Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Stakeholders Give Their Case on the Fate of the Russian River

On July 13 the Russian River Water Forum held the third Planning Group meeting in Ukiah, facilitated by Ben Gettleman and Jim Downing of Kearns & West. The group focused on Russian River Water Supply Resiliency, also revisions to the Planning Group Charter, and recap of the prior Planning Group, Technical Briefings, and Working Group Meetings

Review of Prior Planning Group Meeting; Further Additions to Planning Group, and More Revisions to Charter

At the June 12, 2023 meeting, the group supported revisions to the Charter section on external communications. The clarification related to speaking in public. When speaking to the public, individual members of the Planning Group must make clear that they are speaking on behalf of their organization, and not for the Planning Group as a whole. The group was asked to “actively agree” with the Charter when it is finalized. Robinson Rancheria and Save California Salmon were added to the Planning Group. A full summary of the June 12 meeting, including the Planning Group roster of names, and the list of member interests can be found on the Planning Group page.

At the July 13 meeting, the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians and the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians were added to the Planning Group. Revisions to the Charter Section on Russian River Resiliency were discussed, specifically what constitutes “beneficial use” and “beneficial users.” Gettleman will send proposed revisions to the Planning Group members for approval. 

Update on Technical Briefings and Working Group Meetings

On June 30, MendoFever.com posted coverage of the Technical Briefings from the Water Supply and Fisheries and Water Rights Working Groups. The article is linked below, together with links to all of MendoFever.com’s previous coverage of the RRWF. 
On July 13, the Planning Group was presented with the pros and cons of keeping the Working Groups open to the public versus having closed session meetings. Obviously, if the meetings are private, group members and experts providing advice could speak freely, leading to open discussions. If the meetings are open to the public, it could stifle debate and negotiations among the parties, although the public has a right to know. The Steering Committee recommended a hybrid model for the Working Group Meetings, with a public session and a closed session. Summaries of private sessions would be made available to the Planning Group. It was requested that the Working Groups have co-chairs, one each from the Eel and Russian River watersheds.

Update on Timeline of Possible Takeover of the Potter Valley Project

The discussion turned to the timing of a possible takeover of the Potter Valley Project, PG&E’s timeline, and the continued diversion of Eel River water into the Russian River. Because there were so many speakers, the questions and comments are paraphrased, unless in quotation marks.

Carol Cinquini of Lake Pillsbury Alliance commented that the Two Basin Solution “showed a bias toward dam removal.” How do other studies fit into that? Gettleman suggested that would be a good discussion for the Working Group.

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Vivian Helliwell of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations reiterated her prior stance that there may not be enough water available in the Eel to divert. David Manning, Environmental Resource Manager for Sonoma Water replied that “. . . the heart of the Two Basin Solution has demonstrated that there is water available.” Water will be diverted when it is abundant, the timing and quantity are to be determined. The decision on Scott Dam lies with PG&E, not with the RRWF.

Bree Klotter, Redwood Valley County Water District, proposed tying the diversion to river flow levels, rather than months of the year.

Mike Thompson, Sonoma Water, said PG&E anticipates issuing the draft surrender application in November 2023. We hope to influence that process to ensure that some form of diversion is included. Sonoma Water and Mendocino County Inland Power and Water Commission are looking at California Department of Water Resources grants to provide funding. The Russian River caucuses are all interested in achieving volitional fish passage and a sustainable water supply.

Nikcole Whipple, Save California Salmon, said there is not enough water to continue desecrating tribal territories to water grapes. The Eel River tribes do not have enough water. The Russian River users depending on water from the Eel is a violation of tribal rights.

Charlie Schneider, CalTrout, “I just want to note that recognizing the impacts of the PVP on the Eel River is very different than minimizing the impact of the PVP on the Eel River.”

Brandon Axell, Mendocino County Farm Bureau, said in response to the suggestion that the Russian River interests invest in water storage during wet months, said “We can’t store ourselves out of this problem.” The Two Basin Solution would include diversion, there would be catastrophic economic fallout if diversion is discontinued.

Vivian Helliwell replied that if you’re going to talk about “catastrophic economic fallout, we have NO fishing. These fish are threatened and endangered.” It would be less expensive to raise Coyote Dam on Lake Mendocino. We don’t know what climate change will bring. The catastrophic economic impacts will be shared.

The next Working Group Meetings are set as follows and will be hybrid, part open to the public and part closed session. 

Water Supply & Fisheries Working Group Meeting #1: Wednesday, July 19, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. 

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Water Rights & Water Management Working Group Meeting #1: Tuesday, July 25, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. 

Russian River Water Supply Resiliency Part 1

John Nagle, Board Chairman, Sonoma County Resource Conservation District, said we are on a persistent hydrological dry cycle, not a drought. He described how the Upper Russian River Water Sharing program was developed during the years 2020-2022. With no rain in the year 2020, a task force was formed. In 2021, the interbasin transfer of water from the Eel to the Russian River was reduced from 75 cubic feet per second to 5 cubic feet per second. In 2021, with no rain, curtailment was instituted. Water was for health and safety use only. Algae developed in the river. There was no water for ag, resulting in a 30% drop in yields. Money was spent drilling wells.

Water sharing proved an adaptive local alternative to curtailment. Senior water rights holders shared with junior rights holders. The State Department of Water Resources approved the program in 2022. Could water sharing be used elsewhere? Yes, but the most difficult part of developing a water-sharing program was the relationship and trust building. The goal is to preserve the pool in Lake Mendocino in case of a dry winter. In 2022 the program allowed for five weeks of irrigation at a reduced level. This kept the vines from dying.

In 2023, we have a large amount of water stored in Lake Mendocino, with a low flow rate. The governor’s emergency order was lifted and there is no authority to continue with the water-sharing program. The Steering Committee continues to meet. The persistent dry hydrological cycle may continue in the future and the sharing program could be used again.

Sean White, Director of Water and Sewer, City of Ukiah, gave a presentation on how the City of Ukiah prepared for water resiliency. Ukiah has a diversified water supply portfolio consisting of surface water, groundwater, recycled water, and a recharge system. Ukiah’s surface water right is pre-1914 and is taken from river underflow, so there is no need for fish screens. The City has four groundwater wells intentionally designed to minimize surface-water interaction. 1,500 acre/feet of recycled water is used for agriculture, parks, school grounds, and industrial needs. Ukiah is constructing a new water facility. There are three large recharge ponds that replace 2,500 acre/feet of water back into the ground annually. The City has rights to use 20,000 acre/feet per year, and only uses 3,000 acre/feet per year. Redundancy is built into the system. During the drought of 2021 Ukiah typically used 100% groundwater. These programs are all remarkably effective. Grants of $98 million have been used in the past five years. Ukiah is at ground zero for all the coming changes in water policy, and they hope for the best while preparing for the worst. After all the recycling and recharging are accounted for, Ukiah used only net 289 acre/feet of water last year. (Note, this was not part of the presentation, but the water districts managed by Willow County Water District are currently negotiating to consolidate their systems with the City of Ukiah.)

Claire Nordlie, Water Use Efficiency Coordinator, City of Santa Rosa Water, presented on the Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership, involving thirteen water utilities in Sonoma and Marin. They use grants to market and run programs on water education, water-smart landscaping, Garden Sense, and QWEL (qualified water-efficient landscaping). The program offers free water-saving equipment to customers. Even though the population has increased, water use has decreased since the program was instituted. 
Nordlie said, “Our region is in the forefront of water use efficiency, in the top tier of California.” Four million square feet of turf has been replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping. There is still sixteen million square feet of turf to deal with.

Questions and Comments about Russian River Water Supply Resiliency Part 1

Q: In California the majority of diverted water is used for agriculture. Residential use is far less. Is there a way to save when using ag water?
A: Most ag users will use recycled water if it’s available. Irrigation is being used in a more judicious, controlled manner. Sonoma has a large initiative to provide wind machines for vineyard frost control, rather than using irrigation. 
Q: What is the prioritization of Russian River water use in Lake Mendocino? 
A: First priority is releasing minimum instream flow, second priority is health and safety use, third priority is ag use. During the 2021-2022 curtailments, water was only available for ag use at reduced amounts after human health and safety needs were met, and enough water was in the pool in Lake Mendocino for next year, in case of another dry year.
Q: How are minimum instream flows determined?
A: The State Water Resources Control Board issued Decision 1610 regarding Russian River water flows based on historic hydrologic conditions of the Eel River. CEQA compliance and guidelines from the National Marine Fisheries Service are part of the calculations.
Comment from Mike Shaver, Potter Valley Tribe: It is disappointing that tribal needs, most of which are disadvantaged, have their needs put at a lower priority than urban users. It seems the funding goes to urban users. This is not new for tribes. They have been resilient, they do have rainwater catchments. It’s not fair that the tribes don’t have enough water to grow vegetables, when ag users have rights to so much water, and the nearby tribe can’t have any of it.

Russian River Water Supply Resiliency Part 2

Adriane Garayalde, Russian River Confluence, spoke about the importance of groundwater recharge. She has been working with the Dry Creek Tribe and Jackson Family Winery. Grant funding covered the initial pilot demonstration project on the Russian River in Alexander Valley, with 7,000 acres of vineyards in thirteen “service areas” of the project. It was proposed to capture high flows from November through March, to be diverted at Jimtown. One to two percent of the Russian River flow would be diverted, approximately 7,150 acre/feet per year. The benefits are increased water availability, and increased soil moisture resulting in the need for less irrigation. The project has strong support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Sonoma Water.

Janet Pauli, Potter Valley Irrigation District and Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Potter Valley is somewhat unique. It’s a small area (seven miles long and two miles wide) that is intensely farmed. Potter Valley is the first recipient of the diverted water from the Eel River since the diversion was started in 1922. PVID has been trying to improve the irrigation canal system for a long time, accelerated since 2014, taking advantage of newer technologies. There are 18 miles of main canals. 18 miles of class 1 laterals maintained by the District, and a series of class 2 laterals maintained by landowners. The District has significantly improved the pipes in the canals. The District has been encouraging landowners to build ponds to store frost-protection water. Over the last 25 years, 2019 was the only year without spring frost. The worst year had 25 nights of frost that used 1,700 acre/feet of water. Vineyards are expected to have a pond. There are 55 ponds in Potter Valley, storing 775 acre/feet of water. Ponds are filled by winter rain and with the irrigation system. The District tracks water use comprehensively. PVID had reduced total system losses in the canals by 25% since 2014. The canals are treated twice a year to reduce aquatic vegetation. PVID works with the State Water Resources Control Board and a third-party biologist to perform biological assessments of the program. Three prototype hydroscreen delivery gates were installed to stop the spread of algae and aquatic plants. Working well, hoping to expand that system. Contract with PG&E PVID has voluntarily engaged in a demand-based diversion since 2014. We are not taking our full contact complement of water, changing it daily based on demand. Now we are using about 20 cfs under PG&E contract. We have saved approximately 6,340 acre feet remaining in storage in Lake Pillsbury. PG&E has requested a variance from FERC to change storage levels in Lake Pillsbury because of seismic issues. The request should be approved in August. PVID is using electronic metering systems, a prototype to help with conservation. The District is sending customers weekly receipts for irrigation water, so they can understand how much water they are using. Using a DWR grant secured by Sonoma Water, Jacobs Consulting is using a drone with sonar buoy to look at sites in Potter Valley for storage of groun water and storage water. The drone is equipped to monitor subsurface groundwater. There have been very few wells drilled in Potter Valley or search for ground water because they have had many years of irrigation water. We are also looking for surface water storage, evaluating possible dams at the north end of the valley. We have been working year after year to improve conservation efforts and resiliency. It is a very small ag district. Potter Valley moved away from pasture and pears, and converted to vineyards. Vineyards are efficient water users, using drip irrigation. Some pastures are still flood irrigated.

Don Seymour and Jay Jasperse of Sonoma Water, reviewed the Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations – FIRO system used at Lake Mendocino to monitor climate conditions in the watershed and adjust water releases accordingly. Lake Mendocino was the pilot site for FIRO. The system, created for Lake Mendocino, has resulted in benefits and is now being tested in other areas, including internationally. Lake Mendocino is filled by rainwater and the East Fork of the Russian River. Lake Sonoma is on Dry Creek. Both reservoirs are managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Operational responsibilities are shared with Sonoma Water. The discussion turned technical with graphs and charts. Anyone interested in the technical details can click on the links to the recording and slides at the end of this article. FIRO is a significant factor in improving storage of Russian River water. “FIRO is not a silver bullet for complete resiliency for the Russian River system, but right now it’s the biggest tool in the tool shed.” Using FIRO resulted in an additional 25,000 to 30,000 acre/feet in Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino this year, without any new construction or infrastructure. A possible second FIRO outlet on the Russian River is being evaluated.

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Questions and Comments about Russian River Water Supply Resiliency Part 2

Q: Vivian Helliwell: What are you referring to as a secondary outlet on Lake Sonoma?
A: At this point it’s just a conceptual idea. The upper Russian River watershed is stressed. Lake Sonoma is three times as large as Lake Mendocino. Can Lake Sonoma lend Lake Mendocino a hand? Especially if FIRO proves to be viable. It’s just a concept right now. The outlet would probably be somewhere in the Alexander Valley.
Q: Mike Shaver, Potter Valley Tribe: Working in Lake County for several decades, I know how much floods can damage a community. Caution is needed regarding modeling. Flood damage can occur when big storms come late in the year. Extreme weather events come on larger and more often than we expect. Adriane, I commend your work with the Dry Creek Rancheria. Janet, I think we have a tribal member on the board. We have regained tribal land now in Potter Valley. We have Federal partners now who could help with issues. 
Q: Cathy Monroe, Mendocino County Resource Conservation District. To Adriane, has there been a geologic survey for your project?
A: That’s one thing I didn’t cover was the monitoring aspect. Sonoma Water will take on monitoring. We are trying to assess the groundwater in AV.
Terri McCartney: Roughly what percentage of water supply for Sonoma is from Lake Mendo and what percentage from Lake Sonoma?
A: We view it as a system. It’s a system that has to work collectively and in a robust way.

Discussion Among the Group on Three Questions:

  • How can water resiliency be pursued aggressively in the Russian River basin? What does Russian River resiliency look like? What should be the RR resiliency goals in the near- and long-term? 
  • Is the PVP diversion needed to address Russian River water demand in the near-term? If so, how can it be pursued while most effectively addressing the interests of parties in both basins? 
  • How can the Resiliency Subcommittee support achieving the resiliency goals? What should it focus on?

Vivian Helliwell: To those who say Lake Pillsbury is necessary to provide water for firefighting, when the dams on the Klamath River were removed, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation instituted a fire management plan.

Cathy Monroe: There needs to be a clear timeline. What if there was no diversion, what will that mean in terms of Russian River flow? Will there be a gap between decommissioning the Potter Valley Project and water availability?

Bree Klotter, Director, Redwood Valley County Water District: Education is the most important. 

Mike Makdisi, County of Sonoma: Near and long-term goals are significant. If we’re looking at a long term goal, how can we be sustainable in the Russian River.

Mike Shaver: Can fish move around the dam at Lake Mendocino? We should look at improvement in fisheries if they improve storage.

Carol Cinquini, Director and VP Lake Pillsbury Alliance: On raising coyote dam, there is not enough water on its own not to. Fire is a huge concern in the Lake Pillsbury basin. The Upper Eel River dries up in late summer and fall. We may not be able to do the same thing as they did in Klamath. In order to assure Russian River resiliency, we need to look at the big picture.

Terri McCartney, Pinoleville Pomo Nation: Do we always want to be springing back from disaster or do we want to be proactive and change the system, living within the water budget, living with the carrying capacity for the environment would reduce the risk of disasters. More ongoing management is needed, not waiting for disasters to occur.

Vivian Helliwell: I’m impressed that people have come together. I’m impressed with the slides shown today. People are creative when they have to be.

Jaime Neary, Russian Riverkeeper: We need to do what we can on improving making our water go further with the tools we have available, identifying in the short term the data gaps we have and info we need to get to those points. We need to increase transparency around use.

Brandon Axell, Mendocino County Farm Bureau: In general, the Two Basin Solution with continued diversion with emphasis on mitigation and fish passage where appropriate.

Mike Thompson, Sonoma Water: Water resilience is being pursued aggressively. Using a portfolio approach, using conservation, recycling, and looking for ways to store ground water and surface water. The near-term goal is to minimize curtailments. While the Potter Valley Project should not be looked at as silver bullet, in the near term, the PVP diversion is needed, without it there wouldn’t be enough water to meet demand. The Two Basin Solution Partnership agreed on the need for fish passage and fish habitat in the Eel River and diversion into the Russian River. 

Vivian Halliwell: “Resiliency looks like self-sufficiency as much as possible.” We need education to reduce demand in a conscious way. “I fished out of Ft. Bragg for 20 years. When the fish went away, it was a disaster. 95% of those small businesses went down. You cannot sell a boat and a permit when there is no season.” 

Bree Klotter: Have there been studies on what required water flows are needed in the Eel River, so the Russian River watershed can know when to pull water out.

David Manning: The National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Round Valley Indian Tribe, and PG&E are all taking a fresh look at the Eel River. NMFS would like a longer-term variance in PVP while the decommissioning process is going on. There is more work to be done to answer some of those questions. There is currently no standard agreement on what minimum flows are necessary in the Eel to protect fisheries. There has not been a decision about critical flow without the dam in place.

Shannon Cotulla, Town of Windsor: In answer to a question from our perspective, yes, we need the diversion. We can slow the pace of change so we can have more time to adapt to change.

Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen: Clarifying the answer to minimum flows in the Eel. We are dealing with only minimum flows necessary to prevent extinction. Optimum flows, we do not know, but without question they are greater than what is being provided now. The diversion right now is 40,000 acre/feet. The Russian River is adapting well to reduced diversion. We need to see how much water the fish need to prosper. We don’t know, but it will be considerably more than ESA minimum flows to prevent extinction.

Mike Makdisi, County of Sonoma: In determining what to do and how, we need to understand what we have and what we need, and set reasonable benchmarks. We don’t know what we will experience in the next ten to 20 years.

Vivian Helliwell: We should change the term “resiliency” to “sufficiency. We should change the term “demand” to “needs.” 

Janet Pauli: Yes, the PV diversion near term must be maintained. The key is what “near term” means. Self-sufficiency should be the goal. That will require significant change in infrastructure, and at great cost. It can’t be done fast. There is a range of situations we have to deal with. How do we accomplish what needs to be done to aid the Eel and at the same time, improve conditions on this side, and how do we fund it? I know we can do this.

Mike Shaver: Talking about minimum flow and decommissioning the dam, I don’t see the volume of water being important. It’s the increased habitat in the miles of stream above the dam. Minimum flows are supplied by storage. What about the factory boats 12 miles offshore in international waters? There is a UN ocean act, a treaty between nations. We need to find out if the big boats are harvesting too many salmon.

Vivian Helliwell: There was a 200-mile limit put in place in 1978, an Exclusive Economic Zone. Salmon mostly travel on the coastal shelf. This year, due to low numbers, we voluntarily decided not to fish. The West Coast has had very conservative fisheries management. We are fishing on mixed socks, different types of fish mixed together. Coho are not as resilient to warm water. Factory ships offshore are not a problem. 

Sean White, City of Ukiah. I would like to echo the comments made by Janet. Near term is really the great undefined here. The City has been pursuing resiliency aggressively. We’ve been working on the recycling program since 2008. It will be done next year. Large projects take a long time. Ukiah is a small town. When you scale up the projects Ukiah is doing to include the entire Russian River, it’s going to take a minute.

Gettleman asked how we can support the Russian River Resiliency Subcommittee, and what should be the focus. What are the gaps in resiliency plans?

Vivian Helliwell: I’d like to ask Janet and others what are their infrastructure needs. That can be part of what the subcommittee can look at.

Janet Pauli, Potter Valley Irrigation District: Near term, dealing with reduced diversions in the summer. We need to find significant storage in the winter, if we can’t find ground water storage. That would require a high dam on the north end of Potter Valley if we can’t find groundwater storage. To build a dam, just for Potter Valley, we would have to completely remodel the Potter Valley water system. There were feasibility studies done on raising Coyote Dam 15 years ago. To pick that up again, there would need to be feasibility and seismic studies. It would have cost $350 million at that time. That’s the problem.
Jennifer Burke, Santa Rosa Water: It would be really important to focus on the modeling that has already been done. 8 of 10 years of water is not enough supply to meet demand if the diversion goes away. 2 out of 10 years, Lake Mendocino goes dry. What efficiency measures are available for Lake Mendocino? Santa Rosa uses 100% of their recycled water already every year. There is more demand for recycled water than we have available. What supplies are in place for the resiliency group? 

John Nagle, Sonoma County Resource Conservation District: How do we move the water sharing program from emergency order, to use any time. How do we hold more water in the land over time? How are the forests within the watershed being managed so that they hold more water in the system?

Carol Cinquini, Lake Pillsbury Alliance: To understand, will Lake Mendocino go dry 2 out of 10 years? There are 8 technical reports produced by the Two Basin Solution. In every report consultants have called out data gaps. We need to understand what we’re missing. We don’t want to take a short-sighted view. There are lots of projects for millions of dollars that can be built. What is the cost benefit of each piece of infrastructure? What is the cost benefit of refurbishing the dams?

Cathy Monroe, MCRCD: We need to think both macro and micro on resiliency. Encourage people to conserve. The improved storage in the dam amounts to another small dam by using FIRO. Improve the soil capacity to hold water. Manage the forest so that water soaks in. There’s a whole lot to land management that can make a difference.
Dennis Murphy: Sonoma Agriculture and RCD: During the three years we worked on voluntary water sharing, we had as accurate a count for where water was going as we could. We found water being released from Lake Mendocino that could not be accounted for.

Terri McCartney, Pinoleville Pomo Nation: California DWR has a program and I’ve been attending meetings on farming repurposing. Converting high irrigation crops to dry farming.

Adriane Garayalde: From now on we have to be adaptive and creative. The water sharing program was approved during a disaster. Because of our rules and laws, we are always forced into response to disaster. How do we create programs we need without the disaster forcing us into it?

David Manning: Talking about consequences of losing the diversion to Lake Mendocino, Don Seymour can speak to that point. Important for people to understand how dire the consequences would be if we lose the diversion.

Don Seymour: In the Working Group for Water Supply and Fisheries, we have heard from many experts. Work was both performed by this group and vetted through the entire ad hoc. Results were a hydrologic record of 109 years. Modeling was used to determine the flow of the river 1908-2017. It turned out that without the diversion, 56 out of those 107 years Lake Mendocino would go dry for some period of the year. It was almost 50% of the years. The model was based on historic water rights. If you account for curtailment, it would go down to 35, or 25 years out of 107. It would be drastic for wildlife on the river. You would have a disconnected river, with discrete pools. 

Jaime Neary, Russian Riverkeeper: There are still a lot of things we don’t know. For the Resiliency Subcommittee to dive into solutions, we need to know what gaps exist. It needs to be transparent so we can make those decisions going forward.

Ben Gettleman: There are gaps in information around data, knowledge and how much it would cost. The shared goal is to adapt over time, and not have an abrupt change. Potter Valley has a very finite window of time. It’s going to take money and time. We have an initial roster for the Russian River Resiliency Subcommittee.

Comment from David Taber, Palomino Lakes Mutual Water Company: You have tough decisions to make. An awful lot of goals. Unfortunately, some goals are in conflict with one another. Even the laws are in conflict with one another. No one is going to get exactly what they want. I’ve heard some grandstanding today. We need a spirit of building rather than contesting. We’re in a mutually assured destruction situation if we decide we have to oppose. 

George Cinquini, Board of Lake Pillsbury Alliance, Russian River Sportsman’s Club: We do need more fish in the Eel and Russian Rivers. We might as well talk about all the rivers on the West Coast. The returns are absolutely terrible in all the rivers. Some solutions: hatch box program, broodstock program, as well as continued habitat restoration. That can help the wild fish on the Eel. We haven’t done that. Take millions of dollars you’re going to waste destroying the infrastructure and bloodstock and put it toward the fish. Water from Lake Pillsbury has saved more salmon over last 30-40 years. When the salmon come in the fall and there’s no water for them, they do block releases from the lake so they can move into deeper, cooler water. Without the lake, you aren’t going to have the water. From June to September the tributaries above the lake are dry. Only 8% of the Eel River watershed is above Lake Pillsbury. Can you realistically tell me that Lake Pillsbury and Scott Dam have caused the demise of the fish on the Eel river. Look at logging, railroads, etc. There are many reasons why Scott Dam should not be removed. We suggest fixing the Potter Valley Project and find a subcontractor to run it. Get a government agency to take it over. Find an entity to take it over, fix the dam, fix the Project and make it work for everyone.

Glen Spain: Two points: I was struck by the delta between supply and demand. If there is a substantial persistent difference between supply and demand, the basin is by definition over-appropriated. Unfortunately, the supply of rainfall is limited, demand is unlimited. I was very impressed with the program in Ukiah, reducing demand and meeting the needs of the people. Talks of Lake Mendocino going dry, they never talk about reduced demand. So we must reduce demand, while still meeting needs. Assume that demand is over-appropriated. On raising Coyote Dam, this was originally designed to be 36 feet higher than it is today. If Coyote Dam was raised it could store twice as much water than is diverted from the Eel. We need to have all the tools on the table. That would improve supply. In 2015 a study and an effort to fund this went nowhere. The study should have been completed in 2018.

Frank Lynch, Lake Pillsbury Alliance: There was talk about raising Coyote Dam. It’s still dependent on the diversion to fill it. It can’t be filled without the diversion. $350 million to do that? $170 million for an alternative dam in Potter Valley, and $60 to 90 million to pump backwater from Lake Mendo if the dam is raised. $64 million for a fish ladder. I disagree with Dave Manning that it’s PG&E’s decision. This forum was formed to fill the gap that failed when the Two Basin Solution couldn’t go forward. Don’t solely focus on dam removal. It’s regional water and we should look at a regional solution.

Here are links to the Recording, and Slides from the July 13, 2023 Planning Group Meeting.

The next Planning Group Meeting is August 3, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Ukiah Conference Center.

Check out MendoFever.com’s prior coverage on the Russian River Water Forum and the fate of the Potter Valley Project:

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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