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PG&E has submitted its Initial Draft Surrender Application and Decommissioning Plan for the Potter Valley Project. The utility has accepted the proposal from Inland Water and Power Commission of Mendocino County (IWPC), Sonoma Water, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes to include two options to continue diverting water from the Eel River to the Russian River as alternatives to complete decommissioning. The alternatives propose to entirely remove Scott Dam, which creates Lake Pillsbury and much of Cape Horn Dam, which creates Van Arsdale Reservoir, then either construct a bladder dam to be used seasonally, to allow water to be diverted by gravity flow, or to install a pumping station. Both alternative options would only divert water seasonally during the winter/spring season when flows are high.
PG&E has made the draft available to the public, and is accepting comments until December 22nd. In May of 2024, after considering public comment, PG&E will submit the draft proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
If decommissioning of the dams moves forward, we need to prepare for the inevitable. We need to have projects and plans in place to adapt to the new situation. This will require a great deal of collaboration between stakeholders, and local, state and federal officials. This will also require a great deal of money which neither the County nor our community has. We risk losing out much like we did with the building of Coyote Dam if the water is allocated based on ability to pay. We need state and federal funding to secure for Mendocino County an equitable amount of the water that will continue to be diverted. We also need to raise Coyote Dam to increase our storage capacity.
The changes in water availability will greatly impact water rights going back over one hundred years, that have been issued by the state. These rights are based on water that will no longer be available. We need to build new storage capacity, big and small, to make up for the loss of storage capacity and to store winter water for use in summer. Potter Valley, especially, will need to make large investments in infrastructure to divert winter river flows to store water in reservoirs and to recharge groundwater. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) need to develop a streamlined process so water right holders can modify their water rights to adapt to the new conditions. Summertime diversions will be curtailed more often as Russian River summer flows won’t be supported by diverted Eel River water. Diverting and storing winter flows will become much more critical. Our community needs financial support and regulatory relief to allow us to adapt by increasing storage capacity.
Just as important as submitting a comment to PG&E, if not more so, is contacting our elected state and federal representatives. In response to PG&E’s draft plan, Jared Huffman had this to say on his website:
“PG&E’s draft surrender application is a major step forward to achieving the Two-Basin Solution I’ve advocated for years. The plan includes full and expedited removal of two dams that harm salmon on the Eel River while allowing for a modern fish-friendly diversion to provide water to Mendocino, Sonoma, and Marin counties. I’ll be working to ensure that both elements are completed in a way that best protects communities, tribes, and natural resources in the Eel and Russian river watersheds,” said Rep. Huffman.
Huffman has verbally committed to protecting communities, but hasn’t materially demonstrated that commitment by securing money for water storage. Our communities need support and assistance to adapt to the proposed changes which include new storage capacity to compensate for the losses of Scott and Cape Horn Dams . I strongly urge you to contact our representatives, especially Huffman, regarding the situation. Feel free to use my letter as a template.
This is my letter that is being sent to Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson, Mike McGuire, and Jim Wood.
Here is their contact info or you can go online to their websites and submit a comment.
Congressman Jared Huffman
Ukiah District Office
200 South School Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
Phone: (707) 671-7449
Congressman Mike Thompson
Santa Rosa District Office
2300 County Center Dr.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Phone: (707) 542-7182
California Senator Mike McGuire
200 South School Street, Suite K
Ukiah, CA 95482
California Assembly Member Jim Wood
Ukiah Valley Conference Center
200 S. School St. Suite D
Ukiah, CA 95482
Phone: (707) 463-5770
Dear (elected official),
My name is Adam Gaska, a Redwood Valley, Mendocino County farmer. I am involved in local and regional water policy by sitting on the board of Redwood Valley County Water District, representing Ag on the Ukiah Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency, and being a member of the Russian River Water Forum. I am greatly concerned for our future with the loss of Scott and Cape Horn Dam. I understand fisheries on the Eel and Russian Rivers are in peril, but I don’t think removing the dams is necessary for the rivers’ recovery, nor will their removal insure their recovery. I am deeply disappointed that there hasn’t been State and Federal support to assume control of Scott and Cape Horn Dams to make the necessary modifications to improve fish passage and ensure the dams longevity resulting in wins for both the Eel and Russian River watersheds and the communities that depend on them.
In light of the current situation with decommissioning being almost certain, I am reaching out on behalf of my community, requesting financial support and regulatory relief for Mendocino County. To adapt to a future without Scott and Cape Horn dams, we need support to build new storage capacity including the raising of Coyote Dam. How Russian River water rights are managed will need to change, as water availability will decrease. Regulatory agencies such as the SWRCB and DWR must develop a streamlined and flexible framework to allow for those changes to happen, allowing our communities to adapt to a future with less available water and an increased dependence on water storage. Water right holders need the ability to modify their water rights in order to store more diverted winter time flows. These changes need to be processed quickly and efficiently.
Mendocino County, being an economically disadvantaged community, will struggle to adapt to a future without the dams. We need financial assistance to contribute to the new infrastructure of the Eel-Russian transfer facility, develop new storage capacity in order to receive and benefit from an equitable share of the water. Russian River water rights holders and users will increasingly rely on stored water, as summer diversions will be curtailed more frequently. Funding a cost-share program to increase on-farm water storage as was done in 2008 through the NRCS would be timely and helpful. Funding to raise Coyote Dam to increase storage capacity of Lake Mendocino must become a priority. Potter Valley Irrigation District needs infrastructure improvements to its water delivery system to divert winter flows to storage in an as of yet unbuilt reservoir (or two), and to recharge groundwater.
Without your help to secure funding and regulatory relief, your constituents in Mendocino County will suffer, as will others dependent on the Russian River.
I appreciate your attention to this matter,