Future of the Russian and Eel Rivers
Diversions from the Eel River help fill Lake Mendocino and also feed the upper Russian River in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Therefore, there are going to be many people and different groups concerned with how water is allocated and the future of the Eel River dams. The groups have different goals. But one goal is the same for all: Find a path forward without Pacific Gas & Electric’s Potter Valley Power Plant.
The stakeholders include water providers, agricultural users, and elected officials whose constituents depend on Lake Mendocino and the upper Russian River.
Fishery interests want the dams removed to improve fish passage and restore the river’s ecological function. Native American tribes also want the dams removed. Humboldt County representatives are concerned by impairment of the Eel River’s salmon fishery and water supply. Lake County could face the loss of Lake Pillsbury which is a well-developed community and recreational hub formed by the impoundment of the Eel River behind Scot Dam.
30 people have agreed to be members of a new group called the Russian River Water Forum, initiated by the Sonoma County Water Agency and several partners. The goal is to explore ways to maintain flows in the Russian River once PG&E decommissions an inoperative power plant while also “protecting Tribal interests and supporting the stewardship of fisheries, water quality and recreation in the Russian River and Eel River basins,” according to the draft charter. One thing to remember is that one side of this situation is busy filing lawsuits. The other side is doing nothing. That suggests a lopsided eventual result.