North Coast Entities to Sign Potter Valley Project Planning Agreement

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Congressman Jared Huffman:
Alexa Shaffer, 202-236-3421,
Sonoma Water: Brad Sherwood, 707-322-8192
California Trout: Tracey Diaz, 415-392-8887 x103
Mendocino IWPC: Janet Pauli,

The Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water), Mendocino Inland Water and Power Commission, and California Trout, Inc. are working towards adopting a Potter Valley Project (Project) planning agreement to secure the region’s water supply and protect endangered salmon species in the Eel River and upper Russian River. Driven by an ad hoc process facilitated by Congressman Jared Huffman, the planning agreement will provide a structure to fund and develop a collaborative two basin proposal for the future of the Project to support water resources and fisheries restoration in both watersheds.

The Project is a hydroelectric facility that results in an inter-basin water transfer delivering water from the Eel River basin to the headwaters of the Russian River. The Project is owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company which announced in January 2019 that it would not seek a new hydroelectric license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the Project. FERC has set a July 1, 2019 deadline for any interested parties to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) and Preliminary Application Document (PAD) to pursue a new license. The planning agreement will allow this regional coalition to meet FERC’s short timeline. The main facilities are two dams on the Eel River, a diversion tunnel and hydroelectric plant. The Project generates up to 9.4 megawatts of power.

Since 2018, Congressman Huffman has embarked on a two-basin solution effort that included the development of an ad hoc committee made up of local and regional stakeholders. These entities have been meeting to discuss and review the role of PG&E in the relicensing process of the Project.

“I am glad to see this partnership pursue a two-basin solution to protect the region’s water supply and precious fisheries resources,” said Rep. Jared Huffman. “This is the type of multi-stakeholder collaboration that I have been advocating for through the ad hoc process we created in 2017. The planning agreement is a framework to develop a 21st-Century project that respects the needs of the diverse stakeholders who live in northwestern California.”

Sonoma County Supervisor and Sonoma Water Director James Gore said, “A true partnership like this only comes through acknowledging the diversity of needs on the landscape. Here we endeavor to do right by our human built environment and our fisheries. I’m excited about what we can achieve together. This is a great start.”

California Trout Executive Director Curtis Knight said, “The process will build on significant work completed to date by members of the Ad Hoc Committee regarding fish passage above Scott Dam and water supply for both Eel and Russian River basins.”

Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission Chair Janet K.F. Pauli said, “I am very pleased that the Sonoma Water Board of Directors has approved the Potter Valley Project, Feasibility Study, and Planning Agreement. Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission’s goal in this process has been to preserve our precious water resource for all purposes in Mendocino County while also recognizing the many other stakeholders who depend upon water from the Russian and Eel Rivers. The five member agencies of MCIWPC will meet Friday for their final discussion and approval of this unique partnership. We look forward to further collaboration between regional partners who can join with us in the common goal of attaining a true “two basin solution” by maintaining local control of our shared water supply and restoration of healthy riverine ecosystems.”

The planning agreement will allow the entities to prepare a Feasibility Study of a potential licensing proposal for the Project that will materially benefit both basins by advancing the following Shared Objectives:

  • Water supply reliability that will meet the needs of consumptive water users in both basins;
  • Restoration of viable, anadromous fisheries in both river basins, including the potential for volitional fish passage into the Eel River Basin upstream of Scott Dam.
  • Reliance on best available science and engineering analyses as the basis for evaluating options for restoration, water delivery, and hydroelectric generation pursuant to a new license;
  • Collaboration on funding;
  • Active participation of tribes and other stakeholders who are willing to support the other Shared Objectives;
  • Economic welfare of both basins;
  • Continued hydroelectric generation; and
  • Protecting tribal cultural, economic, and other interests in both the Eel and Russian River basins.

The initial partner entities will each contribute $100,000 toward funding the Feasibility Study. Recognizing that these efforts could be enhanced by increasing the number and diversity of stakeholders participating in the licensing process, the planning agreement includes the ability to add additional parties who are willing to work toward solutions to meet these Shared Objectives.

By July 1, 2019, the partners to the planning agreement will file a package with FERC that will include:

  • The Planning Agreement;
  • Notice of Intent that will be conditioned upon the completion of the Feasibility Study, including the creation of a Regional Entity, which will be the license applicant;
  • (Pre-Application Document incorporating applicable portions of PG&E’s Pre-Application Document (dated April 2017) and adding appropriate supplementary materials; and
  • Proposed schedule for completing the pre-filing phases of the licensing proceeding, and a proposed deadline.

By April 14, 2020, the Feasibility Study will evaluate options and make recommendations for a preferred option to satisfy the following elements:

  • Regional Entity that will apply for a new license and propose to assume the new license if issued. The parties will evaluate various potential structures for the new entity.
  • Project Plan, showing capital modifications as well as operations and maintenance requirements, for the delivery of water and hydroelectric power to advance the Shared Objectives;
  • Fisheries Restoration Plan, showing measures the Regional Entity will implement to advance the Shared Objectives;
  • Application Study Plan, showing those further studies necessary to develop a new license application, including associated consultation procedures and schedule; and
  • Financial Plan, including the specific sources of initial funding and subsequent revenues

For more information about the Project, please visit