Potter Valley Irrigation District Logo

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
Lamb on pasture
Lamb on pasture, April 2017

Potter Valley Project Relicensing: Your Public Comments are needed by August 4!

In order to continue operating Lake Pillsbury, Scott Dam, and Van Arsdale Dam, along with the diversion that runs the Potter Valley Project 9.4 MW hydropower plant and provides water to the Potter Valley Irrigation district past 2022, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) must obtain a new FERC license. At the current time PG&E is not proposing to add capacity or make any major modifications to the Project or its operation.

If you live in the Russian River watershed, and especially in Potter Valley, this project provides a significant share of your water supply. There are groups vocal in expressing their desire to remove Scott Dam and Lake Pillsbury and ultimately decommission the project. If they prevail, Potter Valley will lose its summer water supply.

Now is the time to submit the first round of written public comments through August 4. Click the link for full instructions to do so. Please take the time to help protect our water supply.

PVID Status Update June 25, 2017

It was the end of May before water season got into full swing. Some years we get started in March. Frost season this year was near non-existent. Lake Pillsbury is only six feet below the full mark and flows have been consistently above the minimum requirements below Cape Horn Dam and normal flows from storage are being released through the Project into the East Branch Russian River. This is good news for everyone, green hydro power, domestic and industrial, agriculture, and fisheries.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is holding their first Public Scoping Meeting to take public and agency comments on the FERC Relicensing of the PG&E Potter Valley Project. This meeting is on June 28, 2017 at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center. There will be two meetings, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. PVID will be posting all of our comments and documentation on our website as this process evolves. PG&E'S FERC License is up for renewal in 2022 but they are required to start the process 5 years prior to that date.

PVID has been extremely busy since it stopped raining. We have rebuilt the Williams Creek Flume with steel. Replacement of the wooden supports for the steel pipeline lateral crossing Busch Creek was severely damaged during one of the large storms this winter. We replaced the center stream supports with a steel angle frame mounted to the stream bank footings. We installed 1300 feet of 18” dia. PVC pipe in one of our open dirt ditch laterals and installed five new galvanized steel gates here to better control water deliveries and loss of water. We are currently cleaning and rebuilding portions of our main canal system and replacing wooden slide delivery gates with steel toggle gates. We still have much to do. We are in the design and engineering phase of rebuilding the 270 feet long Busch Creek Flume, replacing a 40 foot property access culvert in lateral #36 on Powerhouse Road, and we will continue hand cleaning our delivery laterals.

I would like to remind everyone that our water rates for 2017 into 2019 have increased as our contract with PG&E stipulates. PVID will be paying $10.00 per acre foot and our customers will be charged $12.50 per acre foot. I would also like to welcome our new Office Assistant, Dana Harrison to our team. Excluding the school summer break she will be in the office 4 hours per day to help us keep up with a multitude of programs and required federal, state and county regulations.

Just a reminder, please maintain a record of each irrigation, and stay in contact with your Water Tender. A calendar works well for logging the start date & time, and the stop date & time.

Steven Elliott, Superintendent
Potter Valley Irrigation District

Potter Valley Project Relicensing

In order to continue operating Lake Pillsbury, Scott Dam, and Van Arsdale Dam, along with the diversion that runs the Potter Valley Project 9.4 MW hydropower plant and provides water to the Potter Valley Irrigation district past 2022, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) must obtain a new FERC license. At the current time PG&E is not proposing to add capacity or make any major modifications to the Project or its operation. The initial documents have been submitted and the process is underway. The Potter Valley Project is a critical water resource for Potter Valley.

Documents relating to the process, including presentations shown at the March public meeting, can be found at http://www.pge.com/pottervalley. You can also find instructions there to be notified by email of FERC activity on this project, and this overview of the project that includes many historical and contextual images of the Project.

PVID Update, February 13, 2017

Well, I expect everyone is aware that our rainfall since October is at 50". Compare this to 2014 for the same time period of only 6.70". This heavy rainfall seems great on the surface, and Potter Valley Irrigation District depends on this rain, and snow, for water storage in Lake Pillsbury. Even though 520,000 acre feet of water has flowed over the crest of Scott Dam so far this year, Lake Pillsbury can only store 57,000 acre feet of a total capacity of 75,000 until the top ten foot high gates are closed April 1st each year.

We are doing our best to insure that a water control variance is not required like the last three years. PVID has impressed upon PG&E, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Potter Valley Drought Working Group (PVDWG) of which all agree, that weather patterns and snow pack must be analyzed closely in February and March so the gates on Scott Dam can be closed early enough to fill the lake. The mechanics of accomplishing this are varied and too lengthy to explain here. Needless to say, we are working on it.

Busch Creek Flume, Jan 10, 2017
Busch Creek Flume, Jan 10, 2017

The wet weather since October has slowed our construction and maintenance projects. With materials on hand for three projects, we are performing as many offsite portions of the work as possible. We are also working on our budget, and preparing for the 2016 financial audit.

PG&E is holding a Public Meeting to explain the procedures required for their FERC Relicensing on March 9, 2017 at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center. There will be two meetings, 1:00 to 4:00 PM and 6:00 to 9:00 PM. PG&E'S FERC License is up for renewal in 2022 but they are required to start the process 5 years prior to that date.

I would like to remind everyone that our water rates for 2017 and 2018 have increased as our contract with PG&E stipulates. PVID will be paying $10.00 per acre foot and our customers will be charged $12.50 per acre foot.

Just a reminder, please maintain a record of each irrigation, and stay in contact with your Water Tender. A calendar works well for logging the start date & time, and the stop date & time.

Steven Elliott,
Superintendent
Potter Valley Irrigation District

Featured Documents

Check out our 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 Economic Impacts of Water and Agricultural Industries: Inland Mendocino County - 2015 study documenting the economic value of water and water storage in the Upper Russian River watershed.
Memorandum: Dependable Yield for Coyote Valley Dam (Lake Mendocino) - UC Davis memo discussing water management for Lake Mendocino under drought conditions.

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.

Busch Creek Flume, Jan 10, 2017
Busch Creek Flume, Jan 10, 2017

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