Eel-Russian Project Authority

Eel-Russian Project Authority negotiating with PG&E to secure water for the Russian River and to improve Eel River fisheries

At the end of 2023, a joint powers authority named the Eel-Russian Project Authority was created and empowered to negotiate with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) regarding its surrender of the Potter Valley Project. 

The Eel-Russian Project Authority board consists of representatives from the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Sonoma Water, Sonoma County and the Round Valley Indian Tribes. For more information about the Eel-Russian Project Authority visit

The newly created organization came about after a coalition including CalTrout, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Humboldt County, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Round Valley Indian Tribes, the Sonoma Water and Trout Unlimited submitted a revised proposal to PG&E, in November 2023, to advance a regional solution for preserving flows in the Russian River and improving Eel River fisheries after the Potter Valley Project and its associated infrastructure are surrendered by the utility.

The proposal is aimed at achieving co-equal goals of significantly improving fish migration at the Cape Horn Dam site and constructing a new Eel River diversion facility to replace the Van Arsdale Diversion facility that will be removed along with Cape Horn Dam. 

To achieve these goals, the coalition will negotiate terms and conditions to ensure reliable water supplies to the Russian River and protect and restore degraded Eel River fisheries. The goal is to coordinate with PG&E on its development of a License Surrender Application that will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its review and approval.

The coalition is working on creating regional outcomes that benefit the Russian River interests, Eel River interests and tribal interests. The outcomes could include, among other issues, ensuring PG&E’s final plan provides for proper disposition of sediment from Lake Pillsbury that is released by Scott Dam’s removal; ensuring PG&E respectfully protects tribal cultural resources; and ensuring that PG&E’s plan provides adequate restoration of the sites of Scott Dam and Cape Horn Dam.

The coalition is committed to ensuring that neither the deconstruction of the dams nor the construction of the new diversion facility will delay the other. The new diversion facility will be constructed simultaneously with or immediately after the removal of Cape Horn Dam to minimize the disruption of flows into the Russian River basin.

Cape Horn Dam

Why is this needed?

In 2021, due to equipment failure at the powerplant, PG&E stopped generating power at the Potter Valley Project. PG&E decided not to repair the powerplant. It is preparing a license surrender application, to be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The deadline for application is January 2025.  

PG&E had previously indicated that its application would propose to remove Scott and Cape Horn Dams and end any operations, including water diversions to the Russian River, unless it received a complete and credible proposal in July 2023. 

Ongoing water diversions into the Russian River through the Potter Valley Project are critical to the health of the mainstem Russian River, to ongoing water supply, and to Russian River fisheries. Without the Eel River diversions, Lake Mendocino would frequently have shortages, which would impact Sonoma Water’s ability to meet minimum instream flows and reduce water availability to authorized downstream users. Furthermore, there would be a serious risk of Lake Mendocino draining in some years without substantial intervention, such as curtailment of downstream appropriative water rights (as occurred in 2021 and 2022).

An original group of proponents that included the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission (MCIWPC), Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT), the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water), submitted a proposal to PG&E to preserve water diversions into the Russian River watershed through the Potter Valley Project. The proposal is also important to assure that removal or modification of facilities to allow for upstream and downstream fish migration at Cape Horn Dam, consistent with goals for a sustainable and harvestable Eel River fishery.

The original project proponents have been meeting with key stakeholders to discuss the details of ensuring up-and-downstream fish passage in the Eel River, aimed at achieving naturally reproducing, self-sustaining and harvestable native fish populations in the Eel River basin. Through these discussions, CalTrout, the county of Humboldt and Trout Unlimited have signed onto an amended proposal that was submitted to PG&E on Nov. 7.

The proposal has been shaped by input of people and organizations involved in the Russian River Water Forum.

For information about the proponents and the Russian River Water Forum, go to: