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: May 2021

As all are aware, the low water year in Mendocino County has lead to both a local drought declaration as well as a declaration by the Governor for the Russian River. The Governor’s press event at the bottom of Lake Mendocino made headlines throughout the state, but it was apparent that there is still disconnect in understanding the importance of Lake Pillsbury and the Potter Valley Project to the water supply on the Russian River.

In looking at the picture below of the storage curve at Lake Mendocino as of April 26th, you can see that the lake has actually been gaining storage since February. The Ukiah area did receive around 5.5 inches of rain in February and March which is roughly 47% of normal precipitation for these months. However, the inflow into Lake Mendocino from the East Fork Russian River significantly contributed to this gain in storage.

How does this connect to the Potter Valley Project? Well, the majority of the water that has been coming into Lake Mendocino from the East Fork of the Russian River over the past few months is from the water diverted through the Potter Valley Project. This continued inflow combined with the reduced releases being made out of Lake Mendocino, connected to the Temporary Urgency Change Petition filed by Sonoma Water in January, has allowed for increased storage.

The benefit of the inflow from the Potter Valley Project is about to change. 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.

Within this variance, the total amount of water diverted through the Project will be reduced started on approximately May 1st. The amount of water released into the East Fork of the Russian River will initially be as low as 5 cubic feet per second (CFS). For reference, the releases in April have been around 35 CFS and without the variance would have been 25 CFS as of May 1st.

2021 is not a record water year by any means, but think about how much worse Lake Mendocino would look if the Potter Valley Project water diversion was eliminated. This system has been linked for over 100 years and now, more than ever, it is important for those that depend on this water supply for families, farms, fisheries, fire suppression, economic stability, recreation, etc. to understand the importance of the water provided from the Project.

If you have not done so already, take a moment to watch the video above for a quick review of the Project and the connection to the Russian River. It will be important for people who live and work in the communities along the Russian River to truly know where there water supply comes from, especially as the current licensing process moves forward.

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