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
Pear Trees in Potter Valley, April 2015
Pear Trees in Potter Valley, April 2015

The 2015 Mendocino County Farm Bureau Water Tours Have Been Scheduled and Reservations are Now Being Accepted

The one day Potter Valley Project Tour is scheduled for April 23rd

The tour will begin in Potter Valley and will travel to the PG&E Power House where PG&E representatives will discuss the history of the Potter Valley project and the Power House. From the Power House the tour continues to Scott Dam to discuss Lake Pillsbury and a lunch break is taken along the lake. After lunch the tour heads over to Van Arsdale Reservoir to view the fish screen and the Eel River side of the Potter Valley Project diversion. We may also be able to tour the fish counting station at Van Arsdale, depending on coordination with the Department of Fish and Wildife.

The tour will begin at 8 a.m. in Potter Valley and should conclude around 4 p.m. Tour participants are asked to meet in the gravel parking lot located across the street from the Potter Valley Irrigation District office which is located at 10170 Main Street in Potter Valley. Private vehicles can be left in the parking lot and transportation to the facilities will be provided.

Please bring a lunch, snacks and beverages. An ice chest will be provided for food storage as needed.

All participants must wear long pants and closed toed shoes. Safety glasses and hard hats are required to be worn on all PG&E properties and these will be provided.

The two day Eel River Watershed Tour is scheduled for April 30th- May 1st

The Eel River Watershed Tour will start on the morning of April 30th at 8 a.m. in Redwood Valley at 9790 East Road where participants can park personal vehicles. Transportation will be provided.

The tour travels north to Highway 162 and travels east toward Round Valley. Along Highway 162, a number of stops are made to discuss relevant information about the Eel River Watershed. Once the tour reaches the town of Covelo, the tour continues east to view the confluence of the Middle Fork of the Eel River and the Black Butte River. The tour then backtracks into Covelo and travels north up the Mina Road to view the North Fork of the Eel, the Van Duzen River, Ruth Lake on the Mad River and additional relevant locations. The first day of the tour concludes in Humboldt County for an overnight stay in Fortuna. The next morning, the tour continues to the estuary of the Eel River and returns south on Highway 101 where stops are made to discuss the South Fork of the Eel as well as other related watersheds.

Please be prepared to bring lunch for the two days as well as snacks and beverages. Ice Chests will be provided for food storage. Hotel reservations are required and are the responsibility of the tour participants. Please call the Fortuna Best Western Country Inn at (707) 725-6822 to make reservations for the night of April 30th. When making reservations, please specify that you are with the Mendocino County Farm Bureau group to receive the group rate of $ 79.99 plus tax. Reservations must be made by March 31st in order to receive the group rate and please observe the hotel 24 hour cancellation policy if applicable.

The group normally goes to dinner together at a restaurant close to the hotel and a buffet breakfast is provided by the hotel for the morning of May 1st.

Please bring comfortable walking shoes and appropriate clothing to contend with varied weather conditions that can be seen from inland to the coast. Also please note that restroom stops are only available at certain locations along the tour route.

Due to limited space and arrangements needed for travel, please RSVP to the Mendocino County Farm Bureau as soon as possible at (707) 462-6664 if you would like to attend either tour. Farm Bureau members and invited guests are given priority when making reservations.

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