FERC denies request for extension Thursday

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Justine Frederiksen, Ukiah Daily Journal 9/24/21

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday denied a request for a pause in the process of re-licensing the Potter Valley Project, which is a hydroelectric plant in Mendocino County that diverts water from the Eel River and into the Russian River via Lake Mendocino.

“The Two Basin Partners have worked diligently to find common ground and resources to pursue a revitalized Potter Valley Project – but we always knew that this would be a major challenge,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) is quoted as saying in a press release. (Thursday’s) ruling by FERC is just a new chapter in seeking a Two Basin Solution. This partnership and the stakeholders in the Eel and Russian river basins are strong and ready to take on a new challenge.”

The Two-Basin Partnership is made up of the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Sonoma County Water Agency, California Trout, Inc., the County of Humboldt, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes, and in early September the group sent a letter to FERC Secretary Kimberly Bose requesting that the commission “grant an abeyance in the schedule established by the Revised Process Plan and Schedule for relicensing the Potter Valley Project … until May 31, 2022. (We) will use this abeyance to further evaluate how this project would best fit into a comprehensive strategy to manage worsening crises in anadromous fisheries and water supply reliability in the Eel and Russian River Basins.”

The parties explain that “in January of 2019, Pacific Gas and Electric Company stated its intent not to seek a new license (for the plant.) That June, parties filed a Notice of Intent and began to pursue relicensing of the plant to implement a Two-Basin Solution. Since that time, the NOI Parties have not been able to secure the funds to undertake studies per the Study Plan Determination, at estimated cost of $18 million for two years. In May, PG&E declined to fund such work.”

They also state that, “during this period ending May 31, 2022, the NOI Parties will undertake due diligence tasks that will further evaluate how to meet the goals of the Two-Basin Solution, (and that) the State of California’s Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget includes approximately $2.7 million for studies related to the Two-Basin Solution. Such funds are necessary to begin implementing the Study Plan Determination, as well as undertaking the due diligence related to ownership costs and risks.”

The group also explains that it “will evaluate the feasibility of continued diversion for water supply in a license surrender scenario. In that scenario, a Regional Entity would own and operate a diversion facility at Van Arsdale, under authority of state law. Through the proposed further due diligence, we will determine whether PG&E’s water rights would reliably support continued diversion for water supply once license surrender were effective.”

The current license for the project is set to expire on April 14, 2022, and FERC has requested an application from the group prior to that date.

When reached for comment Thursday, members of the partnership said they did not have a unified statement prepared for release, but that the group was committed to finding a path forward.