FERC/PG&E: Un-Dam the Eel River, Bring the Salmon Home
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It is time to Un-Dam the Eel River
Two dams owned by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) on the Eel River, the Scott Dam and the Cape Horn, known collectively as the Potter Valley Project, are currently up for relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC project number P-77-001). This is a process that only happens every 50 years and this is the second relicensing for these dams, which produce only nine megawatts (about 3 windmills worth) of power. Both public scoping hearings to receive public comments on the dams relicensing have happened out of basin and in non-fishing communities.
The Eel River is the third largest salmon-bearing river in California and once hosted up to 800,000 salmon a year, which supported the commercial fishing industry and Tribal subsistence fishing for the Wiyot, Round Valley, Bear River, Sherwood Valley, and other Tribes. Now fish numbers are about 1% of historical levels and subsistence, commercial and sport fishing opportunities have been strictly curtailed.
The Scott Dam blocks fish passage to between 55-89 miles of habitat for Chinook Salmon and198-288 miles of habitat for steelhead. This dam is very old, has no spillway and presents a safety risk for downstream users. It also creates toxic algae, warms water, and creates many other water quality impacts. The Cape Horn Dam diverts large amounts of water to the Russian River and is is also part of this project.
The dams on the Eel River are not the only issue impacting salmon in this rural watershed, however their removal would be a major step in restoring the Eel River fishery, and making sure Eel River salmon and trout survive the impacts of climate change.
PG&E also uses dangerous chemicals to maintain vegetation around the dams on the Eel River.
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