PG&E Unveils Plan to Remove Two Dams on the Eel River, Creating the Longest Free-Flowing River in California

Scott Dam. Credit: Kyle Schwartz/California Trout

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has released an initial draft of its plan to remove two dams on the Eel River in Northern California. The plan calls for the complete removal of most of the Potter Valley Project facilities, including Scott and Cape Horn Dams. PG&E’s decision to divest from the financially unviable project, which has not generated power since 2021, has triggered the need for a license surrender process.

The project aims to restore the Eel River ecosystem and improve fish passage by eliminating barriers to salmon and steelhead migration. The Eel River once supported up to a million salmon and steelhead annually but has seen a drastic decline in fish numbers due to the dams and other factors. Removing the Potter Valley Project’s dams would release the Eel River, making it California’s longest free-flowing river.

Conservation groups, including the Round Valley Indian Tribes, California Trout, and Trout Unlimited, have welcomed PG&E’s plan as a significant step toward restoring the river’s health. The draft plan calls for removing the dams, which are considered harmful fish passage barriers, and reestablishing the Eel River as a free-flowing waterway.

PG&E’s plan also includes an alternative proposal from a regional group to negotiate terms for a new diversion facility. This proposal, supported by several organizations, aims to ensure limited water diversions into the Russian River watershed while prioritizing the full recovery of the Eel River ecosystem.

The public comment period for the initial draft surrender application and decommissioning plan is open until December 22, 2023. Proponents hope to begin dam deconstruction in 2028, pending regulatory approval, with a commitment to seeking permits for the new diversion to avoid disruptions to water supplies.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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  4. Lake Pillsbury will be drained? No water supply to Potter Valley? There are some big issues with this, ie no agriculture in Potter Valley, little or no flow into Lake Mendocino, etc.

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  9. Opening up the Eel River should increase the flow of all three forks of this beautiful river. The North fork and the South Fork and the Main Fork of the Eel River basin are each in their own right beautiful scenic rivers that are hosts of a wide range of wildlife and nature at its best for old and young alike.Nature recreates its views fresh and new every day along this scenic river that has an endless number of nice swimming holes to cool off in during the summers heat, or enjoying the shade of the Giant Sequoia redwood trees that are famous as among the biggest trees in the world that are truly majestic giants that will amaze anyone no matter where you come from in the world to see them.The forks of the Eel River is an added bonus you will surely enjoy.Do not pass up stopping in at the South Fork redwood state parks and check out the Dyerville Giant that fell down in the 1980s and lays in the forest amongst its other family tree members many over three hundred feet tall and many over two thousand years old. Seeing one of these giants laying on the ground is the best way to realize just how enormous each one of the trees in the many redwood groves are.

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