News

Stanford removes dam, giving endangered fish room to roam

Section of San Francisquito Creek restored following decades of controversy

Water is now flowing freely along a 480-foot stretch of San Francisquito Creek after Stanford University removed the aged Lagunita Diversion Dam.

The 120-year-old dam was located near Alpine Road and the Stanford Weekend Acres neighborhood. The latter is in unincorporated Menlo Park. Removing the 8-foot-high structure now allows water to flow freely downstream to support endangered-fish-species habitat in the creek. San Francisquito is home to a population of the Central California Coast Distinct Population Segment of steelhead.

Removal of the concrete structure began in June 2018 and took five months to complete, according to the university. This section of the creek has been restored to include large rock boulders, logs and crib walls to create pools and riffles (rocky shallows) similar to other parts of the creek favored by the steelhead.

The dam was part of a decades-old controversy regarding Searsville and Lagunita dams. Two environmental groups, Our Children's Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation, sued Stanford in 2014 claiming that the university had violated the Endangered Species and Clean Water acts by continuing to keep the Lagunita Dam in place.

The dam created a flume that filled Lake Lagunita with drinking water, but the flume and dam have not been operational since the 1930s, according to the university. Stanford added a fish ladder in 1954 to help the steelhead move over the structure, but the ladder was prone to debris jams that caused the steelhead difficulty navigating through the structure, according to a 2014 National Marine Fisheries Service biological opinion on the university's Steelhead Habitat Enhancement Project.

The dam also created about a 1,000-foot-long area of sediment upstream and a deep plunge pool downstream, which impeded the steelhead from spawning, according to the university's November 2017 funding application to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The university and plaintiffs reached a temporary settlement to halt the lawsuit and a separate legal action regarding Searsville Dam until Stanford could obtain regulatory approvals to change water flow at the Jasper Ridge Road Crossing and remove Lagunita Dam. Stanford has completed the so-called low-flow crossing at Jasper Ridge Road.

Removing the structure and adding the improvements created about 14.6 miles of high-quality habitat upstream of the dam.

"Looking ahead, we have a 10-year monitoring plan to keep an eye on the improvements that were constructed at the site and make sure the structural components and vegetation remain in place," Tom Zigterman, director of water resources and civil infrastructure for Stanford, said in a statement to Stanford News Service.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

15 people like this
Posted by sequoiadean
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 6, 2019 at 11:17 am

sequoiadean is a registered user.

Great news!


17 people like this
Posted by Nguyen Vu
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2019 at 12:43 pm

OK to fish for salmon if of legal size & have license? Can catch with hands if stream is small.

Wild salmon very expensive.


8 people like this
Posted by Harry
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 6, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Thank you, Stanford!


11 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Sorry Nguyen Vu, you can't legally catch these salmon, they are protected by Federal law.


13 people like this
Posted by Lynn
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2019 at 5:14 pm

Great news! Too bad it took a lawsuit to get Stanford to finally remove this unused blight on our creek.
Hopefully, they will remove their disaster called Searsville Dam next.


11 people like this
Posted by Wilbur
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 6, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Yay!
Good to see Stanford embrace dam removal and do right by their home creek.
Next to come out: Searsville Dam.


2 people like this
Posted by ecologist
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 6, 2019 at 6:56 pm

... Followed by the O’Shaughnessy. Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2019 at 7:37 pm

That old dam used to divert water and steelhead into “Lake” Lagunita where they died a terrible death as it dried up each summer. My dad found a dead steelhead, about 32 inches long, in the shallow, shrinking Lake Lag in the late 70’s one summer. Thousands of adults and juveniles trying to swim downstream in San Francusquito Creek to the Bay were killed by that old dam and diversion. Good riddance!
Now Stanford needs to let them steelhead swim home into Corte Madera Creek, and other Woodside and Portola Valley creeks blocked by their obsolete Searsville Dam. Hope this dam removal success motivates the next, and bigger, one.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2019 at 9:02 pm

YEAH - great news.


7 people like this
Posted by Field & Stream
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 6, 2019 at 9:06 pm

>> OK to fish for salmon if of legal size & have license? Can catch with hands if stream is small.

Considering 'poached salmon' for dinner?


4 people like this
Posted by Butch Cassidy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2019 at 7:45 am

Just for the record ,make sure u call the paper and hold that fish up for a pic (mug shot) and smile.!


Like this comment
Posted by Nancy
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2019 at 8:05 am

Great about the salmon and the dam removal. What does this mean for "Lake" Lagunita? Will it be totally dry or just stay as it is?


2 people like this
Posted by macbaldy
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2019 at 3:20 pm

@Robert, your sentiment for spawning adult salmon is misplaced. Such adults die soon after spawning. Whether their deaths are terrible, it's natural. It's not likely that your father found a mix of adults and juveniles anywhere.


5 people like this
Posted by Call Me Steelhead
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2019 at 7:06 pm

> Such adults die soon after spawning. Whether their deaths are terrible, it's natural.

I felt the same way after we had kids & realized the future expenditures of raising them.


4 people like this
Posted by Michael Loveridge
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 30, 2019 at 11:33 am

@ macbaldy

No, Robert is correct. Whilst Pacific salmon die after spawning steelhead are like Atlantic salmon, and return to the sea, where they they feed for a year before battling their way back upstream to the headwaters in the Santa Cruz mountains, where they spawn.

They will, if they're able to make the perilous upstream journey successfully, repeat the cycle every year until they die. They're magnificent creatures, and they deserve to be helped, not hindered by dams etc.

Sadly, in this case the steelhead mentioned by Robert was a victim of our carelessness and greed.

This is good news about the Diversion Dam, but if Stanford were to agree to remove Searsville Dam that would be GREAT news, and would make the front page of The Daily Steelhead!


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2019 at 2:58 pm

Posted by Michael Loveridge, a resident of Stanford

>> They're magnificent creatures, and they deserve to be helped, not hindered by dams etc.

(Pre-)spawning steelhead really are magnificent to behold for anyone fortunate enough to see them in the wild. Unforgettable.

In the meantime, Lagunita will continue to be a breeding ground for tiger salamanders et al. Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by @macbaldy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2019 at 2:46 pm

Steelhead do not die after spawning. I've fished for them for 25 years up north. The post spawn "down-runners" generally start being caught in high numbers about mid feb.
I've also watched very large post spawn steelhead in the headwaters of Pescadero creek over the years. March is a good time for that. Pacific salmon die post spawn, steelhead do not.


4 people like this
Posted by Field & Stream
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 1, 2019 at 3:11 pm

>> Steelhead do not die after spawning.

Correct. A steelhead is an oceangoing trout.


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

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Verve Coffee to start brewing in Palo Alto this Friday
By Elena Kadvany | 7 comments | 1,949 views

Premarital and Couples: Musings on Life
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,092 views

The summer bucket list
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 744 views

Why we are Warming
By Sherry Listgarten | 10 comments | 731 views

Cap On? Cap Off? The Cities Respond
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 718 views