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Supporting sustainable food, power, and water for over 100 years

In 1908, a hydroelectric plant was built on the north end of Potter Valley, replacing a coal-fired plant to power the city of Ukiah. Today, roughly 3% of the Eel River watershed is diverted to the Russian River to run the turbines.

Potter Valley Irrigation District provides agricultural water for Potter Valley, in Mendocino County, California, using a portion of the water diverted through the power plant. Potter Valley's family farms produce wine grapes, pears, grass-fed cattle, sheep and other agricultural products valued at over $34 million.

cattle crossingThe Great Green Pumpkin
Picking Blackberries in Potter Valley, July 2015
Picking blackberries in Potter Valley, July 2015

Potter Valley Irrigation District water status update

September 16, 2015

Potter Valley Irrigation District, and our water customers, have been successful in holding our water demands to an absolute minimum. We have made this effort collectively to minimize the economic losses, and maximize storage in Lake Pillsbury to stay above the monthly Target Storage Levels that were established by the Potter Valley Drought Variance Working Group. PVID would like to thank all of our farmers and ranchers for their continued cooperation in helping to insure we have water available to see us through the remainder of the 2015 season.

On September 1st the target storage level of water in Lake Pillsbury was established at 18,000 acre feet (AF). The actual storage ended up being 19,340 AF.

Our October 1st target storage level to meet is 14,000 AF. PVID is confident, with the continued conservation efforts of all water customers, we will be able to continue delivery of water in the same manner as we have been this summer. PVID expects, and encourages, water demand to decrease between mid September and October 15th . Please keep in mind that on October 15th the PVID contract water delivery will drop to 5 cubic feet per second (CFS). Additional water availability will be determined by storage levels in Lake Pillsbury at that time. Who knows, it might even RAIN.

Steve Elliott, Superintendent
Potter Valley Irrigation District

2015 Eel River Cleanup: Saturday, October 17, 2015

Come one, come all! All volunteers are welcomed to the 24th annual Eel River Cleanup. Enjoy the river and do good. Arrive any time between 9am and noon at Pioneer Bridge, north of Potter Valley on Eel River Road at the Eel River. Rain will cancel. More...

Potter Valley Irrigation District water status update

July 17, 2015

This is a water status update of available water to PVID as of 7-17-15. The Target Storage Levels in Lake Pillsbury, in acre feet (AF), as developed by the Potter Valley Drought Work Group, have been met up to August 1, 2015. The target storage level set for September 1, 2015 is 18,000 AF. As of July 17th, Lake Pillsbury Storage was 26,661 AF.

As of July 17, we have 45 days to September 1st. The average daily water release from Pillsbury is 160 AF. This equates to approximately 7,200 AF of use. 26,661 AF minus 7200 AF equals 19,461 AF. 1,461 AF above the September 1st target storage level of 18,000 AF. Water deliveries through the month of August are expected to continue as they have been. We will continue to report our water status as the season evolves. Pears and grapes seem to be about three weeks early this year and irrigated pasture is working toward a second cutting.

As a reminder, per PVID Bylaws, The Board of Directors of Potter Valley Irrigation District will not tolerate water running off of your fields. If, after notification by the Superintendent, the water runoff is not addressed, water delivery to that property may be turned off until the next rotational delivery.

Steven Elliott, Superintendent
Potter Valley Irrigation District

Water Year Reclassified as Dry

Due to the present drought situation, PVID has been in communication with Pacific Gas & Electric, National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Friends of Eel River, Round Valley Indian Tribe, and Sonoma County Water Agency in an effort to draft a variance proposal to FERC that we hope will go into effect by May 15, 2015. This group of agencies will be known as the Potter Valley Drought Working Group. This action will move the Eel River, and the East Branch Russian River into a dry year classification rather than normal, and help protect the PVID Contract water delivery. Lake Pillsbury storage is in jeopardy of being below 10,000 acre feet (minimum safe pool) by September if we don't conserve now.

The following data will help explain where we are now, and where we hope to be by November 1, 2015.

On May 1, 2014 storage was 68,625 AF and on May 1,2015, one year later, storage was only 42,969 AF

Lake Pillsbury Water Projections, in acre-feet
DateProjected StorageTarget Storage Level
July 1 32,299 26,000
Aug 1 25,857 22,000
Sept 1 19,633 18,000
Oct 1 13,899 14,000
Nov 1 10,000 12,000

The Variance flows if approved by FERC at the Dry Year releases in Cubic Feet/Second:

E-11= Below Cape Horn Dam = 9 cfs
E-11 = Buffer flow = 3 cfs
E-16 = EBRR = 25 cfs
E-16 = buffer flow = 3 cfs
E-16 = PVID = 50 cfs

As the summer progresses the Potter Valley Drought Working Group will meet bi-weekly to address storage levels in Lake Pillsbury and consult if target numbers are not being met. These meetings will help determine how to further adjust flows if necessary. FERC will receive monthly progress reports. The drought variance will be in place until Dec 1.

If storage in Lake Pillsbury falls below the target storage level set for each month then it can be expected that reductions in the EBRR flow will be made. This could immediately reduce the amount of water available to PVID by 20 cfs. This would leave PVID with only 50 cfs instead of 75 cfs as is normally needed during periods of peak demand. If this happens, PVID expects to be able to deliver your normal CFS rate but at an extended rotational delivery schedule. This increase in rotational schedule is estimated to extend delivery intervals by 25% to 30% longer. PVID will notify everyone if this change is required.

Please remember, we are in a drought of record. PVID Bylaws must, and will be, strictly enforced.

Chronic and excessive tail water running off your field will be grounds for termination of water delivery. The Board of Directors will be the final authority in this matter. Remember, while water is running off your field it is considered wasting water, and there will be other customers waiting for it!

Please, feel free to contact one of our Directors or the Superintendent with any questions. Printable PDF version

Water Rate Increase

The contract price that Potter Valley Irrigation District (PVID) pays to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has recently been renegotiated, which will cause a rise in water rates. A letter with the new rates has been sent out to all customers.

New Documents

Check out our new interactive map of the Eel River watershed. It includes major and minor watershed boundaries, USGS stream gauges, popups with pictures and data at points of interest, and major peaks overlaid on a satellite image.

The PVID Documents & Data page collects scientific papers, government reports, regulatory documents, and other relevant data and information for the Eel River and Russian River systems. In some cases, we have scanned or acquired papers that were not previously available in electronic format to make them available here, such as Kubicek, P.F. 1977., which is a key study of Eel River summer temperatures.

Potter Valley Project 2012 Block Water Releases & Guidelines (12 MB PDF) is from a July 30, 2012 presentation to the Eel-Russian River Commission Meeting by Dick Butler and Jeffery Jahn of NMFS. This is an excellent discussion of the use of Lake Pillsbury block water and considerations used to determine whether proposed water releases are appropriate and beneficial to fish.

Potter Valley Project Block Water Request 2014 - NMFS/CDFW press release discussing their 2014 block water request of 2,085 acre-feet for the purpose of lowering and monitoring the water temperature from Lake Pillsbury to Outlet Creek to protect juvenile steelhead from August 15 through October 11. The release will be closely monitored to determine its effectiveness and also to inform future models of the system.

C. Hypotheses and Effectiveness Monitoring

This blockwater release will test the following hypotheses:

  1. Increased releases from Lake Pillsbury through the Scott Dam needle valve will increase the extent of the optimal coldwater rearing zone (≤ 20°C) between Scott and Cape Horn dams.
  2. Increased releases from Lake Pillsbury through the Scott Dam needle valve will decrease water temperature and increase habitat availability (using flow as indicator) downstream of Cape Horn Dam to Tomki Creek.
  3. Sufficient reservoir storage will sustain a coldwater pool that effectively maintains favorable steelhead temperature-dependent interaction conditions between Scott and Cape Horn dams.

The following data will be gathered to test these hypotheses:

The latest Russian River frost water regulation decision (2.7 MB PDF) was reached on 9/26/12. The State Water Resources Control Board's Section 862 frost water regulation on the Russian River was judged an improper exercise of the Board's authority. The Findings of Fact contains a substantial narrative discussing frost protection in the Russian River watershed and the use of water for this purpose. While these frost water regulations excluded Potter Valley, it is worth reading the narrative to get a better understanding of water issues on the Russian River system.

We've created a new interactive graph of Van Arsdale Fish Counts showing all historical data from VAFS starting in 1933. You can also download the raw data in CSV form, if you wish. The graph makes it easy to compare the counts of the different species and to see how counts have changed over the years.

potter valley panorama