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UPDATES: Potter Valley Project Future

Huffman Delivers $2 million grant for Fish Friendly Diversion from Eel to Russian River 

UPDATED June 7, 2024:

US Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camile Touton joined Congressmember Jared Huffman and David Rabbitt, Chair of the Eel-Russian Project Authority for a site visit on Friday, June 7, 2024 to Scott Dam, Cape Horn Dam, and Coyote Valley Dam at Lake Mendocino. They announced the $2 million Infrastructure Investment grant to Sonoma Water which will support the design of a new transfer pump station to meet the goals of the two-basin solution.

June 6, 2024 Congressmember Huffman at Coyote Valley Dam, Lake Mendocino
June 6, 2024 Congressmember Huffman at Coyote Valley Dam, Lake Mendocino. Photos from Ukiah Daily Journal

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. 

Sonoma Water Agency PRESS RELEASE: Huffman delivers $2 million grant for Sonoma Water to study potential fish-friendly diversion to Russian River , 12/19/23

 Press Release also ran in the following:

 

PG&E Requests an Extension on Decommissioning Plan

Updated June 6, 2024:

PG&E has made an Extension of Time request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for their final draft of the Surrender Agreement that they are curating for the Potter Valley Project dams. PG&E made this request so that they may submit for comments to be made on their draft in January 2025, instead of June 2024. Along with this, they requested that the Final Surrender Agreement be submitted in June of 2025, instead of January 2025 – which was agreed upon previously. PG&E says that by extending this time, they will have more success in consulting with various organizations and agencies to make a better Surrender Agreement and a quicker path for the decommissioning of the Potter Valley Project.

PG&E states that they are going to support the proposal of a new Eel-Russian Facility and will enter into legal agreements with the Eel-Russian Project Authority to address construction, permitting, and transferring the facility. Along with this, they would like to enter into legal agreements with agencies and parties whose interests fall outside of the FERC Surrender process.

2024, 06-06 PG&E FERC Extension letter filing.pdf2024, 5-31 PG&E Decommissining Plan extension request announcement.pdf

For more information about ERPA Meetings:  https://www.eelrussianauthority.org/events/meeting 

 Sign-up for newsletter updates (bottom of home page) on the Eel-Russian Facility Authority at https://www.eelrussianauthority.org/

 

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 determining 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.

Read more:

 

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.

 

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.

For more information, visit https://sonomawater.org/pvp andhttps://mendoiwpc.com/iwpc-pvp-updates/ 

 

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.

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