West Coast Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Licensed Hydroelectric Projects: Eel River
Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project (P-77): Eel River and Russian River, California.
Project Profile & Licensee
FERC Project No. 77 is located on the Eel River and the East Branch Russian River in Mendocino and Lake Counties, California and is owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The uppermost portion of the Project includes Scott Dam and the storage reservoir it impounds, Lake Pillsbury, on the Eel River. Below Scott Dam, the Eel River flows approximately 12 miles to Van Arsdale Reservoir, created by Cape Horn Dam. Cape Horn Dam has fish passage facilities, enabling salmon, steelhead, and lamprey to access the Eel River and tributary streams between Cape Horn and Scott Dams.
There are no fish passage facilities at Scott Dam. At Van Arsdale Reservoir, water that is diverted to the Potter Valley Powerhouse (9.2 MW) is conveyed south by a series of tunnels, conduits, and penstocks, while water remaining in the Eel River is released from, or spills over, Cape Horn Dam, where it flows northwest approximately 150 miles to the Pacific Ocean. Releases made at Scott and Cape Horn Dams support salmon and steelhead populations in the Upper Eel River Watershed.
Federally Threatened - Listed Species/Species of Concern
- Northern California (NC) steelhead Distinct Population Segment (DPS) (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and associated critical habitat;
- Central California Coast (CCC) steelhead DPS (O. mykiss) and associated critical habitat;
- California Coastal (CC) Chinook salmon Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) (O. tshawytscha) and associated critical habitat;
- Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast (SONCC) coho salmon ESU (O. kisutch) and associated critical habitat; and
- CCC coho salmon ESU (O. kisutch) and associated critical habitat.
FERC Relicensing Status
PG&E’s current project license expires in April 2022, requiring a new license application by April 2020. In April 2017, PG&E notified FERC of its intent to renew its hydropower license. Then, in January 2019, PG&E withdrew the notice of intent and pre-application document and discontinued the process to prepare a license application. At the same time, PG&E also terminated its efforts to sell the project. Consequently, FERC issued notice soliciting license applications and will instead initiate “orphaned project” proceedings, which could lead to Project decommissioning.
This creates an uncertain future with the potential for major impacts to water supplies in the Russian River and significant impacts to five listed ESA species – in both the Eel and Russian Rivers. In response, U.S. Representative Jared Huffman has engaged stakeholders in collaboratively developing recommendations for the Potter Valley Project which would satisfy stakeholders in both basins.