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.