Eel River Dams License Renewal – Potter Valley Project

Eel River Dams License Renewal - Potter Valley Project

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Project Goal:

Improve streamflows and expand spawning habitat for Eel River salmon and steelhead in the upper mainstem Eel River. Work with Regional Coalition partners (Sonoma Water, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Round Valley Indian Tribe, Humboldt County) and the Huffman Ad Hoc Committee to obtain the FERC License and implement a Two-Basin Solution to the Potter Valley Project.

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Project Stages

Impact Study

Relationship Building


Estimated Completion Date:


Fish Affected:


Project Description

The Eel River once saw salmon and steelhead runs of as many as one million fish annually. Today, in part due to highly reduced flows and major habitat alteration from the dams, the Eel River’s wild salmon and steelhead runs are dramatically reduced. The Potter Valley Project in the upper Eel River watershed consists of two dams, one of which, Scott Dam, is the only complete barrier to fish migration on the mainstem Eel, blocking nearly 300 miles of native fish spawning and rearing habitat. CalTrout is part of an effort that brings all parties involved to the table to support an agreement that ideally includes the decommissioning and removal of Scott Dam.

CalTrout, along with Two-Basin Solution partners, Humboldt County, Sonoma Water, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes, have submitted a plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on how the Potter Valley Project on California’s upper Eel River could continue to operate after its current license expires in 2022. The project is currently owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The plan submitted to FERC will improve conditions for fish in the Eel River by removing Scott Dam while increasing water supply reliability for communities in Mendocino, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. These communities rely on water diverted from the Eel River into the Russian River watershed through the Project’s operations.

Although the proposed project plan submitted to FERC is a significant step in the effort to realize a two-basin solution, the process for securing a new license for the PVP is still in the early stages. The Report’s Project Plan must be studied further, including analyzing the effects of removing Scott Dam on the communities around Lake Pillsbury, tribal interests, recreation and other activities on the Eel River. Removal of Scott Dam, will allow Eel River salmon and steelhead to once again access critical headwaters habitat. This plan will move forward in a way that that improves water security for Russian River water users while significantly improving conditions for native fish.

The Regional Coalition is participating, or intended to participate, in the licensing proceeding for the Project. They are also participating in a collaborative process convened by U.S. Representative Jared Huffman to develop recommendations on the terms of any new license for the Project. The Coalition supports the exploration of terms for a new license that will materially benefit both basins by advancing the following objectives (“Shared Objectives”). The Parties recognize that such a new license will advance, but will not by itself achieve our shared objectives.

The co-equal goals for a Two-Basin Solution include: improve fish passage and habitat on the Eel River sufficient to support recovery of naturally reproducing, self-sustaining and harvestable native anadromous fish populations including migratory access upstream and downstream at current project dam locations; and to minimize or avoid adverse impacts to water supply reliability, fisheries, water quality and recreation in the Russian River and Eel River basins.

Project Partners:

The Eel River Forum members
(including PG&E, SCWA, PVID)
HSU River Institute
Riverbend Sciences
Friends of the Eel
Trout Unlimited
American Rivers
Native Fish Society
California Hydropower Reform Coalition

Latest Project Info:

DAMS OUT Spotlight – Scott Dam, Potter Valley Project

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A Path Forward for the Potter Valley Project

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Potter Valley Project Update – PG&E Withdraws From Relicensing and Auction Process

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An Opportunity to Restore Fish Abundance on the Eel River

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Potter Valley Project Two-Basin Partnership Advances Solution for Scott Dam Removal

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Trout Clout: Broad-Based Partnership Takes Next Step Toward Two-Basin Solution for Eel and Russian Rivers

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