Monday March 27, 2023

The Mendocino Voice

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is about eight months into a 30-month planning timeline for the license surrender of the Potter Valley Project, a system of dams and hydroelectric power that has diverted water from the Eel River to the Russian River since 1908 and made a lasting mark on the region’s productivity, environment, and lifeways. But the way forward is uncertain. In 2025, PG&E could decide that one or both of the project’s dams will be removed, the project could continue to run under a new license operator, or one of myriad options in between. 

Further, a variety of factors complicating the already controversial project have emerged — and last week, PG&E announced that the spillway gates at Scott Dam will remain open this spring and in future years due to the potential for seismic activity in the area. This will mean less water storage in Lake Pillsbury, complicating the usual systems of water flow ahead of any infrastructure changes at the dams.

Also last week, a new working group under the name of the Russian River Water Forum has been formed by local water leaders to explore ways forward for the project and to negotiate with PG&E. This new group could be viewed as a second coming of the Two-Basin Partnership, a now-dissolved initiative to form a regional entity to take over the license from PG&E that was led by Representative Jared Huffman. 

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