The Current Magazine Winter 2016/17 - Page 12

In April of 2017, PG&E will formally start the five-year relicensing process of the Potter Valley Project on the upper Eel River as mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Cape Horn and Scott dams in the upper Eel River, which were built in 1908 and 1922, respectively, are the two impoundments and main elements of the Potter Valley Project. In addition to supplying water for hydropower, irrigation, and local residents, water is diverted from Van Ardale Reservoir (formed by Cape Horn Dam) to the Russian River watershed.

Although there is a fish ladder at Cape Horn Dam, which allows fish to access the 12 miles between the two dams, there is no fish passage at Scott Dam and thus migrating fish cannot reach the upper Eel River above Lake Pillsbury—or the drowned stretch of river under the lake once known as "gravelly valley". As part of the Eel River Action Plan, CalTrout approached the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and received a grant to conduct studies of potential spawning and rearing habitat above Lake Pillsbury. With help from its donors, CalTrout matched the grant dollars and used the money to hire researchers at Humboldt State University who have been doing field studies and will have published data available in the Spring of 2017, just in time for the opening of the comment period in the FERC relicensing process.

The FERC Relicensing