Public Tells Stanford University Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan Is Inadequate and Must Include Investigating Removal of Searsville Dam

For Immediate Release


Matt Stoecker, Beyond Searsville Dam, (650) 380-2965
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Steve Rothert, American Rivers, (530) 277-0448

Public Tells Stanford University Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan Is Inadequate and Must Include Investigating Removal of Searsville Dam

PALO ALTO, CA - The public has sent a powerful message to Stanford University and
government agencies that the university plan for protecting endangered
species on the 8,000-acre campus doesn’t go far enough and must
consider removing Searsville Dam. The comment period closed last week
for a proposed Habitat Conservation Plan addressing endangered species
impacts over the next 50 years; public comments emphasized the need to
analyze the harmful effects of the 120-year-old dam on steelhead trout
and other imperiled species.

“Stanford’s conservation plan inexplicably omits a
thorough analysis of the impacts of the diversion dam, which blocks and
significantly degrades habitat for endangered species in San
Francisquito Creek,” said Matt Stoecker, chairman of the Beyond
Searsville Dam Coalition. “While we intend to ensure that public-trust
laws are adhered to, we are committed to working collaboratively with
Stanford and others to improve the conservation plan to benefit
endangered species and watershed health and improve flood protection.”

“Sooner or later Searsville Dam must come down, and the
whole San Francisquito Creek watershed can be treated as the ecological
treasure that it is,” said Pete McCloskey, former U.S. Congressman,
coauthor of the Endangered Species Act, San Francisquito Creek
watershed resident and Stanford University School of Law 1953 alumnus.

“Stanford has one of the most important dam-removal and
ecosystem-restoration opportunities in the country, and can position
itself as a leader in environmental stewardship and make huge progress
in achieving its stated goal of being a more sustainable campus,” said
Yvon Chouinard, founder of the clothing company Patagonia and Beyond
Searsville Dam supporter. “Stanford has got to clean up their own
backyard before people will take their sustainability and environmental
message seriously. You are what you do, not what you say.”

“The environmental analysis of Stanford’s plan is
clearly legally inadequate; it should address and mitigate all of the
dam’s ecological impacts to endangered species covered in the
conservation plan," said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological

“What happens with Searsville Dam impacts all of us in
the San Francisquito Creek watershed, from the mountains to the Bay and
beyond,” said long-time creek advocate Danna Breen. “Stanford must
collaborate with its neighbors on this dam issue to ensure community
safety and watershed health. This plan doesn’t do that.”

The Conservation Plan acknowledges that the dam is
antiquated, hurts San Francisquito Creek, and has not been modified to
provide fish passage or downstream flows for wildlife habitat. Top
university scientists have stated the need for watershed-wide
collaboration to address environmental issues with the dam, but the
Conservation Plan and a draft Environmental Impact Statement by federal
regulators fail to include analysis of the dam’s impacts on endangered
species or public safety. The Conservation Plan has no commitment to
migratory fish passage at the dam, contains no downstream bypass water
flows, which have been required at their other water diversions, and
has not been coordinated with other watershed stakeholders affected by
any decision or indecision on the dam.

The Beyond Searsville Dam coalition, Center for
Ecosystem Management and Restoration, American Rivers, Center for
Biological Diversity and the law firm Shute, Mihaly, Weinberg, LLP
submitted 79 pages of formal comments this week on the legal and
biological inadequacies of the proposed Conservation Plan, and more
than 3,000 Bay Area residents, leading scientists and Stanford alumni
have sent comments to Stanford and regulatory agencies asking for
collaborative studies on dam removal.

Searsville Dam is an obsolete relic that has degraded
wildlife habitat and blocked steelhead migration in the San
Francisquito Creek watershed for more than a century and serves no
drinking-water supply, flood control or hydropower function. The
proposed Conservation Plan would include a 50-year federal permit under
the Endangered Species Act to be able to incidentally harm and kill
endangered species during future development plans and operations on the
Stanford campus. Stanford proposes to maintain the dam and reservoir
through an ill-defined dredging program. The Conservation Plan would
allow operations that continue to prevent steelhead from spawning
upstream of the dam and perpetuate the dam’s damaging ecological
effects on downstream habitat and water quality in San Francisquito

For more information and to read the comment letters go to:


Buried beneath the sediment behind Searsville Dam, built
120 years ago on the largest tributary to San Francisquito Creek, is a
unique valley where six streams once converged among wetland ponds and
riparian forests before squeezing through a small gorge where the dam
now stands. Dam removal would allow restoration of this amazing habitat
within Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, improve water
quality and habitat downstream, potentially provide flood-protection
benefits, and restore steelhead to more than 18 miles of historic
spawning and rearing habitat above the dam, where ancestral rainbow
trout persist, now isolated by the dam.

The National Marine Fisheries Service advised Stanford
in 2008 to collaborate with interested parties in the watershed to
restore fish passage at Searsville Dam; but Stanford’s Conservation
Plan has no such commitment. The federal government has ignored its own
recommendation and is considering granting a permit without requiring
adequate downstream flows for wildlife, as was required for Stanford’s
other two water diversions that were also negatively affecting listed
species. Federal wildlife agencies are set to approve a severely flawed
plan that will prevent steelhead recovery and harm the watershed and
regional ecosystem. The plan would allow for the “incidental take”
(harming, degrading habitat and killing) of imperiled species such as
steelhead trout, California red-legged frog, San Francisco garter
snake, California tiger salamander and western pond turtle.

More than two dozen Bay Area conservation and fishing
groups have joined the Beyond Searsville Dam coalition and requested
that Stanford collaborate with its neighbors and evaluate and consider
removal of Searsville Dam. Conservation groups have asked Stanford to
ensure that any dam-removal plan includes flood protection benefits to
downstream communities.

Beyond Searsville Dam is a coalition of more than two dozen organizations and hundreds of individuals supporting
actions to evaluate and consider removal of Stanford University’s
Searsville Dam in a manner that is beneficial to protecting creekside
communities and watershed health.

The Center for Biological Diversity
is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than
255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of
endangered species and wild places.

American Rivers is a national conservation organization that protects and restores America's rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature.


At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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