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The Two-Basin Partnership
When PG&E decided to not to pursue a new license from FERC for the Potter Valley Project, it created risk and uncertainty for Eel and Russian River basin communities. To protect our region’s economy and environment, local public agencies, a sovereign Indian Nation and a non-profit organization decided to work together to develop a plan for the future of the Project that meets the needs of all communities in the Russian and Eel River basins.
The Two-Basin Partnership includes California Trout, the County of Humboldt, the Mendocino County Inland Water & Power Commission, the Round Valley Indian Tribes, and Sonoma County Water Agency.
Although the Partnership worked over the past several years to meet the FERC licensing requirements, the entities were not successful with meeting the final license application submittal deadline of April 14, 2022. The Partnership has not officially dissolved, but the future status is currently unknown.
What are the biggest challenges to maintain the transfer of Potter Valley Project water into the Russian River?
Water Supply Challenges
- Without PVP water transfers to the Russian River:
- In 8 out of 10 years there will not be enough water supply in Lake Mendocino to meet all the needs of businesses, cities, residents, and wildlife that depend on the Russian
- In 2 out of these 8 water-short years, there is predicted to be a 30,000-acre foot shortage of water in the Russian River, and Lake Mendocino is predicted to go dry
- Water users that rely on Lake Mendocino for their water supply will be impacted to varying degrees depending on their location and water use.
- Farther reaching economic and environmental impacts are also anticipated in Mendocino and Sonoma counties with the loss of PVP
Current Infrastructure Challenges
- PG&E revealed in late October 2021 that an electric transformer necessary for the operation of the powerhouse had degraded to a point that it was at risk of failing. Preliminary estimates indicate an expected timeline of 18 to 24 months to design, manufacturer, and install, with a cost in the $5 to $10 million range.
- In February 2022, it was announced that PG&E has, “concluded it is beneficial to PG&E’s electric generation customers to proceed with the work necessary to return the powerhouse to full operational status.” No specific timelines for the repairs were presented, but overall, this is positive news.
- Until the transformer unit is repaired, PG&E is not able to run water through the powerhouse to make power and has only been bypassing the minimum amount of water as required by their license for the East Fork Russian River and the Potter Valley Irrigation District.
- The reduced diversion has impacted, and will continue to impact, the water storage levels in Lake Mendocino.
Future Funding Challenges
- A broad-based funding program will be needed to support the ongoing operation of the PVP to preserve the benefits that PVP water provides to the economies and environment of the Russian River
- “Bridge Fund” estimates are being researched to determine the level of funding needed to support IWPC’s efforts to engage in the FERC license surrender process, negotiations with PG&E and the feasibility study to raise Coyote Valley Dam.
- On April 21, 2022, FERC provided a notice stating that PG&E has been authorized to continue to operate the Project under a year-to-year license or until the issuance of a new license for the project or other disposition under the Federal Power Act, whichever comes first.
- On May 11, 2022, FERC submitted a response to PG&E requesting a license surrender plan to be submitted within 60 days.
- The timeline for the year-to-year operation is currently unknown as are the details of the license surrender plan. The Mendocino County Inland Water & Power Commission will continue to engage with PG&E and other stakeholders as the process moves forward.
Potter Valley Project Slideshow
Frequently Asked Questions
Where does the water for the Potter Valley Project come from?
The headwaters originate in Lake and Mendocino Counties
Waters from the tributaries above Scott Dam provide the water supply for Lake Pillsbury. Below Scott Dam, waters that are released combine with tributaries that originate in Mendocino County.
Once water is diverted from the Eel River, where does it go?
Water is diverted through a tunnel at the north end of the Russian River watershed in Potter Valley into the east branch of the Russian River. From there, the water flows downstream into Lake Mendocino and below Coyote Valley Dam in the Russian River to the ocean at Jenner.Learn More
Why should I care?
It is important to maintain local control of the Project to continue providing a crucial water source for the communities and environment that have developed around the water supply over the last 100+ years.
We want to ensure that we continue to have reliable water storage with year round supply.Learn More
How much will this cost?
It is important to maintain local control of the Project to continue providing a crucial water source for the communities and environment that have grown up around the water supply during the last 100+ years. We want to ensure that we continue to have a reliable year-round water supply.
What are elected representatives doing about this?
Our federal, state and local elected officials are engaged in safeguarding control of local water and environmental concerns surrounding the Potter Valley Project. They include:
- Congressman Jared Huffman
- Senator Mike McGuire
- Assembly Member Jim Wood
- Couty Board of Supervisors
- Other local Elected Officials