February 20, 2004  


San Francisquito Creek: Issues and Concerns

By Judy Fulton

San Francisquito Creek, flowing right by SLAC’s back door, is both a natural treasure and a vital resource to our community, and we all have a stake in protecting it. But the issues and concerns related to its protection are inter-connected and overlapping, and people do not always agree.

The San Francisquito creek runs south of SLAC.

The different ways that different people look at the problems is, in fact, a problem in itself. To solve this problem the San Francisquito Creek Watershed Council was established to build consensus about the creek and its protection. (See San Francisquito Creek article in TIP, November 21, 2003, http://www2.slac.stanford.edu/tip/2003/nov21/creek.htm).

The Council has taken a multi-pronged approach and has grouped creek protection issues into the following categories:

• Natural resources

• Flood and erosion control

• Land use

• Pollution prevention

• Social issues

• Public education and involvement

Specific Issues

• The future of Searsville Dam. It is filling up with sediment and is a barrier to the upper tributaries which are spawning grounds for steelhead trout. Decision makers need to decide if it should be removed or modified in some way. See: http://facilities.stanford.edu/searsville/

• Total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) set limits on how much of a given substance can flow into a water body on any day. As TMDL limits are adopted for sedimentation/siltation and diazinon in the creek, the actual levels of these substances will become an even greater source of concern. See page 23 at: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/tmdl/docs/2002reg2303dlist.pdf

• Flood prevention associated with sediment management. The 1998 flood in East Palo Alto was a wake-up call. Sediment build-up reduces the ability of the creek to carry water, and its capacity for draining floodwaters generated in heavy storms.

• Information gathering and decision making. Several groups are focused on how to get science-based information to decision makers and how to obtain that information in an effort to build consensus and improve decisions. See: http://wgsc.wr.usgs.gov/sfcreek/ and http://www.acterra.org/watershed/projects/monitoring.html

As seen above, San Francisquito Creek has attracted many to its cause, and the systems that are evolving for its protection will become models nation-wide. SLAC has a part to play, too. The next article in this series will look specifically at what SLAC does to protect the creek and how each of us can make a difference.

Please contact Judy Fulton, ES&H Environmental Protection, (Ext. 4538) with any questions or comments.


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Last update Tuesday February 17, 2004 by Emily Ball