For Immediate Release
March 17, 2021
Sonoma Water: Brad Sherwood, Division Manager, Community & Government Affairs Division, 707-322-8192 firstname.lastname@example.org
California Trout: Redgie Collins, Staff Attorney, 415-748-8755, email@example.com
Mendocino County IWPC: Janet Pauli, Chair, 707-391-7574, firstname.lastname@example.org
Humboldt County: Hank Seemann, Deputy Director, Environmental Services, 707-601-5776, HSeemann@co.humboldt.ca.us
Round Valley Indian Tribes: James Russ, Council President, 707-354-0322, email@example.com
Two-Basin Solution Continues to Move Forward
Federal regulators finalize studies needed to guide implementation of two-basin solution for Russian and Eel Rivers
Santa Rosa, Calif. – The effort to remove Scott Dam and restore Eel River fisheries while maintaining water security for Russian River water users moved one step closer to reality yesterday. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in accordance with FERC regulations, issued a Study Plan Determination, which identifies the complete list of studies that will be required before the Two-Basin Solution can be implemented. The announcement from FERC comes on the heels of a public comment period in which community members and organizations shared suggestions with federal regulators about which issues should be analyzed so that FERC can make an informed determination about the future of the Potter Valley Project.
The Two-Basin Solution is a vision put forth by five diverse entities to secure a new license for the Potter Valley Project, a hydroelectric facility that generates a small amount of electricity and diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River basin. The Project is currently owned by PG&E and its operations are regulated by FERC. PG&E announced in January 2019 that it would not seek a new license to continue operating the facilities.
FERC will require completion of an extensive list of studies to make an informed decision about the future of the Potter Valley Project. Per the order, the Two-Basin Partnership must analyze the effects of removing Scott Dam on the communities around Lake Pillsbury, tribal interests, recreation and other activities on the Eel River. Additional required studies include identifying the best way to manage the sediment behind Scott Dam and evaluating modifications to Cape Horn Dam that will improve fish passage. The Two-Basin Partnership will also analyze the socioeconomic impacts of Scott Dam removal on local communities and economies in both river basins. A full list of the studies required by FERC is available here.
The partnership must now complete these studies, a task which will likely last through the end of 2022. The partnership recognizes that upgrading the Potter Valley Project facilities will be a long and complex process, and its members remain committed to keeping the process moving forward so that the benefits of the Two-Basin Solution can be realized.
PG&E’s decision to not re-license the PVP left an uncertain future for both Eel and Russian River interests. Instead of leaving it up to PG&E and federal regulators to determine the region’s water future, local leaders came together to protect the interests of both river basins. The Round Valley Indian Tribes, the County of Humboldt, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Sonoma Water, and California Trout formed the Two-Basin Partnership in 2019. The group is also exploring options for developing a governance structure for future ownership and operations of the facilities.
The partnership is an outgrowth of an ad hoc committee convened by Congressman Jared Huffman. That group identified co-equal goals for a two-basin solution. These include (1) minimizing or avoiding adverse impacts to water supply reliability, fisheries restoration, water quality improvements and recreation enhancements in the Russian and Eel River basins; and (2) improving fish passage and habitat on the Eel River with the goal of recovering native migratory fish like salmon and steelhead, including full access to habitat upstream of Scott Dam.
Because transferring the PVP to a new regional entity would relieve PG&E of substantial financial obligations for decommissioning, the partnership anticipates working with PG&E to secure funds to pay for some of the proposed capital modifications as part of the transfer of ownership and liabilities.
To learn more, go to www.twobasinsolution.org.