Hewlett Foundation gives $50 million for dam removal | January 4, 2017 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - January 4, 2017

Hewlett Foundation gives $50 million for dam removal

by Dave Boyce

Aiding the restoration of free flow to Western waterways by helping remove obsolete dams is the goal of a $50 million grant recently announced by the Menlo Park-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

In Western states, dams block about 70 percent of the rivers, "decimating" the natural populations of salmon and trout, the foundation says in announcing its 10-year grant to the Sacramento-based Resources Legacy Fund, which will distribute the money through its Open Rivers Fund.

"Since the first days of the United States, Americans have been building dams and putting rivers to work for mills, to generate electricity and to store water for cities, farms and towns," the foundation says. "Dams were considered a symbol of American progress. Today, that's no longer the case. Many U. S. dams are aging, obsolete and causing environmental problems."

The first three projects to receive grant funding are the Matilija Dam in Ventura, California; a series of dams and obstructions in Oregon's Rogue River basin; and the Nelson Dam on the Naches River in Yakima, Washington.

Not on the current list is the dam on Corte Madera Creek that created Searsville Lake, a private lake owned by Stanford University in the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.

Opponents of that dam say its removal would improve the health of the San Francisquito Creek watershed, including restoring a route for steelhead trout to swim upstream and spawn.

Among those opponents is Matt Stoecker, director of Beyond Searsville Dam, who called the Open Rivers Fund progressive and collaborative "where the dam owner supports transitioning away from an obsolete dam and towards less harmful options. ... When Stanford is ready to move forward with Searsville Dam removal, multiple funds and grant programs like this are poised to support them."

In a 2015 report, Stanford said that while it valued keeping the 65-foot-tall, 275-foot-wide dam up for flood control, it would consider steps to allow passage of fish.


Like this comment
Posted by Danna
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jan 3, 2017 at 3:42 pm

This is just wonderful news. It is time for dams to be removed and fish runs protected especially for our beautiful San Francisco Bay estuary, one of the largest fish nurseries in the world.

Like this comment
Posted by Matt Stoecker
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jan 3, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Thanks for covering this important issue Dave.

I encourage folks to visit the Hewlett Foundation's 'Open Rivers Fund' page to read more about this unique philanthropic investment and the many benefits of removing obsolete dams:

Web Link

Regarding the last sentence, I'd like to note that Stanford has stated that they are committed to implementing a project that restores steelhead migration to upstream habitat blocked by the dam. Prior to the recent Searsville study effort and lawsuits they had not made this commitment. Also, I think important to note that Stanford's consultants could not confirm the structural or safety feasibility of cutting holes in the cracked, 125 year old dam on the San Andreas Fault to convert it into a flood control dam. SU consultants were also very unsure abut the feasibility of fish passage measures around the current or modified dam due to the creeks flashy flows, lethal reservoir water quality, turbid water quality resulting from flood control operations, debris blockage in the holes, dam overtopping, and periodic sediment accumulation and reservoir flushing.

On the other hand, SU consultants, State resource agency staff, and several Searsville Advisory Group members acknowledged that dam removal would provide the most effective fish passage alternative, that several identified components of the project could provide flood protection at the same or greater level than converting the dam (i.e. off-stream detention basins, levees, floodplain restoration), and that dam removal would eliminate identified dam failure risks and downstream dam failure inundation areas mapped by San Mateo County.

Finally, while not everyone at Stanford has publicly embraced dam removal yet, their recent study conclusions acknowledged that dam removal may be the inevitable outcome following additional feasibility studies. The California Water Board sent a letter to the University endorsing dam removal.

We believe that the science, long-term community safety issues, permitting agency preference, University interests, and broader community support the removal of the dam.

More info and newsletter updates at www.BeyondSearsvilleDam.org

Matt Stoecker,

Beyond Searsville Dam

2 people like this
Posted by RJ
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Here's to hoping that brighter minds at Stanford see the benefit and excitement around removing their harmful dam and restoring the very creek and fish that run through campus.

Like this comment
Posted by roxannerorapaugh
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 4, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Matt Stocker and the advocates for removal of obsolete dams are true heroes for their foresight and perseverance. I thank Mr. Stoker and others and am very happy to see this news about the Hewlett Foundation grant. It is a very wise move on the Foundation's part. Although the Searsville Dam is not on the list of dams to targeted receive funds for removal right now, I do think with lobbying from the public and as the benefits of dam removal are realized this can change. Removal of the Searsville Dam to help in restoring the free flowing estuaries in the bay area and improve safety is something to look forward to and fight for.

Thank you again to all the river and creek environmentalists who have brought this issue to the public and educated us about it.

Like this comment
Posted by Will
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 4, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Thank you Hewlett!
Embrace the opportunity Stanford!

Like this comment
Posted by Katie
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 11, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Stanford, please remove this unneeded and harmful wall.

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