June 2021 Update
Proposed emergency Russian River curtailment triggers
Lake Mendocino is currently just more than 38% full, holding 33,950 acre feet of water, or 2,868 acre feet less than it did one month ago. An acre feet is enough water to cover an area about the size of a football field with a foot of water.
If emergency regulations are approved June 15, curtailment orders would be issued for Russian River diverters only if lake storage falls below the following levels prior to the specified dates:
– 29,315 acre feet before July 1;
– 27,825 acre feet before July 15;
– 26,109 acre feet before August 1;
– 24,614 acre feet before Aug. 15;
– 22,745 acre feet before Sept. 1;
– 21,251 acre feet before Sept. 15;
– 20,000 acre feet on any date while the emergency regulation is in effect.
State regulators are considering sweeping drought emergency rules that would let them suspend the diversion of water from the Russian River by as many as 2,400 homes, businesses, municipal agencies and other users. The proposal, which would cover both the upper and lower parts of the watershed, could greatly extend the list of more than 900 water suppliers, agricultural producers and property owners already notified there has been too little rainfall for them to exercise their water rights this year.
April 2021 Update
On April 21, the Governor proclaimed a regional drought emergency for the Russian River watershed in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, where reservoirs are at record lows following two critically dry years and accelerated action may be needed to protect public health, safety and the environment.
“California is facing the familiar reality of drought conditions, and we know the importance of acting early to anticipate and mitigate the most severe impacts where possible,” Governor Newsom said. “Climate change is intensifying both the frequency and the severity of dry periods. This ‘new normal’ gives urgency to building drought resilience in regions across the state and preparing for what may be a prolonged drought at our doorstep.”
The text of today’s emergency proclamation can be found here.
On Tuesday April 12th, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors held a Water Workshop reviewing important issues regarding the current drought conditions and impacts. You can view the workshop at this link, starting at 17:50 in the video:
March 2021 Update
FERC … click here
The Corps of Engineers requested a new and updated Letter of Intent for the Coyote Valley Dam study that would express the Commissioner’s desire to initiate a General Investigation Study. This was a necessary step to get IWPC in the queue for Federal Fiscal Year 2022/23 funding for the study. The letter was unanimously approved by the Commissioners.
January 2021 Update
The Partners submitted their Final Study Plan Proposal to FERC in mid December 2020 and are awaiting FERC’s final determination.
Initial Study Report
Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Sonoma County Water Agency, California Trout, Inc., the County of Humboldt, California, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes (together, NOI Parties) submitted a an Initial Study Report (ISR) to FERC in mid September 2020. The ISR describes the overall progress in implementing the study plan and schedule and the data collected, including an explanation of any variance from the study plan and schedule. The full Initial Study Report can be found at: https://www.twobasinsolution.org/reports/
October 2020 Update
Potter Valley Project FERC Licensing Progress Update: October 2020
Comments on Scoping Document 3
On July 28th, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice Soliciting Scoping Comments for the Potter Valley Project with a deadline of submitting comments by August 27th.
The public scoping process is intended to support and assist FERC with the environmental review process to ensure that all pertinent issues are identified and analyzed so that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is thorough and balanced. The EIS will be used by FERC to determine whether, and under what conditions, to issue a new license for the Project.
The full text of Scoping Document 3 can be found HERE
(Note: the two links above are from the FERC website. If you receive a download error, please try clicking the link again. You should see a download box appear to view the documents.)
Timeline for Future Actions
Within Scoping Document 3, a timeline was provided as Appendix A for a process plan and schedule for the licensing. This is a general timeline, but a good reference to review. Appendix A can be seen HERE
Initial Study Report Now Available
Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Sonoma County Water Agency, California Trout, Inc., the County of Humboldt, California, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes (together, NOI Parties) submitted a an Initial Study Report (ISR) to FERC in mid September. The ISR describes the overall progress in implementing the study plan and schedule and the data collected, including an explanation of any variance from the study plan and schedule. The full Initial Study Report can be found HERE.
Comments on the initial study report are due November 13th and must be submitted via the FERC online comment submission portal. Comments up to 6000 characters can be submitted HERE and longer comments can be submitted HERE.
If you would like to sign up to receive updates related to any future filings connected to the Potter Valley Project, you can do so by visiting the FERC website and going to the e-subscription page. If you have not registered with FERC, you will have to register before proceeding with the e-subscription. Once registered you can sign up to receive information related to docket P-77-000, which is the Potter Valley Project.
The recent filing is one of many milestones to be accomplished in getting to the FERC licensing deadline of April 14, 2022. The process will continue to evolve, and we will all have to be engaged in shaping the final outcome.
May 2020 Update
On May 13, 2020 the NOI parties (Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Sonoma County Water Agency, California Trout, Inc., the County of Humboldt and the Round Valley Indian Tribes) submitted the required feasibility study report for the Project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The Proposed Project Plan filed with FERC on May 13 is not a commitment. Between today and the April 2022 deadline there are many tasks to be completed including a series of studies that are necessary for us to understand whether the Proposed Plan will result in our Partnership’s co-equal goals of water supply reliability and fishery restoration.
In the report, the Project Plan as proposed consists of several elements including:
- Removal of Scott Dam
- Lake Pillsbury Sediment Management
- Lake Pillsbury Vegetation Management
- Van Arsdale Diversion Modifications
- Cape Horn Dam Fish Passage Modifications
- Revised Operational Plan
Also, as noted on page 6-7 of the report, there are a few key points to think about. 1) the NOI Parties may modify the Proposed Project as they undertake further studies and proceed towards development of a new license application, as appropriate to advance the Shared objectives and 2) the NOI Parties will conduct detailed studies to analyze the potential effects of Scott Dam removal and address uncertainties around Scott Dam removal and water supply reliability.
The filing is just one of the beginning steps to move toward the ultimate licensing deadline of April 14, 2022. The process will continue to evolve and we will all have to continue to be engaged to work to shape the final outcome.
We encourage you to read the full feasibility study report (click link below).
As a reminder, you can view any filings related to the Potter Valley Project by visiting the FERC E-Library website and searching for “Potter Valley” or P-77 as the project number. The FERC E-Library website can be found here.
The Two-Basin Partnership
When PG&E recently 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. Together, they are developing a Two-Basin solution that will allow us to meet regional water needs while restoring fisheries.
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.
The Partnership seeks to explore terms for a new license that will materially benefit both basins by advancing the following shared objectives:
- Minimize or avoid adverse impacts to water supply reliability, fisheries, water quality and recreation in the Russian River and Eel River basins;
- Improve fish passage and habitat on the Eel River sufficient to support recovery of naturally reproducing, self-sustaining and harvestable native anadromous fish populations including migratory access upstream and downstream at current project dam locations;
- Reliance on best available science and engineering analyses as the basis for evaluating options for restoration, water delivery, and hydroelectric generation pursuant to a new license;
- Collaboration on funding;
- Active participation of tribes and other stakeholders who are willing to support the other Shared Objectives;
- Economic welfare of both basins;
- Continued hydroelectric generation; and
- Protecting tribal cultural, economic, and other interests in both the Eel and Russian River basins.
To get the most current information on the Partnership’s activities and the FERC relicensing schedule, go to their website at: https://www.twobasinsolution.org/
FERC Relicensing Schedule
January 13, 2021: FERC to issue Study Plan Determination
FERC will approve the Partnership study plan changes or modify the study plan per stakeholder comments.
January – December 2021: Partnership to conduct studies
The Partnership will carry out the studies required by FERC’s study plan determination.
September 14, 2021: Partnership to file updated study report
The purposes of this report are to update FERC and the stakeholders on the results of completed studies and status of any studies that remain outstanding, as well as to propose any study modifications.
September 29, 2021: Updated study report meeting with stakeholders
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the updated study report. Stakeholders may request further modifications or new studies.
October 14, 2021: Partnership to file updated study report meeting summary
This serves a similar purpose to the initial study report meeting summary.
November 15, 2021: Stakeholders to file study disputes/requests to modify study plan
Stakeholders have an opportunity to request new or modified studies based on the updated study report.
November 15, 2021: File preliminary Licensing Proposal with FERC
The license applicant will submit a draft licensing proposal for FERC and stakeholder comment, including any proposed reconfiguration of the project and fisheries and other environmental protection measures.
December 15, 2021: Responses to disagreements/study requests
The Partnership and/or others may respond to any requests for modified or new studies.
January 14, 2022: FERC to issue Director’s study plan determination
FERC will rule on whether any further studies or study modifications are needed.
February 13, 2022: Stakeholders to file comments on preliminary licensing proposal
April 14, 2022: Final license application
The final license application must reflect and respond to stakeholder and FERC comments on the draft license proposal.
April 28, 2022: FERC issues public notice of final license application filing
This kicks off the post-filing process in which interested parties may intervene and comment on the final license application, agencies with regulatory authority submit license terms and conditions, the license applicant requests the State Water Board to issue a water quality certification under the Clean Water Act, FERC conducts its NEPA process, and FERC consults with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act.
A Proactive Plan for the Future of the Potter Valley Project
About the Potter Valley Project
The Potter Valley Project (Project or PVP) is a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) owned hydroelectric project that transfers an average of 60,000 acre feet (AF) of water per year from the Eel River to the Russian River. Much of this transferred water is stored in Lake Mendocino and is crucial to the economy and environment of the Russian River basin. These water transfers have occurred for over 100 years.
License Expiration Causes Uncertainty
PG&E operates the PVP under a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The current 50-year license expires in 2022. Because the PVP operates at economic loss every year, PG&E has decided not to pursue a new license. PG&E’s decision not to relicense the PVP creates risk and uncertainty for Eel and Russian River basin communities. Preliminary estimates suggest that the loss of water provided by the PVP to the Russian River could result in losses of up to $40M per year to the economies of Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.
To protect the region’s economy and environment, a group of local public agencies, a sovereign Indian Nation and a non-profit organization formed the Two-Basin Partnership (Partnership) and are exploring the terms for a new FERC license and the process for forming a Regional Entity to eventually own and operate the Project. The Partnership includes California Trout, the County of Humboldt, the Round Valley Indian Tribes, Sonoma County Water Agency, and the Mendocino County Inland Water & Power Commission (an agency itself made up of the Mendocino County Water Agency, Redwood Valley County Water District, Mendocino County Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District, the City of Ukiah, and Potter Valley Irrigation District).
The Partnership’s overarching goals are to continue operating the PVP to maintain water transfers that are crucial to the Russian River Basin, and to provide upstream and downstream volitional fish passage at both dam locations on the Eel River. To achieve these goals, the Partnership is in the initial stages of exploring the terms of a new license to operate the PVP.
The Partners are proposing changes to the Project that include the removal of Scott Dam/
Lake Pillsbury to allow volitional fish passage to spawning grounds that have been blocked since construction of the dam. Water diversions into the Russian River basin to produce electricity would continue and be focused during the winter and spring when flows exceed the required minimum instream flows for Eel River fish. The Partnership also recognizes that a new public agency will need to be created to own and operate the project. This new public agency, referred to as the Regional Entity, is expected to provide broad regional representation for operation and ownership of the PVP.
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 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
- 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
Immediate Funding Challenges
- Many expensive and rigorous studies are needed for the FERC licensing process. These studies are expected to cost over
$15M and take 3 to 4 years to complete.
- An additional $10 to $15M may be needed over the next 5 to 6 years to prepare state and federal environmental documents and decommissioning studies for Scott Dam, complete the FERC licensing process, and create a new public agency to own and operate the
- Locally generated funding is currently needed to attract and match outside funding to cover the full cost of the required FERC-licensing studies and other licensing
- Initial funds raised will be directed to the highest priority studies, including assessment of:
- The water supply reliability provided by only diverting water and running the hydroelectric plant when excess flows in the Eel River are available; and
- The value of PVP water diverted into the Russian River and who benefits from the water
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
- An estimated $3M to $5M per year of new revenue would be needed to sustain the Regional Entity’s operation of the PVP after the removal of Scott
- Local, State, Federal, and PG&E funding will be needed to complete the proposed modifications to the PVP
IWPC Presentation on the Potter Valley Project
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