage, the proposal would have major problems with woody debris blockage within the hole, clearing sediment/debris, turbidity downstream, inundation of upstream habitat and "restoration" areas, and challenging and unproven safety modifications and rapid filling and draining pressure. If the dam can be removed safely, provide more flood protection benefits, and achieve a much greater level of ecosystem restoration and protection, why would we and the agencies accept this lesser and unproven option? Thanks for considering.



4 people like this
Posted by Mimi Wolf
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2015 at 2:52 pm

If nothing but for the sake of discussion, the Palo Alto Weekly should print an interview with Matt Stoecker. Searsville dam should come down. Hopefully in my lifetime, it will. DamNation is available from Netflix.


2 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2015 at 5:09 pm

It is troubling that the two authors did not disclose their strong connection to Stanford University and ongoing access they are granted) to Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve surrounding the dam and reservoir.

Lennie Roberts is reported to be a founding docent at Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (1974) with over four decades of access and support for the preserve. Does 41 years of public advocacy and education around a dam and reservoir, and keys to the front gate, influence this perspective?

The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society enjoys access to Jasper Ridge for outings and birding. Would opposition to Stanford's desire to keep the dam, and potential loss of access, influence this perspective?

We have heard from multiple people that support our Beyond Searsville Dam coalition, that different Stanford representatives have contacted them furious with their support of removing the dam. One enviro group that signed onto our coalition abruptly withdrew that support two days later and reportedly following an angry call from Jasper Ridge and questioning future access to visit the preserve.


2 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 2, 2015 at 9:38 am

Mr. Stoecker, Other than the name of your organization, do we have any idea of what your biases are in this complex ecosystem? What impact did the current situation have on the 1998 flooding that would have been different with the dam removed. Based on what I have been able to read, I would never support removal of the dam until ALL of the downstream flood protection improvements have been constructed. Since the RWQCB has declined to permit the levee and golf course improvements at this time, there can be no timeline, established by Stanford or anybody else, to remove the dam. Managing sediment transport instream would be far more beneficial than any kind of a trucking operation to remove sediment before removal of the dam.


5 people like this
Posted by Low Water Mark
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2015 at 9:40 am

Stoecker's lashout at Lennie Roberts and the Santa Clara Audubon Society shows a desperate need to protect his little activism fiefdom. His comment should be circulated to the people who signed on to his organization in the mistaken belief that it was an environmental cause.


2 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2015 at 10:57 am

Low Water Mark,

Hiding behind a fake name is a telling statement about your connection to this issue and the accuracy of your comment. It is clear that you are the one "lashing out" at me, without any supporting facts and misunderstanding of my objectives and history restoring habitat and wildlife in San Francisquito Creek. What is wrong with commenting on two people's guest opinion with referanced facts that counter their misleading statements? I am far from wanting to protect a "little activism fiefdom". In fact, myself and the dozens of other Beyond Searsville Dam coalition members and thousands of supporters would like nothing more than to see Stanford do the right thing and be able shut down our coalition quickly and for good. On the contrary, as mentioned above, it is Committee for Green Foothills and Santa Clara Audubon that have skin in the game and access to Jasper Ridge's exclusive, fenced, barbed wired, fiefdom… this access comes with supporting Stanford and Jasper Ridge's stance on Searsville. So who is trying to protect their fiefdom here? Finally, I encourage BSD supporters to read my response to Lennie and Shani's letter here and if they disagree they can opt out of the coalition at any time. No one has contacted us yet with anything other than strong support, and the only group to date that has ever signed on to our coalition and then opted out was a group that was reportedly harassed by a Jasper Ridge rep with a threat of having their beloved access rescinded until they gave in and wished us luck.

I look forward to you presenting your real name here and having an honest dialog on this issue.


2 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2015 at 11:15 am

Hi Old Steve,

I absolutely agree with you regarding support of managed sediment transport instream over trucking. This type of sediment management has been used increasingly, and successfully, elsewhere in the country. In a semi-urban environment like this one, it is critical to design this type of plan with the utmost care and with adequate safety measures in place. On this point, I also agree with you that downstream flood protection measures must be in place prior to the dam being removed. As with other projects in the US, some of these efforts can be built before removal starts (i.e. JPA led efforts to replace undersized bridges) and some can be built during the sediment release process (i.e. off-stream detention basins downstream and within the reservoir area) and activated prior to removal of the dam.

On my history within he watershed and with ecosystem restoration and dam removal projects, here are a few quick bullets and link:

- I grew up on Corte Madera Creek in Portola Valley and grew to love the creek.
- In 1998 I graduated with a Biology degree from UC Santa Barbara (Ecology emphasis)
- In 1999 I began volunteering with the San Francisquito Watershed Council (then the SF Creek CRMP). That year I co-founded the SF Creek Steelhead Task Force
- Since 1999, with the STF and now with other NGO's working in the watershed, we have removed over a dozen steelhead migration barriers and carried out many habitat restoration projects. Over 4 other steelhead barrier projects are in the design/planning phase. We have collectively received millions in federal, state, and private grants to carry out these projects.
- My consulting company, Stoecker Ecological, has two decades of experience managing watershed assessment, habitat restoration, fish passage, and other ecosystem project around California and for federal and state resource agencies, private companies, and NGO's. Here is a link to our website for more information: www.StoeckerEcological.com
- For almost a decade we tried to get Stanford to address Searsville Dam issues within the SFWC's Steelhead Task Force. Stanford resisted these efforts and the SFWC could not pursue them as a collaborative stakeholder group requiring unanimous support from members, including Stanford. in 2007, myself and others (including American Rivers) formed Beyond Searsville Dam to force Stanford to fix the Searsville Dam problem.
- In addition to BSD, I also continue to work on other habitat restoration efforts within the watershed and with other NGO's.

Thanks for your questions.
Matt


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Posted by Low Water Mark
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2015 at 1:49 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Duveneck Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2015 at 2:08 pm

I lived in Palo Alto when the flood of 1998 caused over 400 homes to have over the floor flooding. No major improvements have been made to San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto since although some are in the planning stages. I like Stanford's plan of using for flood mitigation while making it easier for fish migration.


2 people like this
Posted by Jill
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Matt Stoecker:

"Lennie Roberts is reported to be a founding docent at Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (1974) with over four decades of access and support for the preserve. Does 41 years of public advocacy and education around a dam and reservoir, and keys to the front gate, influence this perspective?"

What if it does? Why shouldn't someone with decades of experience and deep knowledge of the area in question offer a well-researched perspective?

"The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society enjoys access to Jasper Ridge for outings and birding. Would opposition to Stanford's desire to keep the dam, and potential loss of access, influence this perspective?"

Again, how shocking!!

If you re-read the article, you'll see that SCVAS ad CGF have been actively involved for years in learning about the various alternatives. They're not making off-the-cuff, careless commentary. Some mutual respect is called for here, so back off on the hostility.


2 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Jill,

You've taken my comments about the two authors access to Jasper Ridge and connection to Stanford out of contact. Of course first hand knowledge is important and useful. The point is that the two authors enjoy past and ongoing access to this private reservoir and that others do not, especially anyone that expresses a differing view than Stanford. It is a factor that everyone should consider when reading the guest opinion.

I've been involved with Searsville Dam and restoration within the San Francisquito Creek watershed for decades and as a biologist I have researched and managed dams and dam modification and removal projects for the past 22 years. I also have great respect for much of the work that both Lennie and Shani have done in our area. However, in this case they are at odds with the broad scientific consensus that dams are extremely harmful to ecosystems and removal of unnecessary dams is the most effective and beneficial way to improve watershed and ecosystem health. With the specific Searsville case, as pointed out above, their letter is also misleading and omits key findings related to dam removal features and benefits for flood protection and public safety.

The good news is that this whole process is now, finally, entering the open public and permitting phase where everyone will be able to see and comment on the facts and alternatives. This data speaks for itself and will show why the above guest opinion piece paints and incomplete picture and why resource agencies will not permit the hole-in-dam or let-it-fill-in options Stanford is proposing.


2 people like this
Posted by Jen K.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 2, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Lennie is absolutely right about environmental issues most of the time, unfortunately not this time.

Defending Searsville Dam and not actively supporting dam removal in this case is a blemish on her otherwise stellar environmental legacy.


1 person likes this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 2, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Matt, I can't let the quotation below stand without commenting. There may indeed be a broad consensus in the narrow field of ecological sciences. As a civil engineer, and as a flat water canoeist, I object to your use of "extremely".

"However, in this case they are at odds with the broad scientific consensus that dams are extremely harmful to ecosystems and removal of unnecessary dams is the most effective and beneficial way to improve watershed and ecosystem health."

Without water supply and flood control reservoirs, much of the United States would be unfit for modern habitation. Removal projects in the Columbia and Klamath watersheds have certainly been beneficial for certain habitats and species. As a citizen and voter within the SCVWD jurisdiction, and as a Stanford Alum and supporter, I'd appreciate you sticking to the specific project. We can live without the hyperbolic generalizations.


2 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 2, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Jill,
I've followed this issue for a long time and many of the people involved have done great work in the region, but the Guest Opinion here does include some misleading and "careless commentary" as is pointed out in other comments. The point about the two author's ongoing partnership and granted access to Stanford's private reservoir is also a valid one for readers to take into account when considering their perspective and bias. To not mention the flooding risks current caused by the dam and of the dam potentially failing is irresponsible.


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Posted by Resident 2
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2015 at 12:33 am

@ Matt Stoeker

" Since 1999, with the STF and now with other NGO's working in the watershed,"

Which NGO's are you working with?


2 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2015 at 8:57 am

Hi Resident 2,

Here is a list of Beyond Searsville Dam coalition signatory groups and partial list of individual supporters. We also have over 1,400 people signed up for our newsletter and have had over 25,000 letters sent by supporters to Stanford asking for removal of the dam. I am also working with American Rivers on the implementation phase of three separate fish passage improvement projects at problematic road crossings in the watershed.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Reality
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 3, 2015 at 10:52 am

Let's face facts . . . as long as the flood control experts say there will be more floods if the dam is removed, Stanford is never going to just take down the dam. Can you say "liability"?? Imagine the lawyers saying to Stanford reps in Court, "So you were told by the flood experts that the Palo Alto homes might get flooded, and you took down the dam anyway??" Stanford has no love for fish if it means they might lose $$!

Matt, ad hominem attacks on folks who disagree with you is both low-class and a bad way to get people on your side. The authors may be wrong about the dam, but that doesn't mean they're just in it for what they can get! I looked at your list of supporters and I saw a lot of fishing organizations. Maybe you only want the dam to come down so you and your friends can go fishing in the creek! Anyone can be smeared if you try hard enough. Let's keep it clean around here.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 3, 2015 at 11:24 am

The cheapest option for Stanford at the moment is to "study" disposition of the silt. Naturally that's what it wants to do. No doubt forever.

A dam full of dirt isn't much of an asset, but it is a huge hazard. If Searsville gives, north Palo Alto will be the mother of all mudpies. Even worse, because mud is much more massive than water, structure and vegetation destruction will be epic. Bear in mind that the probability of The Big One striking while Searsville is full and vulnerable is equal to the percentage of the year that Searsville is full and vulnerable--better than 50%.

I wonder if Stanford knows it has skin in this game: much of its golf course will turn into a giant mud, then silt, trap. How's that for incentive, neighbor? Think of those lost greens fees.

What to do? Build a temporary silt retention dam just downstream from the current dam, manage the silt release as the current dam is removed, then remove the temporary dam.

It costs money, but only a small fraction of the consequences of failure. Stanford can afford that. Can it afford the lawsuits if its toy misbehaves?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Matt, you say "reservoirs cause degraded water quality, toxic algae blooms, harbor non-native species, lose water to evaporation." isn't this true of all lakes? How is this reservoir different?

I have been to the preserve (not because I hvae sold my soul to Stanford! It was a guided tour!) and the lake is really beautiful, the hills are covered with forest, the whole place is just absolutely gorgous. We saw many birds and butterflies as well as many native plants. When you say it's degraded and covered with toxic algae you make me think that you don't know anything baout it. They told us that there are a lot of Stanford graduate students in biology and ecology doing their Ph.D. studies there. Why would Stanford students want to study a degraded and toxic ecosystem?


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Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2015 at 12:21 pm

@Reality,

I totally agree with you that liability is a major driver here. But let's consider additional liabilities with keeping the dam. There are three general flood related issues and areas: 1) Downstream flooding 2) Existing upstream flooding caused by the dam 3) ongoing dam failure risk and identified "catastrophic" downstream flooding. Keeping the dam in place maintains the existence of all three of these issues. Dam removal eliminates #2 & #3 for good and recent studies have shown is can be done while also reducing downstream flooding through multiple features identified above (off-stream detention basins, restored floodplain, enhanced reservoir area marshes and historic wetland ponds, downstream JPA identified flood reduction measures. In fact, both of Stanford's proposed plans involve implementing some of these features to provide flood protection. Additionally, USGS and other leading research entities have documented a process called reservoir-induced seismicity, which shows that reservoirs (especially those that fill and drain quickly) can trigger earthquakes due to altering pressure and injecting water into underlying faults. Searsville Reservoir is on top of San Andreas Fault and the hole-in-dam proposal entails rapidly filling and draining the reservoir during the most high risk time for earthquakes; the 50-100 year flood event. Additionally, the exact structural integrity and performance of Searsville Dam in a large earthquake after a hole is cut through it (and documented cracks through the dam) is an untested unknown. This is not in dispute.

I do disagree with the accuracy and thoroughness of what Lennie and Shani wrote and, like others here, think it is absolutely relevant and honest to share the strong Stanford and Jasper Ridge connections that both authors and their groups have. You are correct that several fish groups are part of our coalition (less than half). Many of these groups are among the strongest river and ecosystem conservation groups around. In addition, I personally haven't fished in the watershed since I was a kid and have no intention or desire to ever fish it again…. plus the entire watershed is closed to fishing year-round under Ca Dept. of Fish and Wildlife regulations and has been for decades. I don't think that this small, urban creek has the ability to sustain angling pressure in the future and neither do the agency folks I've talked to. This is not about fishing, this is about restoring watershed and ecosystem health. Steelhead get a lo tot attention from us and resource agencies because they are the main "indicator" and "umbrella" species in the watershed. Ecologists and resource agencies know that efforts to recover these unique indicator and umbrella species results in far reaching benefits to watershed health and other native species recovery.


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Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 3, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Matt,

Once the JPA projects actually start to be constructed, and once all of the stakeholders agree to instream sediment disposition, I am confident things will move forward. Of course Stanford suffered substantial damage in the 1998 flooding, so we are clear they are interested in flood mitigation broadly. I'm not sure I agree as to the golf course impacts above. It seems to me that any sediments deposited on the golf course are removed from the possibility of doing downstream damage. There is certainly a cost associated with impacts to the golf course, but it may be less than the costs associated with all of measures required for dam removal before the flood mitigation improvements are at least well under construction.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I neglected to mention the possibility of scouring of the Stanford golf course. Silty water is not only heavier than clean water, it is also abrasive and can seriously erode the substrate it flows over. Stanford may incur a much more extensive and expensive restoration task than simply removing dirt from its golf course.

Then again, why not be a good neighbor and just do what needs to be done for everyone's best interest.


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Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2015 at 3:21 pm

@Resident,

If you don't believe me, here are Stanford and others showing just a few of the negative impacts of Searsville:

1) Stanford website acknowledging the algae blooms and depleted dissolved oxygen in Searsville and other university reservoirs:

"Warm summer weather accelerates the process of decomposition, and the higher nutrient level can cause algal blooms and deplete the dissolved oxygen at the bottom of the lake."

Web Link


2) Stanford report acknowledging presence and spread of harmful non-native species from Searsville downstream:

"Searsville Lake and its surrounding lake-edge and alluvial habitats, along with downstream reaches of Corte Madera and San Francisquito Creeks, host a number of non-native species, including non-native fishes, crustaceans, and amphibians (Launer and Spain, 1998). Non-native fishes include largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), sunfish species (Lepomis cyanellus, L. gibbosus, L. macrochirus, L. microlophus), black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), bullhead (Ictalurus nebulosus, I. melas), mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), rainwater killifish (Lucania parva), golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas), and goldfish (Carassius auratus). Most, but not all, of the bullfrogs found downstream in San Francisquito Creek are probably from the lake. Several fish species, both crayfish species, and bullfrogs are known to be detrimental to steelhead and red legged frogs."

Web Link

3) Stanford study showing high evaporation rate at Jasper Ridge, which correlates to reduced water availability downstream of the reservoir for creeks flows and wildlife:
Web Link

I encourage you to visit our Beyond Searsville Dam website and "Newsletter" page which has hundreds of reports and articles from leading institutions describing these negative impacts at Searsville and other dams around the country.

Thanks for considering


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Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 3, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Flooding and golf courses have a long relationship. Last week the PGA played across a partially flooded golf course. I suspect the creek is deep enough and the golf course terrain varied enough, that the flood event that inflicts maximum damage on the golf course has a vary low probability.

The SCVWD put an entire new discharge structure through the Lenihan Dam in Los Gatos. I'm sure an appropriate sediment transport structure can be designed, perhaps even eliminating the need for temporary off-line sediment basins (which likely also impact the golf course).

I understand BSD's passion, but we should all understand that public or institutional civil engineering projects rarely move at the speeds we are used to in Silicon Valley.


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Posted by Confused
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2015 at 4:58 pm

I thought the article said the lake was going to be drained? If the lake is gone and there's a hole in the dam for the creek to go through, isn't that just the same as if the dam is gone? Not getting why this is a problem.


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Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Old Steve,
You're right about this process being slow going! We've been pushing for a Searsville solution since 1998. Other dam removal campaigns I've been involved with and studied have taken multiple decades. It's worth it though!

First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,
then you win.

- Mahatma Gandhi


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Posted by Resident 2
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2015 at 8:15 pm

@ Matt Stoecker

We know that your group is trying to do a good thing for the environment,however, us folks downstream sure would feel a lot safer leaving the dam where it is. We are very concerned with the silt being released then piling up on the river bank just past the highway 101 bridge. This would most likely cause flooding during a storm event, especially if there is not any dredging taking place downstream. We live here, and do not want to take that gamble.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Matt - Please explain how flow levels sufficient to move silt from the dam site down the adjacent steep gradients would not then result in significant silt depositions as those flow rates slowed at the much shallower gradients East of 280 and, in particular, in eastern Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 3, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are the scientific facts regarding flow rate and sedimentation:

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 3, 2015 at 9:15 pm

On the news tonight they indicated that we could be in for an El Nino winter. Time is a wasting - get on with this - take an action while there is no increased water flow due to weather. That includes bridge modifications in the Palo Alto portion of the creek.

There has been enough discussion on this topic - the Jasper Ridge Report dated 2007 is saying the same thing then as now - same choices - same conclusions.

Lack of action at this = negligence. Negligence = property damage. Property Damage = a law suit for willful lack of action.
Property damage at this point is both upstream and downstream - the airport and buildings in the baylands - a number of which are city owned.


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Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2015 at 1:25 pm

@ Resident 2 and Peter Carpenter,

We share your concerns and questions about flooding and have always stated that we would never propose or endorse a plan that would elevate flooding risk downstream. We remain committed to that stance and are looking well beyond that to figure out what options exist to reduce flooding risk both downstream and upstream. There are, generally speaking, three flooding issues/areas: downstream flooding, upstream flooding, and dam failure inundation downstream.

1) Study findings within and outside of the Searsville study process have shown that a similar, and potentially greater, level of flood protection can be acheived with a dam removal option that is combined with multiple downstream, and reservoir area, flood detention / attenuation features, than with the proposed hole-in-dam proposal. Unlike leaving the dam in place, dam removal also eliminates the two additional flooding risks/liabilities upstream and with dam failure.

As noted above, USGS and other leading research entities have documented a process called reservoir-induced seismicity, which shows that reservoirs (especially those that fill and drain quickly) can trigger earthquakes due to altering pressure and injecting water into underlying faults. Searsville Reservoir is on top of San Andreas Fault and the hole-in-dam proposal entails rapidly filling and draining the reservoir during the most high risk time for earthquakes; the 50-100 year flood event and saturated ground conditions. Additionally, the exact structural integrity and performance of Searsville Dam in a large earthquake after a hole is cut through it (and the 3 documented cracks through the dam) is an untested unknown.

2) Numerous Stanford consultant reports, and others, clearly describe how Searsville Dam and Reservoir sedimentation are currently causing upstream flooding risks to residents in Family Farm / Woodside.

3) The US Army Corps, State of California, and local counties have classified Searsville Dam as a “High Hazard” dam whose failure would result in “probable loss of lives and significant property damage” downstream.
Web Link (page 5)

Stanford’s own SPEAR3 report states that failure of Searsville Dam could release a “catastrophic” flow of 60,433 cubic feet per second, or “about 6 times the 500-year peak flow of 10,500 cfs”?
Web Link (Section 7.1 pg 7)

San Mateo County’s Dam Failure Inundation Areas map, shows extensive flooding of Stanford, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto with the failure of Searsville Dam?
Web Link

To summarize, what the data is showing us is that dam removal can be designed with flood protection features that perform as well or better than the hole-in-dam proposal and has the added benefit of eliminating upstream flooding and future dam failure risks.

Thanks for considering


2 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2015 at 1:57 pm

@ Peter Carpenter,

Thanks for the question:

Please explain how flow levels sufficient to move silt from the dam site down the adjacent steep gradients would not then result in significant silt depositions as those flow rates slowed at the much shallower gradients East of 280 and, in particular, in eastern Palo Alto and East Palo Alto."

You've hit the million dollar question here and one that is no doubt currently being studied. The current studies, and previous studies, had gotten to the point of confirming a few things:

1) As your sediment links shows, that a certain amount of finer sediment could be released during adequate flows and would remain suspended until it reached the Bay, without causing flooding problems. The question now remains "how much" and "at what minimum flow" could this finer sediment be released in a highly controlled manner. I can tell you from my experience on the Matilija Dam Removal Technical Advisory Committee (Ventura River, CA) that we were able to determine minimum flow and release requirements to flush fine sediment to the ocean. Now, Stanford's consultant (which as the same as for Matilija) need to determine this for the unique San Francisquito and Searsville Dam situation. More on the Matilija Dam Removal effort and sediment transport data here if interested:
Web Link

2) The courser sediment (i.e. gravels, cobbles, boulders) present a different sediment management solution than the fines as they are harder to transport all the way to the Bay as the channel gradient and flow velocities are reduced. For Matilija and other completed projects, and likely for Searsville, much of the course sediment is stabilized (and needed) as part of the reservoir area restoration and stabilization plan. Fortunately, Searsville is dominated by fine sediment enabling more opportunity to safely flush it all the way to the Bay. Plans are now needed to figure out exactly how to best stabilize and utilize the course sediment with the dam modification/removal options.

3) In addition to managing the accumulated sediment currently trapped behind the dam, there is then the question of how to address the future or "background" sediment that will be coming downstream under all of these options (hole-in-dam, letting the reservoir fill in, or removal). Studies conducted to date have identified the need and feasibility of periodic and pin-point excavation of some accumulated sediment within the downstream channel of San Francisquito Creek. Studies now need to determine exactly how often, how much, and at what locations this sediment will need to be removed from lower San Francisquito Creek. The lower gradient locations you point out (and constricted locations like undersized bridges) are key areas already identified. Hopefully many of these locations will have improved flow and sediment conveyance, as part of JPA led efforts, prior to implementing the Searsville project. Again, all options being considered have identified the need for this channel sediment maintenance.

So the answer to your question is that we know of several proven and feasible strategies to address the sediment issues and now additional studies are needed to define how those strategies work in this particular situation and watershed. I think the important thing to note is that sediment management activities related to Searsville are required no matter what and that a combination of actions exist to address the problem. Fortunately, all of the study results and data should become available to the public as part of the coming permitting process, so I hope you and others will review and comment. Thanks.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Matt states:
"Studies conducted to date have identified the need and feasibility of periodic and pin-point excavation of some accumulated sediment within the downstream channel of San Francisquito Creek. Studies now need to determine exactly how often, how much, and at what locations this sediment will need to be removed from lower San Francisquito Creek. The lower gradient locations you point out (and constricted locations like undersized bridges) are key areas already identified."

Clearly we need answers to those questions BEFORE anything irreversible is done. The population in the downstream area is not a volunteer group for experimentation.


2 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2015 at 4:51 pm

@Peter

Regarding the quote of mine you've picked out, and as noted above, this channel aggradation is already happening and folks within the Searsville study process identified the need for sediment management there already regardless of the Searsville issue. This situation doesn't change with any option being considered, including doing nothing and letting the dam fill in. No project will be permitted without having the remaining questions answered and adequate downstream flood protection measures included.


2 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 4, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Based on my reading of Matt's and other posts, I would say those in the San Francisquito floodplain are already part of one or more experiments. The experiment that interests me is how likely are they to beat the odds of dam failure due to earthquake or large storm event for a dam that is near a very active earthquake fault and that has some cracks in it. If I were close to the creek (I'm not too close), I would rather take my chances with the scenario that Matt envisions/hopes for.


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Posted by DaisyB
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:40 am

If you peruse the outings calendar of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society over an entire year, you will not find outings to Jasper Ridge. Perhaps once a year a docent might lead a small group birding trip for either SCVAS or Sequoia Audubon (the San Mateo county chapter), in accordance with the general docent-led tours that are available to anyone. See the Jasper Ridge web site for more information. SCVAS and its members do not have special access (or any access) to Jasper Ridge.


4 people like this
Posted by Roxanne Rorapaugh
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:40 am

Keeping Searsville dam in place NOT a good solution

I was disappointed to read the Guest Opinion from Shani Kleinhaus and Lennie Roberts in the May 20, 2015 Almanac titled “Keeping Searsville dam in place a good solution”.

Ms. Roberts has a reputation for ecological advocacy and has probably done enormous good for the Peninsula environmental movement overall; however, in this opinion she and her co-writer are wrong and are not even able to make a sound argument supporting their position.

While the authors concede that dam removal will facilitate passage of steelhead trout to their upstream historic spawning areas, they dismiss this opportunity to protect a threatened species and be able to see these majestic fish swim in the creek again.

The authors have concerns that they feel outweigh any potential benefits to dam removal. One is flooding. However, there is danger of upstream flooding with the dam as it is, the dam is not designed for flood control anyway and the process of removing or altering the dam would be carried out with the highest caliber of engineering. Other dams have been removed. We sent men to the moon--we can remove dams safely. It is a matter of will.

The authors site the potential loss of wetlands and wetlands/riparian forest without noting that riparian habitat will be gained all along the creek and where the lake once was.

They also site concern for bats and migrating birds. About the bats, bats follow bugs they will not be hurt if the lake is gone, they will find new bugs in other places. There is a report that pretty much sums this up on the Stanford Searsville Dam website. . Web Link There are some bats that nest on the cliffs above the dam (at least in 2001), but as long as care is taken during construction not to disturb roosting bats there will be no harm. I think the migrating birds will adapt as well, in fact the riparian habitat that would be created is superior for most species than the artificial Searsville Lake. Web Link

That brings me to their final claim, that Stanford University has wisely chosen a cautious path forward. I say Stanford is stonewalling. A hole in the bottom of the dam? Seriously? We need to be advocating for a real step in the right direction. I fully support the work of Matt Stoeker of BeyondSearsvilleDam.org and others who have brought this issue to my attention. Thank you.






4 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:12 am

@DaisyB

The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society website lists Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve as a "Partner in Conservation" and shows recent field trips there advertising unique access to what they describe as a "hidden gem" with "very restrictive access- and we've got a tour reserved just for our wonderful volunteers! Space is limited; RSVP required" (p. 5). The newsletter lists two different SCVAS tours at Jasper Ridge (p. 3 and 5) and one on Stanford Campus (p. 2) within less than 2 months in 2013. One event charges a fee to attend. The tour description (p. 4) says that Jasper Ridge is "generally closed to the public. We’ve been able to reserve a special time for our volunteers to experience this beautiful preserve." These tours are not available to "anyone" and required coordinated and special access permission outside of the standard docent program and are used to both reward SCVAS volunteers. Beyond Searsville Dam and other groups and supporters of removing the dam have been denied access to JRBP. Access is not "available to anyone" as you state.

SCVAS Sources:

Web Link

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Summation
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:27 am

Trying to bolster your reputation by casting aspersions on Shani's and Lennie's reputations is having the reverse effect.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Posters above are recommending the excavation of silt "downstream". There seems to be some effort to push the responsibility "downstream" vs. at the source - the lake - on SU property.

This is a management effort that should have between done on a regular basis by SU as part of their management responsibilities.

We are not handing out "get out of jail free" tickets here - SU perpetuates the problem by lack of action and they need to step up to the plate and do it.

Shifting the responsibility is not going to happen - get with it. I read where the 101 is going to be closed to modify the bridge over the creek so that is a start for the downstream modifications - good going on the part of the people who are working the lower portion of the creek.


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 1:43 am

@summation wrote:

"Trying to bolster your reputation by casting aspersions on Shani's and Lennie's reputations is having the reverse effect."

No it's not, he is right. The dam should be removed. Or do you think that having a 65 foot high dirt platform and steelhead barrier is a good idea? And what about the potential flooding upstream that could result from a silted-in Searsville Lake?

Shani's and Lennie's article appears, to me at least, to be more Stanford foot dragging. For many years now, Stanford has engaged in seemly endless stalling over the dam removal. What is the dam good for now? Water supply? Nope, it is mostly silted in. Flood control? No, Searsville Meadow won't do much in the way of flood control. Hydroelectric power? Nah, the dam never had that. Waterfowl habitat? Probably not once it is silted in. It seems unlikely ducks and geese would be able to swim on dry land.

So given the dam's lack of purpose and the harm it causes to the environment, why is Stanford so dead set against its removal? It seems irrational at best. If they have a good reason for keeping the dam, they should say "it stays and this is why" and give a good reason base on science and environmental benefits. In well over a decade, they have failed to do so. If there is no good reason for keeping the dam, and since it does harm to the environment, they why is Stanford so dead set against removing an otherwise useless fish barrier? My guess is that the answer to that has nothing to do with waterfowl, wetlands, the environment, sedimentation or the dam itself. So what is really going on?


12 people like this
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 5:12 pm

@Summation,

We are working on "bolstering" the health of our watershed, not a reputation. As I've stated above and told them both, I respect and thank both Lennie and Shani (and CGF and SCVAS) for their great work on other critical projects. Disagreeing with their statements in this op-ed and pointing out their clear Jasper Ridge connections (that are readily available on their websites) is not a sign of disrespect or attack on their reputation….. it is fact-based and transparent dialog.

If you think that calls for transparency, using referanced facts to correct inaccuracies, and support for removing a destructive and unnecessary dam (an action supported by leading scientists and resource agencies) is harmful to a reputation than we'll just have to agree to disagree.


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Posted by Neighbor 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Shani always likes to use the term, "cut off the nose despite the face". I wonder how this fits in, with her stance in regards to Searsville? I just love it when two environmental groups (or more) get together and duke it out! Reminiscent of the Anaerobic digester days of the past.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Both the SJM and the SFC have large articles concerning the potential for a large El Nino winter based on current ocean temperatures. One is anticipating an equivalent of the 1998 rainfall.

All be advised that the outcomes of a large storm have been sliced and diced on this form in numerous articles on this topic. Consider that all have been advised by outside sources - the weather people - that we all could be in for a big winter. They have no vested interest in this specific situation so no politics involved - only scientific analysis of the current projections.

Since everyone is working with the same information lack of action which has been discussed and analyzed - if it results in predictable property damage - then the parties that have direct control over the mitigating actions could be subject to a law suit.

The city of Palo Alto is currently working the bridge situation at HWY 101 and also has other bridge upgrades that have been analyzed and approved - yet to be completed.

SU has direct requirements to mitigate the flood potential and needs to initiate some action to those ends.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 7, 2015 at 8:17 pm

The SFC today - 08.07.15 has an excellent article on the front page - "Monterey County dam is coming down". This is the San Clemente Dam in the Carmel Valley. It is a very old, obsolete dam above Carmel that is almost filled with silt and is a potential hazard if heavy rains or earthquake occurs. The potential for flooding in Carmel would be the end result.

The are not removing the silt - they are diverting the river around the silt and creating ladder ponds for the steelhead trout. The description of the problem is similar to Searsville Lake Dam.

The solution they are implementing would be a good solution for Searsville lake and dam and is worth a review of the article and the solution they are implementing.

It is noted that there are a lot of dams that were built very long ago that have the similar problem of silt buildup and related seismic issues. The National Marine Fisheries Service is assisting in the project to create the steelhead environment.

Given the potential for an El Nino this winter it is worth a look.


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 7, 2015 at 9:16 pm

>The are not removing the silt - they are diverting the river around the silt and creating ladder ponds for the steelhead trout. The description of the problem is similar to Searsville Lake Dam.

Very good reference. I was raised in Monterey County...I am aware of this old dam. These old dams need to be torn down, and bypassing the silt is very practical.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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