Five appointed to Searsville Dam Committee

May 11, 2011, 2:00 a.m.

Five Stanford faculty members specializing in environmental science, history and law have been named to a committee tasked with studying the Searsville Dam for the next two years. The committee will consider the needs of the University, the surrounding community and the environment in order to recommend a course of action for its future.

Robert Reidy, vice president for Land, Buildings and Real Estate, asked the five members to join the Searsville Study Steering Committee. The professors are Chris Field, professor of biology and of environmental earth system science and faculty director for the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve; Jeffrey Koseff, professor in the School of Engineering and the director of the Woods Institute for the Environment; Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences and a professor in environmental studies; Barton Thompson Jr., a professor of natural resources law and the director of the Woods Institute and Richard White, a professor of American history.

The Searsville Dam and Reservoir, located in the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, is the only one of Stanford’s water storage dams located directly on a stream. Once used for recreation, the lake now suffers from sedimentation that has reduced the water quantity to 10 percent of its original capacity. The dam is still a source of non-potable water used at Stanford for landscape irrigation.

“There are many complicated issues involved in Searsville Dam and Reservoir, and it is very important to the University that we consider possible future actions with great care,” said Jean McCown, director of community relations, in a press release. “So we are fortunate that scholars who have committed their lives to studying environmental issues have volunteered to help.”

They will look at potential research and academic programs at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, the University’s water supply and storage needs, biological diversity–including both the habitats and wetlands created by the reservoir as well as potential fish passage upstream of the dam, the possible effects on upstream and downstream flood risk and the cost and impact of sediment removal, disposal and ongoing management.

The committee will be helped by staff and faculty members specializing in areas including engineering, hydrology, risk management, biology, land use, environmental planning and environmental law.

-Billy Gallagher

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