Potter Valley P-77

General information

Waterway  Eel River
Current status   Active license 
Type of facility Conventional Hydro
Type of permit FERC License

FERC information

FERC docket # P-77
FERC project name Potter Valley
Permit issued 9/29/83
Permit expiration 4/10/22

Ownership and operation

Owner Pacific Gas & Electric Co
Owner type Investor-Owned Utility
Year first online (conventional hydro) 1910
Transmission or distribution system owner Pacific Gas & Electric Co

Power and generating capacity

Number of units 3
Total capacity from hydraulic turbine-generator units within each plant 9.4 mW
Average annual net hydropower generation 25,451.2 mWH

The Problem

The Potter Valley Project, owned by PG&E, consists of Scott and Cape Horn dams, two reservoirs, a diversion tunnel that sends water south to the Russian River watershed, and a powerhouse. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license for the Project expires on April 14, 2022, and will not be renewed. PG&E will thus likely be directed by FERC to prepare a Surrender and Decommissioning Plan for the Project.

Fish populations in the Eel River are severely depressed. Although the Eel River once boasted some of the best salmon runs in California, the river’s salmon and steelhead populations are all listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Scott Dam is the largest barrier to native salmonid habitat in the Eel watershed and throughout the entire north coast. Water quality throughout the Eel River is listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act for excessive sedimentation and high temperatures.

Current Situation

The Eel River represents perhaps the greatest opportunity in California to restore an entire watershed and abundant populations of wild salmon and steelhead.

With PG&E’s decision to withdraw from relicensing the project, CalTrout and others recognize a unique opportunity to steer the future of the Eel River toward robust fisheries and a healthy watershed. We also recognize the opportunity to reverse the long-lasting impacts to Native American Tribes from a century and a half of habitat degradation and overharvesting impacts.

In 2019, CalTrout teamed up with Round Valley Indian Tribes, Sonoma Water Agency, Humboldt County, and Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission to file a Notice of Intent to take over the project and implement a Two-Basin Solution.  Unfortunately, the $18 million of funding needed was not able to be raised, in large part because PG&E was unwilling to help.  At a crossroads, in January of 2022, the coalition informed FERC it would no longer be submitting a Final License Application by April of 2022 and were effectively withdrawing their Notice of Intent to take over the Potter Valley Project. FERC is now expected to initiate a License Surrender process with PG&E that will lay out a project decommissioning plan.

Now, CalTrout is pivoting to work on the License Surrender process. Our Two-Basin Partership received a $1 million grant from the Department of Fish and Wildlife to assess the feasibility of removing Scott Dam and Cape Horn Dam. We enter this next phase more informed about this complicated project. We remain committed to working with Congressman Huffman and other stakeholders in this process so that we can return fish to the upper Eel River basin.

Source: California Trout

Is there something you’d like to add or correct? Please let us know.

Related resources

Related posts