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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Stanford University plans to keep a 19th century dam that environmental groups and water officials say is endangering local populations of steelhead trout and other species.
A Stanford University task force released the school's long-awaited proposals for the future of Searsville Dam last week. Created in 1892, the dam's reservoir is now largely filled with sediment and has not been used as a public water source since 2013. The task force's report says the reservoir has become an important wetlands for local habitat, however, and should not be removed.
The task force recommends opening a hole at the base of the dam to let water and fish flow. If that is not feasible, the school said, the best alternative would be letting the dam fill with sediment completely and providing a fish ladder for trout.
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board in late March expressed support for calls to remove the dam entirely, and expressed technical doubts about both alternatives that the school is proposing.
The water board called the dam a "complete barrier" to fish migration on the creeks controlled by the dam, and said the 65-foot-high structure places the local population of steelhead trout "at much greater risk of extinction."
In a statement, dam opponent Matt Stoecker of Beyond Searsville Dam called the school's two proposals "ineffective Band-Aids" and predicted they would not secure government approval.
Stanford, in its own statement, said both alternatives would cost up to $100 million, and the school would make a priority out of seeking funding.
The school would keep studying the matter to "ensure that we do the right thing, especially for the communities located downstream of the dam," the statement quoted Jean McCown, Stanford's director of community relations, as saying. The dam is upstream of multimillion-dollar homes in tech-industry center Palo Alto, including a residence of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
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