Round Valley Tribes join two-basin solution effort for Potter Valley Project

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Next step is a feasibility study

The Ukiah Daily Journal, September 11, 2019

The Round Valley Indian Tribes announced this week that they have signed an agreement to join with users of both the Eel River and Russian River to seek a “Two-Basin Solution” for the re-licensing of the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project, which diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River.

“The process won’t be easy, but the Tribes are committed to working with our partners in exploring all options that might work in both basins,” Round Valley Indian Tribes President James Russ was quoted as saying in a press release that also noted that in August, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Notice of Intent filed by nonprofit California Trout, the County of Humboldt, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, and Sonoma County Water Agency to explore options for the project, which Pacific Gas and Electric still owns but will not be trying to re-license.

The press release also notes that “the next step in this process is to undertake a feasibility study to evaluate a range of options for the project’s future that best achieves a Two-Basin Solution that will meet the needs of water users in both the Eel and Russian River Basins” and that the Round Valley Indian Tribes have signed on to a Planning Agreement that will guide the feasibility study and the steps that follow.

The press release also describes the Eel River as being “intertwined with the spiritual, cultural, and economic well-being of the Tribes,” and that “fishing is imperative as the tribal community suffers high rates of poverty and lack of economic opportunities.”

The release also states that “the Round Valley Indian Tribes have Eel River water rights that were reserved to the Tribes when the Round Valley Indian Reservation was created, long before diversions of Eel River water began. In 1873, Congress used the natural flows of the Eel River to expand the Round Valley Reservation’s northern, eastern and western boundaries, thus establishing “the privilege of fishing in said streams” as reserved for the Tribes. These water rights have never been quantified through a formal adjudication process in a court of law. However, the Tribes are open to discussing the role of their federal water rights “in a two-basin solution related to the Potter Valley Project.”