Stanford Delays Decision, Wants to Keep Environmentally Harmful Dam

Joint Press Release from BSD and American Rivers HERE

“Poking a hole in an unneeded dam or letting it fill in with sediment are not viable solutions. These are ineffective Band-Aids that are unlikely to secure permits or attract funding support,” said Matt Stoecker of Beyond Searsville Dam. “The troubling thing is that recent studies have shown that dam removal, combined with identified off-stream floodwater detention ponds, can provide the greatest ecosystem benefit while also achieving elevated flood protection that is in line with their preferred orofice alternative”


California Water Board Supports Searsville Dam Removal

Today, the State Water Board sent Stanford a powerful letter supporting Searsville Dam removal, questioning the feasibility of other potential alternatives, and stressing the importance of safely restoring sediment flow blocked by the dam for the health of the creek downstream and resiliency of San Francisco Bay wetlands and coastal communities in the face of sea level rise and climate change.

Full Letter HERE

1906 publication from Stanford U.’s first president includes illustration of “Rainbow trout: Salmon iridia. Sea-run specimen from San Francisquito Creek”

The Trout and Salmon of the Pacific Coast- David Starr Jordan


EPA Fish Biologist Documents Abundant Trout and High Quality Salmonid Habitat Upstream of Searsville Dam.

One of the San Francisco Bay region’s most respected fish biologists, Robert Leidy Ph.D., has released his detailed fish collection and habitat survey forms for creeks upstream of Searsville Dam. These survey forms and report from 1981 to 1999 show an abundant, native rainbow trout population and suitable (sometimes excellent) salmonid habitat conditions upstream of Searsville Dam in Corte Madera Creek. Leidy also documents trout and suitable habitat in Alambique Creek; a Sausal Creek tributary upstream of Searsville Dam. These documents, along with other leading expert reports and observations, show that abundant steelhead habitat occurs in multiple tributaries upstream of Searsville Dam, that trout continue to persist, and that restoring access to this historic habitat would have significant benefits to the threatened San Francisquito Creek and San Francisco Bay steelhead population.

1981 Fish Sampling and Habitat Data Sheet

1994 Fish Sampling and Habitat Data Sheet

1999 Bay Area Stream Fishes Report


Habitat Quality, Rainbow Trout Occurrence, and Steelhead Recovery Potential Upstream of Searsville Dam

Full Report Here

This report and images shows the occurrence of suitable steelhead spawning and rearing habitat in numerous tributaries upstream from Searsville Dam, the ongoing occurrence of a wild and reproducing rainbow trout population in at least seven tributaries upstream from Searsville Dam, historic and ongoing adult and juvenile steelhead occurrence downstream of the impassable dam, and conclusion that providing effective access upstream and downstream at the current Searsville Dam and Reservoir site would significantly benefit steelhead recovery throughout the watershed and region.

- Prepared by Stoecker Ecological


BSD and other coalition groups comment on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Stanford University's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP); challenge adequacy and request new consultation.

Legal counsel for Beyond Searsville Dam, American Rivers, and California Trout submitted the following comment letter challenging the adequacy of the EIS and HCP and requesting a supplement to the EIS and reinitiated consultation on Stanford’s 2008 Biological Opinion for their Steelhead Habitat Conservation Plan.

Beyond Searsville Dam also submitted the following comment letter in conjunction with the above legal letter outlining additional detail and references related to the EIS inadequacies and requests.

Additionally, over 400 citizens submitted comments (including those on our online petition website) challenging the adequacy of the EIS and requesting further investigation and consultation from the agencies. Thanks to everyone who sent comments last minute for this public comment period ending on Christmas Eve.


Groups request clarity and public comment period extension for changed Stanford Habitat Conservation Plan

Following over a decade of public input on Stanford University's highly contentious Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), the University stunned local watershed stakeholders and environmental groups by changing the proposed action in the middle of the public comment period for the plans Environmental Impacts Statement (EIS). On December 6th, Stanford University sent federal wildlife officials a letter (enclosed in above) suspending its permit application for activities within the San Francisquito Creek watershed and all conservation measures for threatened steelhead trout. However, on December 10th Stanford issued a press release indicating that it seeks to cover other listed species outside of the San Francisquito Creek watershed on it’s 8000+ acre campus, but still operate dams and reservoirs within the San Francisquito Creek watershed and divert stream flow away from imperiled steelhead!


Beyond Searsville Dam submits Searsville Dam safety concerns and request to the California Division of Safety of Dams

As described, we remain deeply concerned, based on information below, that Searsville Dam does not comply with DSOD safety requirements, that current and planned Stanford management activities at Searsville do not appear to adequately address existing and imminent safety concerns as conditions rapidly change at the reservoir, and, as a result, the dam poses a significant hazard to life and property upstream and downstream.


Challenge to Stanford’s Habitat Conservation Plan proposal to excavate a new, approximately 2000-foot long, artificial channel and re-route Corte Madera Creek

Based on the extensive enclosed data, the very wording within the draft EIS and Stanford’s own letter withdrawing all Searsville related activities, we again urge the agencies to remove all components of the proposed reservoir delta channel excavation, causeway breaching, and creek re-routing project and all other Searsville related sediment management or modification projects from the EIS/ITP. As noted previously, we intend to utilize the extensive supporting data below to challenge the adequacy of an EIS that excludes all Searsville related activities, but includes a noted Searsville sediment management activity such as this channel excavation without any assessment on listed species below the dam or mitigation measures.


New Covered Species information and request submitted to federal agencies for Stanford Habitat Conservation Plan

Based on the new and additional information provided here, we request an update to the draft EIS listed species distribution descriptions, recent occurrence, distribution maps, assessment of channel excavation impacts, and citation of supporting survey data. Should the agencies and Stanford wish to proceed with the inclusion of the proposed channel excavation within the EIS/ITP, we also request reference to and availability of survey results and field survey data sheets conducted in accordance with USFWS guidelines (Appendix B) for the proposed channel excavation location and adjacent USFWS survey radius and conducted within the past two years per USFWS protocol.


Searsville Alternatives Study Scope of Work Recommendations

As part of the Searsville Community Working Group, participants Beyond Searsville Dam, American Rivers, and California Trout made the following recommendations to Stanford for the scope of work to be carried out by outside consultants.

Groups demand that Stanford U. comply with Fish and Game law

Supplement to Letter

Following years of discussion and meetings with Stanford regarding what we believe to be their legal non-compliance with Searsville Dam and ongoing operations, lawyers representing Beyond Searsville Dam and coalition members American Rivers and California Trout sent the following demand letter to the university. We argue that “Stanford University has not complied with its duty to notify the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) under Fish and Game Code section 1602 that it operates Searsville Dam to store and divert the flow of Corte Madera Creek.” We respectfully demand that Stanford submit such a notice to DFG by June 8, 2012. We hope that Stanford will reconsider its current position of legal compliance at Searsville and work with DFG and other resource agencies to obtain all required permits and agreements. We call for interim measures to protect endangered fish and wildlife as ongoing Searsville Study efforts determine and implement a long-term solution for Searsville; an effort which will take several years. We call for further notice to DFG seeking a long-term agreement once plans for dam removal or modification are agreed to.

Yvon Chouinard and Beyond Searsville Dam Challenge College Sustainability Rating for Stanford

This letter was sent to the Sustainable Endowment Institute regarding the need for college sustainability rating systems to include University-owned water source facilities and operations. College sustainability ranking/rating programs are compromised in some cases due to the absence of source water supply and watershed impact metrics/questionnaire input. This enables some colleges, such as Stanford University, to receive a high sustainability score and be identified as a sustainability leader, while operating an unsustainable private water supply and dam that is causing devastating impacts to Endangered Species, an entire watershed, and the greater San Francisco Bay estuary. Clearly the sustainability of campus buildings, grounds, and water management must include consideration of University-owned and  operated water supply infrastructure, such as dams, diversions, wells, reservoirs, and irrigation which supply those buildings.

Treatment of Searsville in Stanford Habitat Conservation Plan

This letter to the federal agencies (NMFS and USFWS) requests that they clearly exclude all Searsville operations and facilities in the pending Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Stanford’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) so as to avoid any confusion about related activities and that the agencies issue a supplement to the EIS in order for the public to review and comment on changes made by Stanford to the HCP after the public comment period was closed.

Searsville Inseparable from Stanford “Lake” Water System

This letter to the federal agencies considering Stanford University’s Habitat Conservation Plan outlines why Searsville Dam and Reservoir and their activities are inseparable from and therefore must be considered a part of Stanford's non-potable "Lake Water" system in Stanford's Habitat Conservation Plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Read our latest article in the May issue of The Osprey-

Stanford University’s Dirty Secret: Searsville Dam

A note about the article:

This article was submitted May 1st, after Stanford  publicly announced the formation of a Searsville Committee, but well before we heard who the committee members would be. Had we known who would be selected for the committee, the article would have included expressing our optimism with the new level of expertise included in the committee and genuine hope for a proactive and collaborative approach from the University.

Stanford’s newly changed Habitat Conservation Plan flawed...again

University tries to avoid addressing impacts of Searsville Dam

Supporting Documents

Letter to NMFS and USFWS, May 3rd, 2011

Stanford’s Jan.4th HCP Modification Letter

2006 Ellison, Schneider and Harris SHEP letter

August 2010 Comment letters for the Stanford HCP draft Environmental Impact Statement from Beyond Searsville Dam, Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration, Center for Biological Diversity and  Shute, Mihaly, Weinberger LLP

Wild Fish Conservancy letter May 6th


Aug. 2010

Read and download the comments submitted for the Stanford Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement. These letters include (click on each separately):

1) Beyond Searsville Dam Comments

  1. 2)Legal team comments from Shute, Mihaly, Weinberger LLP

  2. 3)Biological comments from the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration           

  3. 4)Beyond Searsville Dam Salmonid Comment Section


From the Press Release:

“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 Diversity.

“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.”



Guadalupe-Coyote Resource Conservation District submits comments on the Stanford HCP and states:

“Removal of the Searsville Dam has not been adequately analyzed in the Stanford DEIS/HCP.  Analysis should include restoration of steelhead to their ancestral habitat, revival of submerged wetlands, assessment of natural flood protection benefits, and downstream safety risks, for current and likely future scenarios.”


Comments on JPA Draft EIR San Franciscquito Creek Flood Reduction Project.

2001 Searsville Dam Workgroup Effort Document and DWR offer to conduct a Searsville Alternatives Study. Stanford turned this offer down.

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