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.