Future of Potter Valley Water Project Uncertain

Mar 10, 2018

March 10, 2018 — The Potter Valley Water Project may be on the market soon. At a recent meeting of the Eel Russian River Commission, Dave Moller, PG&E’s Director of Power Generation, explained that the project is not economically viable. The company is currently in the years’ long process of applying for relicensing under FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Potter Valley Water Project consists of Scott Dam and Lake Pillsbury in Lake County, and Cape Horn Dam and van Arsdale reservoir in Potter Valley, eleven miles downstream. A powerhouse, also in Potter Valley, diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River, irrigating Potter Valley and filling Lake Mendocino. Supporters of the project say that without the diverted water, the lake would only fill up three years out of five. Opponents argue that the project damages habitat and kills fish. Historically, the project has generated about 9 MW of electricity.

Last year, PG&E asked FERC if it could withdraw its application to relicense the DeSabla-Centerville hydropower plant in Butte County. Now the company is trying to sell that project, as well as the Lime Saddle and Coal Canyon powerhouses. The two smaller projects are not licensed by FERC.

The questions swirling around the Potter Valley Water Project now are, who can buy it? And what kinds of rules would they be subject to? We'll hear from Mendocino County Supervisor and Eel Russian River Commissioner Carre Brown, whose Potter Valley ranch depends on water that comes through the diversion tunnel. We'll also check in with Scott Greacon, Conservation Director of Friends of the Eel River. His organization has worked for years towards decommissioning the two dams of the Potter Valley Water Project.