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Restore Stanford’s Watershed and Wildlife

This petition had 3,539 supporters

To help native wildlife thrive, Stanford University must phase out and remove the environmentally harmful Searsville Dam. This massive cement wall blocks endangered steelhead trout from accessing miles of valuable habitat in the San Francisquito watershed. The dam regularly dewaters an important tributary to the San Francisquito Creek, which flows from Stanford’s campus to the San Francisco Bay. Because it is a free-flowing creek below Stanford's dam, the San Francisquito is home to one of the only remaining wild steelhead runs in the entire Bay Area. 

The ongoing impacts of Stanford’s 125-year old dam are especially egregious when contrasted with its limited use: Stanford uses the water from Searsville to irrigate the University Golf Course and other landscaped areas on campus. Because the reservoir is more than 90% full of sediment, Searsville provides a smaller amount of water storage each year, but Stanford has an enormous supply of irrigation water thanks to other off-stream reservoirs and storage facilities on campus. 

Searsville starves downstream areas of sediments and natural debris, exacerbates upstream flooding, and has led to a proliferation of invasive species which thrive in the unnatural and temporary habitat areas that have recently formed behind the dam. Instead of continuing to maintain an artificial reservoir that is choked with sediment, and continuing to divert scarce water from a stream that is critical for steelhead survival, Stanford should prioritize habitat restoration and protection for vulnerable native species. 

Stanford approaches an important decision point. The University-led committee is scheduled to complete multi-year studies of all the options for Searsville by the end of 2014. After that, Stanford's leaders will have a choice between perpetuating further delay or committing to a strong plan of action to restore a critical watershed. It is time for Stanford to finally address its aging dam and all other water management practices that harm native wildlife. 

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