American Rivers
American Rivers

Free the Eel River

Eel River | Photo by Michael Wier, CalTrout

California’s Eel River, known as Wiya’t, Taanchow, and Ch'idiyu to the region’s tribes, was once among California’s most productive rivers. Today the river’s salmon, steelhead trout, and Pacific lamprey fisheries are all on a trajectory towards extinction due in large part to two obsolete dams that comprise Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s (PG&E) Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project (Project). The two dams together block salmonid access to historic spawning grounds, juvenile nursery habitat, and cold water refugia that is critical to the future survival of these species in a warming environment. Adding insult to these injuries, the Potter Valley Project also diverted the Eel River’s flow for power production and agricultural irrigation, though in recent months dam safety issues have rendered the Project obsolete for these purposes. 

The Eel River holds special significance for the Yuki, Pomo, Wailaki, Wiyot, Nomlaki, Nongatl, Lassik, Sinkyone, Cahto, and other indigenous peoples who have lived along the river since time immemorial. The Eel River waters and fishery populations that sustained these tribes for millennia began to decline with the 1908 construction of Cape Horn Dam and the 1922 construction of the upstream Scott Dam. 

PG&E’s license to operate the Project expired in April 2022. With the Project’s power generation facilities permanently offline, and water storage capacity severely reduced due to seismic concerns, PG&E is working on a plan to surrender and decommission the Project, which will continue interim operations until it is decommissioned. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) plays a key role in determining the future of the Eel River in both the near and long-term by: (1) establishing interim dam operating conditions that are protective of Eel River salmon and other native species; and (2) approving PG&E’s decommissioning plan.  

Please join us in urging FERC to: (1) ensure that interim operations of the Potter Valley Project are protective of Eel River Chinook salmon and steelhead trout; and (2) require that PG&E’s decommissioning plan include removal of both Cape Horn and Scott Dams. 


**This action is only for residents of California.

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