By Kylie Jue
A federal judge recently ordered Stanford to permit two environmental groups to inspect the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, following the filing of lawsuits last year over the University’s operation of the Searsville Dam.
Our Children’s Earth initially filed suit against the University in January 2013, alleging that Stanford had harmed local populations of the endangered steelhead trout and violated the Endangered Species Act through the diversion of millions of gallons of water from the San Francisquito Creek for irrigation purposes.
The organization also argued that Stanford’s construction of the Jasper Ridge Road Crossing and support for a water pipeline violated the Clean Water Act and has resulted in the discharge of sediments and pollutants into the creek.
Both sides had agreed to allow the plaintiffs’ expert three seasonal inspections of the dam and related areas. Although the first inspection occurred at the end of August, the second, which was supposed to happen during the rainy season, caused some controversy over the definition of a seasonal inspection. Our Children’s Earth argued that seasonal inspections should occur in the fall, winter and spring, while Stanford argued that the drought should stall the first wet-weather inspection until a significant rain.
Our Children’s Earth also alleged that the University has discharged sediment and pollutants from the pipeline valve at the base of the Searsville Dam into the Corte Madera Creek. However, Stanford argued that those accusations were not part of the original claims.
U.S. District Court Judge Judith Laporte sided with Our Children’s Earth, ruling that four people would be allowed to access the area to take samples and measurements. However, she ruled against the organization’s request to extend the inspection beyond the initially disputed area.
Director of Community Relations Jean McCown said that Stanford was concerned about the methods for testing the sensitive areas, information which the plaintiffs did not initially make available. The scope and methods of samples were later laid out in court and approved by the judge.
The inspection took place on Feb. 28. However, the recent rain has left the issue of a dry-inspection unresolved.
Contact Kylie Jue at kyliej ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu