San Francisquito Creek listed among most endangered in US

Matthew Fogarty, Author

American Rivers, a conservation group advocating for river restoration and protection, named Palo Alto’s San Francisquito Creek the fifth-most endangered river in an annual report Wednesday, April 9.

The creek, which runs just a mile from Palo Alto High School campus, contains one of the last remaining wild steelhead fish populations in the San Francisco Bay and also shelters endangered salamanders.

American Rivers is calling for the removal of Stanford University’s Searsville Dam, which blocks fish migration and contributes to habitat degradation in downstream areas.  In addition to habitat degradation, various environmental groups have blamed the university for tapping water from the reservoir behind the dam contributing to a more dry downstream environment.

The opportunity to restore a river in the bay area is extremely rare, because most have been coated in concrete to prevent flooding and manage water.

Environmentalists believe that the creek being named among the nations most endangered will bring the publicity necessary to help restore the river.

“We hope that listing San Francisquito as one of America’s most endangered rivers will raise both local and national awareness about the issue and put additional pressure on Stanford to do the right thing and remove this harmful and unnecessary dam,” associate director of California river restoration for American Rivers Kerri McLean said.

If the dam were removed, experts suggest that fish populations would return rather quickly based on other dam removal projects around the country.  This return, would provide recreational opportunities for Paly students as well as members of the Palo Alto community.

“Too many people live right along the creek without ever realizing how special this resource really is,” McLean said.  “The more people who appreciate the creek, the better protected it will be.”

Stanford University is already in the middle of an investigation into the best way to handle this situation.  This study is supposed to come to a close in the end of 2014.

For more information on how you can help with the effort to remove the dam visit