Op-Ed

Will Dam Removal at Scott Dam Help Restore Salmon Spawning and Revive a Dying Ecosystem in the Upper Eel River

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Chinook Salmon swimming upstream [Picture by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region]

Native American tribes, nature enthusiasts, and environmental conservation groups have acknowledged the immediate need to reintroduce salmon back to the upper Eel River.

Scott Dam is located in Lake County within the Mendocino National Forest — and has completely blocked passage of salmon returns for 100 years. Since the building of Scott Dam on the Eel River, salmon numbers have steadily decreased to near nothing, compared to the historical runs of over one million fish per year.

The Eel River naturally carries water via mountain springs and tributaries from high mountain valleys in Mendocino National Forest to the river’s mouth in Humboldt County — while encompassing some 196 miles of multi-directional flow to the sea; making up California’s third-largest river system.

The water is diverted on the upper “Eel” in Potter Valley, through an aqueduct tunnel that supports annual flows to Lake Mendocino and the Russian River, supplying water to area residents all along the way.

Scott Dam is a aging, steep and massive structure positioned on a landslide prone hillside which endangers the safety of Potter Valley residents. It’s not likely that a functioning fish ladder can be erected on the face of the extremely tall dam structure, and in the event of dam failure, many residents would be displaced.

The dam is holding back one hundred years of mercury-laden-sediment-buildup which contaminates the water. Dam removal will allow for the harmful sediment to be safely removed and replaced with bedrock gravel that will naturally purify and clean the water for the fish, wildlife, agriculture, recreational and residential users.

Recent studies and data from similar dam removal projects prove that removing Scott Dam will increase salmon populations on the Eel River. Upstream of Scott Dam the mainstem Eel River consists of about 29 stream miles, which have been inaccessible to salmon and steelhead for over a century. Restoring native fish populations will encourage healthy biodiversity of the surrounding forest life, and will allow its return to a truly-natural state of harmony and well-being.

The ‘Two-Basin Partnership’ (TBP) ideally plans to keep the water flowing to Potter Valley, Lake Mendocino and Sonoma County, while removing Scott Dam.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will require completion of extensive studies to make an informed decision about the future of the Potter Valley Project. The goals outlined by TBP include: “(1) minimizing or avoiding adverse impacts to water supply reliability, fisheries restoration, water quality improvements and recreation enhancements in the Russian and Eel River basins; and (2) improving fish passage and habitat on the Eel River with the goal of recovering native migratory fish like salmon and steelhead, including full access to habitat upstream of Scott Dam.”

Restoring salmon to the upper Eel River will replenish this fragile ecosystem for fish & wildlife and bring great benefit for generations to come through long-term conservation and preservation of natural ecosystems that systematically function to cool the planet, prevent fire danger and provide clean, freshwater sources for residents, recreation and agriculture use.

Read more here:
[Two-Basin Solution Continues to Move Forward: https://www.twobasinsolution.org/…/two-basin-solution…/]
[The Eel River: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eel_River_(California)]

-Joel Thompson of the Peace & Harmony Foundation of Mendocino

Categories: Op-Ed

12 replies »

  1. These people are so ignorant to put aside the fact that an ecosystem was created when that damn was installed years ago. Will be destroying an ecosystem for trout in order to create an ecosystem for salmon which don’t even use that part of the river and never will.

    Removal of the day I will destroy Lake Pillsbury and force all of those non-native squawfish from Lake Pillsbury into the main Russian River, absolutely annihilating the local trout and Native fish populations.

    But hey let’s try to save these fish that aren’t even native to the waters that are being discussed.

  2. The rough fish have already destroyed the main eel and all tributarys that feed the eel, there are no frogs, the only fish are the sqawfish or pike that out fantastic fish an game planted in the lake to eat the mosquitos and there larva, these fish are up to 24 inches now or more

  3. The Two Basin Partnership is conducting research studies to determine all adverse affects, to the concerns of water supply. During good rain years, it’s likely that there will be plentiful water, because the source is not Lake Pillsbury, it actually flows from mountain springs and will be held back by Van Arsdale reservoir. So even without Lake Pillsbury, we’ll have plenty of water in the Eel River throughout the summer months.

  4. In a matter of weeks, a large pipe could be installed to divert the needed water from Clear Lake; which originally flowed into the Russian River watershed.

    • Mr Thompson, I would encourage you to review this post for accuracy. Please educate me on how a diversion from the Clear Lake basin into the Russian River watershed could be accomplished in ‘a matter of weeks’…

  5. Mixed in with the many pie-in-the-sky foolishnesses in this piece is one that should make any reader wonder if the author knows anything about the Upper Eel River:
    “Scott Dam is a aging, steep and massive structure positioned on a landslide prone hillside which endangers the safety of Potter Valley residents.”
    This is a new claim in the campaign by the anti-PV Project folks and is simply false.

  6. The Eel river was never intended for supplying the Russian River watershed. Man made diversion only serves one purpose; $$$ for Agriculture… and seeing the writing on the wall with the last few rounds of drought they are scrambling to secure the ol mighty water dollar. its even more ironic that some of the board members are heavily financed by the Grape industry and own a lot of vines out in Potter Valley.
    Who will win? Mother Nature and the endangered species or the Agriculture industry and the ever growing over population of Sonoma county?

    • Lake pillsbury is more than just water for ag. It was a major component in fighting the fires in 2019 and 2020. And ‘ag’ encompasses more than just grapes. There are small farms, residents etc that depend on the diversion. Plus another major component that 100 + years of diversion have created a whole other ecosystem on the Russian river that depend on it also. The whole issue is way more complicated.

  7. Easy to tell where folks live…I’m north so plug the hole stop the diversion and let the eel feed the ancient redwoods it was intended to. Theft is theft and I could care less that it’s been done for a 100yrs it doesn’t make it right. Plenty of lakes to fight fires and the Russian doesn’t need any more Airbnb’s but I’d like to see the boards come off windows in weott and Myers!

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