Potter Valley Project Licensing

The Potter Valley Project: 100+ Years of Water Supply...Will It Continue?

Mendocino County Farm Bureau supports local control of the Potter Valley Project.

The support of our membership is what allows us to continue to host events that educate the public and work on critical issues such as water supply. As a member, you will continue to receive updates on the latest developments in the licensing and sale of the Project through your e-letter subscription. Please contact our office if you have an updated e-mail address. If you are not a member, please consider joining the united voice of Farm Bureau.

Taking Action

  • Developed a postcard to provide our community with an opportunity to speak to their elected officials. View more information under the Community Education section.
  • For 15+ years we provided water tours to the public to provide a hands-on understanding of the water system.
  • Keeping our members informed with new developments through our quarterly newsletter and our e-letter subscription.


MCFB has hired a professional communications company to assist in developing messaging and outreach materials so that we can continue to expand our educational campaign related to the Potter Valley Project and related licensing process. The goal of this campaign is to work with the various interests and communities that benefit from the Project so that there is a broad-based understanding of the importance of maintaining the power and water supply. If you are interested in contributing to this effort, donations are being accepted. Please click on the DONATE button below or contact the MCFB office for additional information.

Project Information

Potter Valley Project Update: November 2021

Following the release of the FERC letter responding to the partner entities request for an abeyance on September 23rd, there was a flurry of newspaper articles and additional statements (see Facebook post below from Congressman Huffman from October 1st) made that the licensing process was now going to transition to a license surrender process and related project decommissioning. This is not accurate. The partner entities have not made a determination to cease the current licensing process with FERC and FERC has not made a determination that PG&E, as the current license holder, should start a license surrender and related decommissioning plan.

Concerned that these public statements were creating more confusion related to the future of the Project, MCFB was asked by several of our members to work on coordinating a correspondence campaign to send to Congressman Huffman and other elected officials. MCFB drafted a letter which can be found HERE and within a week there were over 750 additional signatures added to the letter from concerned citizens in Mendocino County, Sonoma County, Marin County and beyond.

It was unfortunate that the Congressman provided a response to the letter a day before we aggregated the signatures to submit the correspondence to him. The Congressman’s letter can be seen HERE.

MCFB felt that an additional clarifying letter was needed to address several points in the Congressman’s response. For this reason, an additional letter was drafted and submitted along with the letter above and related signatures. The second letter can be seen HERE.

In relation to the licensing efforts, the partner entities submitted an update to FERC on November 22nd which can be seen HERE. The letter is a progress report to FERC and is NOT a declaration that the partners have abandoned the licensing process.

If you have concerns about where a future licensing and/or decommissioning process may go and how it will impact your water supply, you are encouraged to voice this concern. Since FERC is a Federal Agency, our federal representatives connected to the Project need to hear from their constituents. See contact information below. MCFB also has postcards available at our office that can be sent to local, state and federal elected officials.

Congressman Huffman: (202) 225-5161
Congressman Garamendi: (202) 225-1880
Congressman Thompson: (202) 225-3311
** All numbers are in Washington D.C. on EST**

Water Supply Update

The storage curve graph for Lake Pillsbury as of November 20th can be seen below. The flow variance that PG&E filed with FERC earlier this year had the goal of not allowing the storage levels to fall below 12,000 acre feet. In addition, the variance established a termination storage level to be at or above 36,000 acre feet. The October storms provided enough water supply into Lake Pillsbury to increase the storage level above the 36,000 acre foot mark so the temporary variance was terminated.

However, PG&E revealed in late October that an electric transformer necessary for the operation of the powerhouse had degraded to a point that it was at risk of failing. Preliminary estimates indicate an expected timeline of 18 to 24 months to design, manufacturer, and install, with a cost in the $5 to $10 million range.

What this means for the water supply is that PG&E is not able to run water through the powerhouse to make power and has been only bypassing around 45 CFS, 40 CFS for the East Fork Russian River and 5 CFS to Potter Valley Irrigation District to cover stock water needs. Normally, flows through the Project during winter months range from 250-265 CFS.

Without continued conversation with interests in the Eel and Russian as well as elected officials, the reduced inflows will be in place until spring when the license connected to the Project allows for additional water to be bypassed and provided to Potter Valley Irrigation District for frost protection use.

Licensing Information

Initial Study Report
Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Sonoma County Water Agency, California Trout, Inc., the County of Humboldt, California, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes (together, NOI Parties) submitted a an Initial Study Report (ISR) to FERC in mid September 2020. The ISR describes the overall progress in implementing the study plan and schedule and the data collected, including an explanation of any variance from the study plan and schedule. The full Initial Study Report can be found HERE.

File Disagreements and Requests to Amend Study Plan
Stakeholders were able to file disagreements and requests to amend the study plan on November 13, 2020. MCFB submitted comments which can be found HERE. The main points of conversation were related to the importance of analyzing impacts to water users in the newly introduced studies of AQ12 and SE1.

Response to Comments on Initial Study Report
The NOI Parties provided a response to comments document on December 14, 2020. The response document can be found HERE.

FERC Determination
FERC was scheduled to release a “Director’s determination on disagreements and amendments ” on January 13, 2021. The document was finally released from FERC on March 16, 2021. The document can be seen HERE

Abeyance Request
In a letter dated September 2, 2021, the partner entities (IWPC, Sonoma Water, Cal Trout, Humboldt County and Round Valley Tribes) submitted a request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for an abeyance (temporary suspension) in the current schedule for the licensing as provided by FERC until May 31, 2022. Also included in the notice are a series of technical memorandums discussing sedimentation analysis from possible dam removal scenarios and an overview of work completed to date by the partners on the license related studies. The full document can be seen HERE

On September 23,2021, FERC responded to the request for an abeyance. Within this response, FERC granted an abeyance, but only through April 14, 2022 to coincide with the current license expiration date. In addition, FERC requested that the partner entities submit a status report on the process of forming the Regional Entity that will be ultimately filing the Project license application and a plan for gathering the information needed to support the license application, including completing the required studies, within 60 days (approximately mid November). It was also requested by FERC that an additional progress report be submitted by January 31, 2022, if the Regional Entity is not formed by the due date for the first 60-day progress report. The full FERC response can be seen HERE.

Timeline for Future Actions
Within Scoping Document 3 released by FERC in July 2020, a timeline was provided as Appendix A for a process plan and schedule for the licensing. This is a general timeline, but a good reference to review. Appendix A can be seen HERE

If you would like to sign up to receive updates related to any future filings connected to the Potter Valley Project, you can do so by visiting the FERC website and going to the e-subscription page. If you have not registered with FERC, you will have to register before proceeding with the e-subscription. Once registered you can sign up to receive information related to docket P-77-000, which is the Potter Valley Project.

Supporting Partners