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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
Barn
Peach blossoms in Potter Valley, 2014
Peach blossoms in Potter Valley, March 2014.

PVID Water Availability Status

As of April 1, 2014, the status for our section of the watershed is "Dry" (rather than "critical"), thanks to the late spring rains that filled Lake Pillsbury. In a typical season, Lake Pillsbury would fill and spill several times over; this year, we were fortunate to get it to fill once. PVID expects to have the same water availablity for the 2014 season as 2013. More information is available in this letter from March 20.

Water conservation and vigilance remains critical.

2013 is a record dry year

The calendar year of 2013 was a record dry year in most of California. Ukiah received 7.50" of rain in 2013; the previous record low was 14.01" in 1976. An average rainfall year is 35". Even typically rainy locations like Eureka and Santa Cruz saw dramatically low rainfall - 42% and 16% of normal, respectively. Santa Cruz received only 4.78" of rain in 2013, shattering the 1929 record of 11.85 inches. (30.04 inches is average.)

NWS has prepared a table showing rainfall totals for several sites around the area. Rainfall at the Potter Valley Powerhouse in December 2013 was 0.82" - compared to 13.95" for December 2012 - just 9% of the 9.06" normal rainfall for December.

There was effectively no snowpack January 3, 2014, in the north coast region.

The outlook remains dry for the near future.

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.

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