Stanford committee recommends approach for the future of Searsville Dam

Stanford University. The Searsville Dam was built
by a private company in 1892, and the dam eventually passed
into Stanford ownership– I believe in 1919. And since that
time the reservoir has been used for a
variety of purposes. We now understand that the
mountains above Searsville are geologically very active
in throwing off sediment. And now, making decisions about
how to manage that accumulated sediment, which is 2.7
million cubic yards, is a critical question. Stanford specialists in law,
in history, in water resources, in earth sciences,
came together to try to chart a future for Searsville
that would be a win-win. Recognizing that there are
important issues with habitat, with rare and endangered
species, with flood risks, and with sustainable
water supplies, the real challenge is to
figure out the best way to address the needs of the
full range of stakeholders. We landed on two
different approaches. In the first approach,
we’d see the opportunity to create an opening in
the bottom of the dam. This would allow the
water to be released along with the sediments and give us
the opportunity of recreating a streambed that would allow the
migration of the fish species that live here. It would preserve
some of the wetlands, and it would also provide
some flood protection for our downstream neighbors. The second approach assumes
that we cannot release this accumulated sediment
from behind the dam, and we will need to find a
way to stabilize it and keep the dam in place in
order to do that. And in that option,
we’re looking at possible approaches such as a
fish ladder or the construction of a fishway. We’re very interested in
both of these approaches in utilizing what’s called
adaptive management, which means you basically
take it step by step and fairly cautiously
to potentially make adjustments and changes based on
what you learn as you go along. Stanford has really
tackled this issue from a position as a responsible
steward of the environment. The university
recognized that it has many of the leading
scientists, leading scholars, on watershed management
issues and really capitalized on their knowledge
and their commitment to creative solutions. It’s a unique experiment. I think it’s been
fabulously successful. For more, please visit
us at

6 thoughts on “Stanford committee recommends approach for the future of Searsville Dam

  1. Extremely disappointing…
    Poking a hole in an unneeded dam or letting it fill in with sediment are not viable solutions. These are ineffective Band-Aids that resource agencies won’t permit. The troubling thing is that recent studies have shown Stanford that dam removal, combined with identified off-stream floodwater detention ponds, can provide the most effective fish passage and watershed restoration while also achieving flood protection benefits comparable to their recommended approach.

  2. Beyond Searsville Dam and American Rivers issue a response to this flawed approach for Searsville Dam:

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