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Eel River - Russian RiverTrans Basin Diversion Updates
Flows from Eel River to Russian River
UPDATED FEBRUARY 22, 2024:
On February 21, 2024, PG&E submitted the 2024 Flow Variance Request Due to Restricted Storage Capacity to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC.) At some point in the future, FERC will issue a notice for public comment before considering approval of the request. Highlights from the document:
MINIMUM POOL: PG&E continues to use 12,000 AF as the Lake Pillsbury planning minimum for water management.
LONG TERM: PG&E states "...FERC requested PG&E to file an application to amend the license to leave the spillway gates open indefinitely. Currently, PG&E has initiated the internal process to prepare the license amendment."
TEMPERATURE: PG&E believes that continued elevated withdrawals through the summer accelerates the depletion of cooler water in Lake Pillsbury that support federally ESA-listed salmonids during the dry season. This results in elevated release water temperature in late summer. PG&E proposes a flexible managment release strategy: when daily average water temperatures exceed 15°C (which could occur beginning in June) PG&E will notify Agencies and begin meeting weekly to determine if diversions to the East Branch Russian River (EBRR) should be further reduced in support of preserving water storage for cooler release temperatures. In coordination with Agencies, PG&E will adjust flows in EBRR between 25 and 5 cfs for July through September 30, as needed to preserve cooler water temperatures in the reservoir. After September 30, releases would remain at 25 cfs.
TERM: PG&E requests that the variance proposal take effect as soon as FERC approves the request. The drought variance will end when Lake Pillsbury storage exceeds 36,000 AF after October 1, 2024, or is superseded by another variance or license amendment. The 36,000 AF storage threshold would allow the reservoir to meet minimum flow obligations, including a possible Blockwater release, through January 2025 if inflow is extremely low in early winter.
SUMMARY: East Branch Russian River flows will be 25 cfs and then adjusted between 5 and 25 cfs based on PG&E and agency determination when daily average reservoir release water temperatures exceed 15°C (typically in early June). After September 30, EBRR will be held at 25 cfs for the remainder of the variance. Reductions to EBRR flow releases may also occur if the Lake Pillsbury storage forecast indicates facility safety concerns due to low storage levels (12,000 AF).2024, 2-22 PG&E Flow Variance Request to FERC.pdf
UPDATED DECEMBER 2023: PG&E Poter Valley Project Flow Variance Ends
On December 19, 2023, at approximately 2:30 pm, Lake Pillsbury’s storage level exceeded the 36,000 acre-feet threshold, terminating the 2023 Potter Valley variance.
UPATED OCTOBER 2023:
PG&E Files Temporary Variance of Flow Requirements
On May 22, 2023 PG&E submitted the 2023 Flow Variance Request Due to Limited Storage Capacity.
On October 2, 2023, FERC issued an order approving PG&E’s Temporary Variance of Flow Requirements that will be in effect until Lake Pillsbury storage exceeds 36,000 acre-feet following October 1, 2023, or when the variance is superseded by another variance. PG&E states that the 36,000 acre-feet storage threshold would allow it to meet minimum flow obligations through January 2024 in the event of extremely low inflow in early winter.2023, 5-22 PGE Drought Variance submission to FERC.pdf2023, 10-02 FERC order approving Variance.docx
PG&E Releases Draft Surrender Application and Decommissioning Plan for the PVP
Updated February 12, 2024:
PG&E has reviewed the proposal provided by the Project Proponents determing there are aspects of the proposal which do not align with its goal of completing the decommissioning of the Potter Valley Project within the schedule approved by FERC. Therefore, the proponent’s request to construct the new Eel-Russian facility under FERC’s jurisdiction will not be included in PG&E’s Final Draft Surrender Application and Decommissioning Plan. PG&E is encouraged to see broad stakeholder support of the proposal and supports completion of the new facility in a separate but parallel path to PG&E’s decommissioning. To facilitate that path, PG&E will include those portions of the proposal that will not otherwise delay dam removal (and will continue to engage with the proponents on a solution which addresses both parties’ goals. Eel Russian Project Authority (ERPA) representatives believe a path forward for continued diversions still exists and the work continues. PG&E stated it will support and facilitate that work where it can and remains committed to continue working together. North Coast U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman is not dismayed, emphasizing his committment to a Two Basin Solution and that continued diversion is not dependent on partnership with PG&E.
- Mendocino County Inland Water & Power Commission (IWPC) 2/14/24 Update
- Mendo Fever: PG&E's Hesitation Casts Shadow on Eel-Russian River Diversion Plan, 2/14/24
- GIFT ARTICLE: Press Democrat- PG&E decision jeopardizes Eel River diversions that keep the Russian River flowing year-round, 2/11/24
- Ukiah Daily Journal: PG&E drops diversion options from its PVP proposal, Mendocino County officials report, 2/7/24 Or the same article in Willits News: 2/7/24
- Mendo Fever: Mendocino County Leaders on the Eel-Russian River Diversion, 2/15/24
UPDATED DECEMBER 2023:
On November 17th, PG&E released the Initial Draft Surrender Application and Conceptual Decommissioning Plan (SA) for public review at the following website: pottervalleysurrenderproceeding.com
The initial draft can be accessed from the DOCUMENTS PAGE using the Password: PV_Surrender
The public comment period will be open until December 22, 2023. Formal comments must be submitted in writing via email to PVSurrender@pge.com or by mail.
PG&E will address comments as appropriate before distribution of the Final Draft Surrender Application in June 2024.
The initial draft includes PG&E’s conceptual decommissioning plan and a third-party proposal for modifications of the former Cape Horn Dam site and Van Arsdale Diversion, as necessary, to construct a New Eel-Russian Facility. PG&E has not accepted the proposal at this time but is including it as an option for Cape Horn Dam. Proponents of the proposal include California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) California Trout, Humboldt County, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, the Round Valley Indian Tribes, Sonoma County Water Agency, and Trout Unlimited. A copy of the Proponent’s Proposal is available at: https://www.sonomawater.org/pvp.
PG&E is soliciting comments from Tribes, regulatory agencies, and other interested parties on the Initial Draft Surrender Application that includes PG&E’s conceptual decommissioning plan and the Proponent’s proposal for Cape Horn Dam site and Van Arsdale Diversion.
The Initial Draft Surrender Application does not include an environmental analysis. The environmental analysis will be included in the Final Draft Surrender Application, which will be available for public review in June 2024.
- Press Democrat: PG&E formalizes plan to eliminate Lake Pillsbury in Mendocino National Forest in landmark move, 11/17/23
- North Coast Journal: PG&E Moves Forward with Eel River Dam Removal, Utility's plans have demolition starting as soon as 2028, 11/23/23
- Lake County News: Supervisors to discuss PG&E’s Potter Valley Project decommissioning plan, 12/4/23
- Mendocino Voice: Decommissioning the Potter Valley Project: a turning point for Mendocino County, 12/11/23
- Nor Cal Public Media: New regional body formed to transform Potter Valley Project, 12/6/23
- Lake County Record-Bee: PG&E draft plans for Scott Dam, pilloried as tone deaf - BOS condemns PG&E for excluding Lake Co. from plans, 12/11/23
- Marin Independent Journal: Marin water suppliers laud Mendocino water diversion plan, 12/9/23
- Sonoma County Gazette: Sonoma and Mendocino counties unite with Round Valley Indian tribes to preserve vital water resources, 12/14/23
Mendocino County Inland Water & Power Commission, Sonoma Water, and Sonoma County form the Eel-Russian Project Authority
Updated February 12, 2024
The Eel Russian Project Authority (ERPA) held its first meeting on Wednesday 1/31/24, appointing Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbit as Chair and Mendocino County Inland Water & Power Commission Chair Janet Pauli as Vice Chair. Sonoma Water Agency is acting as the interim Secretary. Sonoma Water staff reviewed the Eel River diversion options and funding. A large consent calendar addressing the business of the Authority was passed unanimously. More information, including handouts, is available on the website: https://www.eelrussianauthority.org/
Updated December 8, 2023
PRESS RELEASE: The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, who also serve as the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Water Agency, voted today to approve a Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement with Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission to form the Eel-Russian Project Authority.
The new entity will have the power to negotiate with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) as the utility moves ahead with plans to surrender operations of the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project and to decommission the Scott and Cape Horn dams on the Eel River. The new authority will also have the legal capacity to own, construct and operate a new water diversion facility near the Cape Horn dam.
“This is another important step in the process to find a truly regional solution to the challenges facing the Eel and Russian River watersheds,” said Sonoma County Supervisor and Sonoma Water Director David Rabbitt. “We’re grateful to all of the partners who are working diligently to achieve our co-equal goals of continued diversions into the Russian River and improving fisheries in the Eel River.”
The Potter Valley Project, currently owned and operated by PG&E, has been diverting water from the Eel River into the Russian River watershed for more than a century, playing a critical role in supplying water for agriculture, homes, and instream flows to benefit aquatic ecosystems and threatened salmonids in Mendocino and Sonoma counties.
The Potter Valley Project is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In 2019, PG&E announced that it would not proceed with relicensing the project and would instead enter into a license surrender and decommissioning process. PG&E stated 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 by July 2023.
To meet this deadline, in July, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, the Round Valley Indian Tribes and Sonoma Water submitted a proposal to PG&E to preserve water diversions into the Russian River, while also prioritizing upstream and downstream fish migration in the Eel River. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, County of Humboldt, California Trout and Trout Unlimited subsequently signed on to a revised proposal in November.
PG&E released an initial draft surrender application on Nov. 17, 2023 which includes several of the measures proposed by the coalition. PG&E is set to release a final draft surrender application in June 2024. The final application is expected to be submitted by Jan. 29, 2025.
The New Eel-Russian Facility proposal submitted to PG&E also called for the creation of a regional entity, which today’s board action will move forward, with the capacity to develop a yet-to-be designed facility that would allow for ongoing water diversions through the Potter Valley Project’s tunnel between the Eel River and Russian River, while providing for fish migration to support naturally reproducing and self-sustaining native fish populations.
The Eel-Russian Project Authority’s five-member board of directors will initially consist of two representatives from the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, one from Sonoma Water, one from the County of Sonoma and one from the Round Valley Indian Tribes.
Huffman Delivers $2 million grant for Fish Friendly Diversion from Eel to Russian River
Updated December 19, 2023
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced on December 19, 2023 a $2 million grant to Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) meant to study a diversion from the Eel River to the Russian River that will have the least possible impact on salmon and steelhead.
Press Release also ran in the following:
- US Congressmember Jared Huffman website
- Redheaded Blackbelt
- Press Bee
- Ukiah Daily Journal
- Sonoma County Gazette
Regional Partners Submit Proposal to Preserve Potter Valley Diversion and Fish Passage Options
UPDATED OCTOBER 2023:
On August 7, 2023, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission (MCIWPC), the Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT), and the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) submitted a proposal to advance a regional solution for preserving flows in the Russian River and improving Eel River fisheries.
On October 3, 2023, PG&E issued a statement on the Proposal for Potter Valley Project’s Draft Surrender Application and Decommissioning Plan :
PG&E has made a non-binding acceptance in concept of the Sonoma County Water Agency, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission and the Round Valley Indian Tribes proposal and agrees to include it in our November 15th 2023 initial draft Surrender Application and Decommissioning Plan (SA). The acceptance of this proposal is non-binding and allows for continued discussion and public comment. The initial Draft SA will be available for public review in November 2023 and will also include PG&E’s proposal to remove Cape Horn Dam. This proposal states that it has co-equal objectives of fish migration and water diversions. PG&E will include both the third-party proposal as well as our decommissioning plan in our initial Draft Surrender Application and Decommissioning Plan.
- Press Democrat: Sonoma, Mendocino county water managers propose pathway for continued Eel River diversions, 8/8/23
- Ukiah Daily Journal: Potter Valley Project: New plan to conserve Eel River diversions submitted to PG&E, 8/8/23
- Times-Standard: Multiple groups wary of new Potter Valley Project plan, 8/10/23
- KZYX: Half-hour special on Potter Valley proposal, 8/16/23
- MendoFever: Mendocino & Sonoma County Water Interests Team-up with Round Valley Tribe to Take Over Potter Valley Project, 8/9/23
- Press Democrat Editorial: No one will win a North Coast water war, 8/13/23