Improving Fish Passage By Removing Bonde Weir
Thanks to the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District and countless partners who pitched in over the last decade, Bonde Weir on San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto has been removed, improving access to high quality spawning habitat for migrating native steelhead trout. San Francisquito Creek is unique because it is one of the few remaining free-flowing Bay Area urban creeks not confined to a concrete channel.
The creek was designated as “critical habitat” for steelhead by NOAA in 2005. The Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration identifies it as one of eight priority watersheds [PDF] for restoration of the threatened species.
Bonde Weir was among the last remaining barriers to steelhead passage in the lower portion of this important watershed. Removing the 100-year old weir will improve the ability of steelhead to reach 40 miles of upstream spawning and rearing grounds. The project will also protect and enhance over 120 feet of streambed by adding new rock material designed to withstand the creek flows associated with a 100 year storm.
The Bonde Weir project is a wonderful example of urban river restoration at its best and should serve as a catalyst for additional projects throughout San Francisquito. Most notably, American Rivers is actively working to resolve fish passage issues associated with Stanford University’s Searsville Dam, which blocks access to high quality habitat in the upper reaches of this important watershed. Built 125 years ago, this 65 foot dam inundated a rich valley where five tributaries once converged, diminishing water quality and severing watershed connectivity.
In response to mounting pressure, Stanford has initiated a Searsville Dam Alternatives Study to determine the fate of its dam. American Rivers serves on the Advisory Group to Stanford in this alternatives study process. We encourage Stanford to choose a responsible alternative that protects our communities, our creeks, and our steelhead.
The removal of Bonde Weir will likely bring more native steelhead to the base of Searsville Dam, adding pressure on Stanford to remove this major barrier and provide upstream access to the federally-threatened species as soon as possible.
American Rivers is working on these issues in partnership with Beyond Searsville Dam, a coalition of groups that support fish passage on San Francisquito Creek. Learn more about BSD on their website and Facebook.