The following is courtesy of California Trout:
Located in the San Francisquito Creek watershed in Portola Valley, Searsville Dam blocks fish and sediment passage between the watershed and San Francisco Bay, harming threatened Central California Coast steelhead trout populations and reducing sediment needed to protect the San Francisco Bay shoreline from sea level rise.
The US Army Corps of Engineers and the CA Department of Water Resources are taking public comments on the proposed modification of Searsville Dam owned by Stanford University in Portola Valley, CA. We need your help to push for full dam removal, better flood protection, and sustainable water solutions.
Searsville Dam was built over a century ago. In the years since, the dam has lost 90% of its original water storage capacity to sediment. The dam does not currently provide potable water or hydropower. Its primary use is to provide irrigation water to the Stanford University campus and some flood control benefits to the downstream cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto. Without intervention, sediment will completely fill the reservoir and bury any flood control benefits.
The San Francisquito Creek watershed supports a run of steelhead in several upstream tributaries and may have historically supported coho salmon as well. Removing Searsville Dam after the strategic flushing of sediment from the reservoir is an important opportunity to significantly increase spawning and rearing habitat for federally threatened Central California Coast steelhead. San Francisquito Creek is an anchor watershed necessary for recovery of the species.
For over two decades, Beyond Searsville Dam, CalTrout, and coalition partners have advocated for an alternative to the antiquated and damaging Searsville Dam. Evidence developed during multi-party collaborative efforts, such as the Searsville Advisory Group and the Searsville Community Working Group, demonstrated that there are feasible—in fact, preferable—alternatives to the current proposed project to modify the dam into a flood control dam, while building another new dam and expanding diversions from the threatened creek. Beyond Searsville Dam, CalTrout, and coalition partners are committed to actions that evaluate and consider removal of Stanford University’s Searsville Dam in a manner that is beneficial to protecting creekside communities, watershed health, aquatic species, and the San Francisco Bay. As an alternative in the forthcoming Environmental Impact Report (EIR)/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) public review process, CalTrout and Beyond Searsville Dam strongly support and request a full exploration of removal of Searsville Dam and restoration of a safer San Francisquito Creek watershed. We support the further exploration of more progressive water and flood reduction alternatives as part of the dam removal alternative including groundwater recharge, water well transfer, water conservation, recycling, and reuse.
How You Can Help
We need you to submit a public comment on the Notice of Preparation asking for full dam removal to Ted Frink with the CA Department of Water Resources. Deadline for public comment is
March 17th Friday, April 7th (The deadline was extended until April 7th).
We encourage you to join CalTrout in advocating for full dam removal and to share your personal comments and stories about why you wish to protect Bay Area steelhead populations, the San Francisquito Creek watershed, and the San Francisco Bay. Or use the sample letter we created for you. Any comment helps! Submit a pre-filled email comment using the form below.
What Exactly Are You Commenting On?
In February 2023, Stanford University described the “Searsville Watershed Restoration Project” in a formal Notice of Preparation to work with the California Department of Water Resources and US Army Corps of Engineers to develop a joint draft environmental impact report for the project in fall 2023. We are asking you to comment on the Notice of Preparation to broaden its scope to consider full dam removal. Click here to view the full Notice of Preparation, or read below for an excerpt summary.
NOTICE OF PREPARATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT FOR THE SEARSVILLE WATERSHED RESTORATION PROJECT: “The proposed SWRP includes the following major components:
- Modifications to Searsville Dam to restore natural hydrologic and sediment flows and enable fish passage and other environmental benefits without increasing downstream flood risks;
- Upgrades to the San Francisquito Creek Pump Station (Pump Station) to enable the Searsville Reservoir point of diversion to be relocated downstream to the Pump Station; and
- Replacement of Felt Dam with a new, larger dam positioned to enable the capacity of Felt Reservoir to be increased so that storage of Searsville non-potable water supplies can be relocated to an expanded Felt Reservoir.”
Email to: DWRSearsville@water.ca.gov
Subject: RE: Searsville Watershed Restoration Project public comment
Dear Ted Frink,
I submit these comments on the Department of Water Resources’ Notice of Preparation (NOP) of Environmental Impact Report for the Searsville Watershed Restoration Project.
California Trout and its partners are advocating for the removal of the antiquated and impaired Searsville Dam. The 131-year-old dam is harming threatened Central California Coast steelhead trout populations by blocking passage to their upstream habitat for spawning and rearing. The dam is also reducing sediment desperately needed to protect the San Francisco Bay shoreline from sea level rise. CalTrout is committed to actions that evaluate and consider the removal of Stanford University’s Searsville Dam in a manner that is beneficial to protecting creekside communities, watershed health, aquatic species, and the San Francisco Bay.
CalTrout strongly supports and requests a full exploration and accounting of the removal of Searsville Dam and the restoration of a safer San Francisquito Creek watershed as an alternative in the forthcoming EIR/EIS public review process. As part of the dam removal alternative, I support the exploration of progressive water and flood reduction alternatives that include off-stream stormwater capture, groundwater recharge, water well transfer, water conservation, recycling, and reuse.
I am in support of the comments CalTrout submitted regarding the Searsville Watershed Restoration Project NOP. Please make protection of fish, people, and water a priority by considering these comments while you prepare the Environmental Impact Report for this project.
SUBMIT A PUBLIC COMMENT