In November, a coalition that includes CalTrout, Humboldt County, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission (MCIWPC), Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT), the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water), and Trout Unlimited submitted a revised proposal to Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to advance a regional solution for preserving flows in the Russian River and improving Eel River fisheries.
The proposal is aimed at achieving co-equal goals of restoring fish migration at the Cape Horn Dam site and at 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 discuss terms and conditions to ensure reliable water supplies to the Russian River and protect and restore degraded Eel River fisheries. The goal is a License Surrender Agreement that will be submitted to FERC.
With the release of the PG&E draft plan, the coalition is turning its attention to the next major component of the effort: creating regional outcomes that benefit the Russian River interests, Eel River interests and tribal interests. The specifics remain to be determined, but 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.
The revised proposal also includes creation of a regional entity (by Dec. 31) to serve as a legal organization in discussing a New Eel-Russian Facility with PG&E.
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 watershed, to ongoing water supply, and to Russian River fisheries. Without the Potter Valley Diversion, Lake Mendocino would have shortages eight of every 10 years and would go dry two of every 10 years.
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: