American Rivers, a staunchly environmentalist group, is accusing Stanford’s Searsville Dam of being the culprit in the endangering of San Francisquito Creek, writes Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle. The dam was built in 1892, and has been used to irrigate the lawns and the golf course of Stanford University. American Rivers is focused on the Creek, saying it “is unique because it remains one of the only San Francisco Bay streams that is not confined to a concrete channel.” The group is concerned because the dam blocks the migration of native steelhead trout.
The founder of Beyond Searsville Dam, a group opposed to the dam, is Matt Stoecker, who told the Chronicle, “Stanford is constantly talking about how sustainable their campus is, and what Searsville mostly feeds is a huge golf course.”
But Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin argued, “When there have been diversions from Searsville, it has only been during periods of extraordinary flows from a recent storm. In that case, the water is used for agricultural irrigation, fire protection and landscape irrigation.” She add that because of the massive silt in the reservoir, “almost all water passes through as it would flow through the creek.”
Stanford has promised to address the problem with the dam by the end of 2014, possibly even removing it.
California is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in its recorded history, with water supplies at critical levels in many rural communities. Northern California in particular has begun to implement water restrictions, and recent rains and snowfall in late winter and early spring have not done enough to mitigate the effects of the drought.
In addition, environmental groups have been targeting dams, notably the O’Shaughnessy Dam that provides water to San Francisco from the Hetch Hetchy Dam. The activists want to restore the natural flow of rivers and the migration of fish, arguing that water conservation could make up the difference in water supply.
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