Russian-Eel River stakeholders effort to find path forward without defunct power plant

Newly formed Russian River Water Forum will consider alternatives without hydroelectric plant that shunted Eel River water into the Russian River.

Photo: Water from the Eel River collects at Van Arsdale Reservoir and flows over Cape Horn Dam. A percentage of the water is redirected through a diversion tunnel to the Potter Valley Powerhouse and into the east fork of the Russian River. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

They come from four counties and have only months to work. Their interests often diverge and sometimes even conflict with one another. But they have a common goal: Find a path forward in a world without Pacific Gas & Electric’s Potter Valley power plant.

The stakeholders include water providers, agricultural users and elected officials whose constituents depend on diversions from the Eel River to help fill Lake Mendocino and feed the upper Russian River in Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

They also include fishery interests that want two aging dams removed from the Eel River to improve fish passage and restore the river’s ecological function. Among those interests are Native American tribes, who for more than a century had their historic fisheries and water sources seized from their control for the benefit of others. The tribes are joined by Humboldt County representatives long troubled by impairment of the Eel River’s salmon fishery and water supply.

And still other interests come from Lake County, which could face the loss of Lake Pillsbury, a well-developed community and recreational hub formed by the impoundment of the Eel River behind Scott Dam.

Finding consensus through the mire would seem a Herculean task — and not a very fun one.

But more than 30 people have agreed to give it a go as members of a newly formed group called the Russian River Water Forum, initiated by the Sonoma County Water Agency and […]

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