Three Northern California Groups Partner to Foster Potter Valley Project Planning Agreement

By on May 18, 2019

In hopes of securing the region’s water supply and protect endangered salmon species in the Eel River and upper Russian River, three north coast groups are working towards adopting a Potter Valley Project planning agreement following Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Company’s announcement in January that  they would not seek a new hydroelectric license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the project. The planning agreement, facilitated in an ad hoc process led by Congressman Jared Huffman (D-2nd District-San Rafael), aims to provide a structure to fund and develop a collaborative two basin proposal for the two river basins as well as the future of the project to support water resources and fisheries restoration in both watersheds.

Rep. Huffman has worked for more than a year on a two-basin solution effort that included the development of an ad hoc committee made up of local and regional stakeholders. The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), Mendocino Inland Water and Power Commission (MIWPC), and California Trout, Inc. have been meeting to discuss and review the role of PG&E in the relicensing process of the project.

“I am glad to see this partnership pursue a two-basin solution to protect the region’s water supply and precious fisheries resources,” said Rep. Jared Huffman. “This is the type of multi-stakeholder collaboration that I have been advocating for through the ad hoc process we created in 2017. The planning agreement is a framework to develop a 21st-Century project that respects the needs of the diverse stakeholders who live in northwestern California.”

Each of the initial partner entities will contribute $100,000 toward funding of a feasibility study. The planning agreement will allow the entities to prepare the feasibility study for the potential licensing proposal of the Potter Valley Project that will materially benefit both the Eel River and the upper Russian River basins and advance an eight-part shared objectives agreement. The planning agreement includes the ability to add additional parties who are willing to work toward solutions to meet these shared objectives.

The Potter Valley Project is a hydroelectric facility that results in an inter-basin water transfer delivering water from the Eel River basin to the headwaters of the Russian River. The main facilities are two dams on the Eel River, a diversion tunnel and hydroelectric plant. The Project generates up to 9.4 megawatts of power.

Following PG&E’s announcement that they would not seek a new hydroelectric license, FERC set a July 1 deadline for any interested parties to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) and Preliminary Application Document (PAD) to pursue a new license. The planning agreement will allow this regional coalition to meet FERC’s short timeline.

By July 1 the planning agreement partners will file a package with FERC that will include:

  • The Planning Agreement;
  • Notice of Intent that will be conditioned upon the completion of the Feasibility Study, including the creation of a Regional Entity, which will be the license applicant;
  • Pre-Application Document incorporating applicable portions of PG&E’s Pre-Application Document (dated April 2017) and adding appropriate supplementary materials; and
  • Proposed schedule for completing the pre-filing phases of the licensing proceeding and a proposed deadline.

By April 14, 2020, the Feasibility Study will evaluate options and make recommendations for a preferred option to satisfy the following elements:

  • Regional Entity that will apply for a new license and propose to assume the new license if issued. The parties will evaluate various potential structures for the new entity.
  • Project Plan detailing capital modifications as well as operations and maintenance requirements for the delivery of water and hydroelectric power to advance the Shared Objectives;
  • Fisheries Restoration Plan showing measures the Regional Entity will implement to advance the Shared Objectives;
  • Application Study Plan showing those further studies necessary to develop a new license application, including associated consultation procedures and schedule; and
  • Financial Plan including the specific sources of initial funding and subsequent revenues

Sonoma County Supervisor and Sonoma Water Director James Gore said, “A true partnership like this only comes through acknowledging the diversity of needs on the landscape. Here we endeavor to do right by our human built environment and our fisheries. I’m excited about what we can achieve together. This is a great start.”

California Trout Executive Director Curtis Knight also praised the on-going process saying, “The process will build on significant work completed to date by members of the Ad Hoc Committee regarding fish passage above Scott Dam and water supply for both Eel and Russian River basins.”