San Francisquito Creek Among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014

April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014


(Washington, DC) – American Rivers named San Francisquito Creek among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014 today, shining a national spotlight on the impact Stanford University’s antiquated Searsville Dam is having on the health of the creek and its fish and wildlife.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Kerri McLean of American Rivers. “This is the year for Stanford University to commit to removing Searsville Dam to restore San Francisquito Creek, revitalize fish and wildlife, and improve flood protection and recreation for the surrounding community.”

San Francisquito Creek is harmed by the 65 feet tall and 275 feet wide Searsville Dam. Originally built more than 120 years ago to provide drinking water, the dam has only provided irrigation water for Stanford’s golf course and landscaping. However, the dam is no longer needed even for that purpose. More than 90 percent of the reservoir is now filled in with sediment. Stanford could offset the small amount of water used from Searsville with existing low impact facilities. The dam also increases flooding risks to upstream and downstream communities.

Searsville Dam blocks 20 miles of threatened steelhead trout spawning habitat while degrading water quality and spreading non-native species downstream. The Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration has identified this mostly natural watershed as one of the key “anchor watersheds” in the San Francisco Bay for recovering wild steelhead runs.

American Rivers and its partners called on Stanford to remove the dam to restore this ecologically significant creek while implementing low impact water use and flood protection measures.

“Stanford claims to be a sustainable and green university, but its ongoing operation of this destructive and unnecessary dam shows otherwise,” said Beyond Searsville Dam founder Matt Stoecker. “The university has a unique opportunity to practice what they teach, show leadership in watershed restoration, and study the revival of an ecosystem.”

“The fact that wild steelhead are still hanging on in Bay Area streams is amazing considering the extensive development, dams, water diversions, and degraded water quality. Steelhead are often referred to as the ‘backyard fish’ because of their propensity to swim up small urban streams,” said Curtis Knight, Conservation Director for California Trout. “San Francisquito Creek is one of these streams, yet its full potential to harbor steelhead is greatly impaired by Searsville Dam.  It’s time for Stanford to do the right thing and take this opportunity to restore California’s backyard fish to the Stanford campus.”

More than 1,100 outdated and unsafe dams have been removed in the U.S. since 1911. Last year alone, 51 dams were removed in the U.S.

San Francisquito Creek flows for 12 miles from protected headwater streams in the Santa Cruz Mountains east through Stanford University, and the cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and East Palo Alto, before meeting the southern portion of San Francisco Bay.

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates.  Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014:

#1  San Joaquin River
Threat:  Outdated water management and excessive diversions
At Risk:  River health and resilient communities

#2  Upper Colorado River System
Threat:  New trans-mountain water diversions
At Risk:  River health and recreation

#3  Middle Mississippi River
Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky
Threat:  Outdated flood management
At Risk:  Wildlife habitat and public safety

#4  Gila River
New Mexico
Threat:  New water diversions
At Risk:  River health, fish & wildlife, recreation, and tourism

#5  San Francisquito Creek
Threat:  Dam
At Risk:  Fish and wildlife habitat and public safety

#6  South Fork Edisto River
South Carolina
Threat:  Excessive water withdrawals
At Risk:  Fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and water quality

#7  White River (CO)
Threat:  Oil and gas drilling
At Risk:  Drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat

#8  White River (WA)
Threat:  Outdated dam and fish passage facilities
At Risk:  Salmon, steelhead, and bull trout populations

#9  Haw River
North Carolina
Threat:  Polluted runoff
At Risk:  Clean water

#10  Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers
Threat:  Industrialization of a Wild and Scenic River corridor
At risk:  Scenery, solitude, world-class recreational values

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 250,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

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