Potter Valley Project

Broad partnership to restore fish passage

About the Project

The Potter Valley Project is a 9.4-megawatt hydroelectric facility, more than 100 years old, that includes an interbasin transfer of approximately 62,500 acre-feet of water from the Eel River to the East Branch of the Russian River. This project is owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and consists of two dams: Cape Horn Dam, a low diversion dam with a fish ladder that transfers water to the Russian River; and Scott Dam, located 12 miles above Cape Horn Dam. Scott Dam blocks migratory access for threatened populations of Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and winter steelhead to high-quality, cold-water habitat in the 288-square-mile watershed above it, within Mendocino National Forest.

Beginning in 2018, Congressman Jared Huffman convened stakeholders in an Ad Hoc Committee to advance a Two-Basin Solution for the future of the Potter Valley Project that would remove Scott Dam, restore fish passage, continue diversions to the Russian River during high winter flows through existing or modified infrastructure at Cape Horn Dam, and generate energy at the existing powerhouse. In 2019, prior to filing for bankruptcy, PG&E formally withdrew its application from the Potter Valley Project’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process, leaving an uncertain future for the project. In response, California Trout, Sonoma County Water Agency, Humboldt County, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes formed the Planning Agreement partnership (PA Partners) to collaboratively develop a plan for the future of the Project that advances the Two-Basin Solution and meets the needs of all communities in the Russian and Eel River basins. In May 2020, the PA Partners filed a proposed Project Plan with FERC to advance the Two-Basin Solution—with full removal of Scott Dam and modifications to Cape Horn Dam and the associated water diversions—to improve upstream and downstream fish passage while maintaining the interbasin water transfer and power generation.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Owner: Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Size: 130 feet tall, 805 feet long (Scott Dam); 63 feet high, 283 feet long (Cape Horn)
Project Cost: $320 million
ORF Investment: Planning, project management, coalition coordination, technical support, legal support
Miles Opened: 89
Fish: Chinook salmon, coho salmon, winter steelhead
Status: Project in planning phase


RESOURCES
OUTCOMES
  • Open 89 miles of high-quality, cold-water salmonid habitat in the 288-square-mile watershed above it, within Mendocino National Forest
  • Enhance spawning and rearing habitat for fall-run Chinook and steelhead trout
  • Deliver tangible solutions to an aging infrastructure challenge and provide reliable, alternative water supply for the region
  • Restore the Eel River fishery that meets the traditional, cultural and subsistence needs of Native Tribes on the Eel River
  • Increase water efficiency for the Potter Valley Irrigation District
  • Work through the FERC process to achieve dam removal solutions and preserve energy resources

Project Partners

American Whitewater

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

California Trout, Inc.

Congressman Jared Huffman

Friends of the Eel River

Native Fish Society

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Sonoma County Water Agency

Humboldt County

Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission

Round Valley Indian Tribes

Wiyott Tribe

Russian Riverkeeper

Trout Unlimited