Today, PG&E’s license to operate the Potter Valley Project (PVP) expires. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – the agency tasked with regulating hydropower projects – will now ask PG&E to surrender their license to operate the project and propose a plan to decommission it.
Located about fifteen miles northeast of Ukiah, the Potter Valley Project consists of two dams, a diversion tunnel and powerhouse on the mainstem Eel River. Project owner PG&E indicated they did not plan to re-license the dams in 2019. Shortly after that announcement, a coalition of local stakeholders dubbed the Two-Basin Partnership formed with the goal of developing a plan to acquire the project. Due to a lack of funding, the group recently stated it will not pursue such a plan. With no party willing to take over the aging, seismically vulnerable dams, the only remaining course of action is for PG&E to surrender the operating license for the project.
“For over 100 years, Eel River salmon and steelhead have been excluded from the river’s headwaters, which is some of the highest quality, most climate resilient habitat in the watershed,” said Alicia Hamann, Executive Director for Friends of the Eel River. “If PG&E and FERC move swiftly, we will have time to secure a future for the Eel River’s still-wild salmon and steelhead.”
Removing Scott and Cape Horn Dams would provide salmon, lamprey, and steelhead, including endangered summer steelhead, access to more than 280 miles of prime spawning and nursery habitat. Recent research by the National Marine Fisheries Service describes the area blocked by Scott Dam as containing significant amounts of habitat suitable for salmon and steelhead and a higher proportion of suitable habitat compared to most other areas in the Eel watershed – even in warm years.
The Eel is one of California’s largest and most remote watersheds. Much of the river offers high quality fishing and recreational opportunities and has been designated by both the state and federal governments as a wild and scenic river. Dam removal would make it the longest free flowing river in the state and would reconnect its headwaters in the Snow Mountain Wilderness to the coastal redwoods in Humboldt County.
Read our full press release here.
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Potter Valley Project