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Committee recommends two options for fish passage in Searsville Dam


The Searsville Dam has been the source of much controversy over the past few years. (Courtesy of Matt Stoecker, Beyond Searsville Dam)
The Searsville Dam has been the source of much controversy over the past few years. (Courtesy of Matt Stoecker, Beyond Searsville Dam)

After an extensive four-year study of the contentious Searsville Dam and Reservoir, the university has recommended two alternatives to removing the dam entirely.

For decades, the dam has drawn criticism from environmental groups for hurting the native steelhead trout population, which must travel upstream to spawn. The Searsville Study Steering Committee, formed in early 2011 to determine the best way to address the dam’s environmental concerns, recently proposed an option that would create an opening at the base of the structure. This would allow the San Francisquito Creek to flow through the dam and provide fish passage.

However, due to uncertainties over whether the sediments in the reservoir can be relocated, the committee also recommended a second option: to allow the reservoir to completely fill with sediment and then create a new stream channel through the sediment.

Action is unlikely to occur for several years, as the university must have any proposed changes reviewed and approved by organizations ranging from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Searsville Dam and Reservoir is located in the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Once used for recreation, the lake now operates at only 10 percent of its original capacity due to heavy sedimentation. The dam remains a source of non-potable water used at Stanford for landscape irrigation.


Contact Victor Xu at vxu ‘at’

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect credit for the photo of Searsville Dam. The Daily apologizes for this error.

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Victor Xu '17 is an editor and graphics designer. An economics major, he hails from Carmel, IN. He is interested in international development and Kanye West. To contact Victor, email him at vxu ‘at’