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 have been providing 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: July 2021

PG&E filed a variance to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on April 23rd. The main goal of the variance is to retain storage in Lake Pillsbury at a minimum of 12,000 acre feet to avoid potential bank sloughing behind the dam that could lead to operational constraints for water releases. The full language of the variance can be seen here.

Comments on the variance were requested by FERC to be submitted by June 4, 2021. Mendocino County Farm Bureau submitted comments that included signatures from our members. A copy of the comment letter can be seen here.

As a response to the comments and request for interventions received, FERC requires additional time to review the input beyond the original date of June 21st. Therefore, on June 17th FERC released on order granting an extension of the temporary flow variance from the original expiration of May 5th to August 31st.  

Within this variance, the total amount of water diverted through the Project was reduced starting around May 1st. As of July 9th the inflow into Lake Mendocino from the East Fork is around 8 cubic feet per second (CFS). The historic low for this date was 4 CFS in 1977. The inflow last year on the same date was 39 CFS.

As seen in the graphs below, storage levels in Lake Mendocino and Lake Pillsbury have been declining since May. This in itself isn’t unusual based on seasonal supply and demand for the system. However, with the significantly reduced inflow into Lake Mendocino, additional measures have been implemented to preserve storage in Lake Mendocino. These include extended minimum in stream flow variances (25 CFS required at Healdsburg), regulatory orders applied to 400+ water rights by the State Water Resources Control Board, conservation mandates for municipal water use, etc.

Two things need to be remembered about this system, 1) the critical importance of stored water and 2) the historical interconnection between the Upper Eel River and the Russian River through the Potter Valley Project. We have to continue to look at ways of proactively managing the water supply stored in Lake Pillsbury and Lake Mendocino, during both wet and dry years, for multiple beneficial uses. Without these stored water resources, life as we know it would be drastically changed. This change would not be for the better.

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

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.

The recent filing is one of many milestones to be accomplished in getting to the FERC licensing deadline of April 14, 2022. The process will continue to evolve, and we will all have to be engaged in shaping the final outcome. If there are any questions regarding the comment process, please feel free to contact the MCFB office.

Supporting Partners