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Local News

Lake County objects to leaving spillway gates open

Wilderness with a thin river snaking through it, seen from above.
Lake Berryessa wilderness, with the Eel River making its way to Scott Dam.

Lake County reps say Lake Pillsbury serves several important functions that aren't being considered in the future of the Potter Valley Project.

The spillway gates on Scott Dam remain open, almost a week after they are typically closed. PG&E, which owns and operates the Potter Valley hydroelectric Project, announced in mid-March that the gates will remain open indefinitely. This will cause an estimated 20% reduction in the water levels of Lake Pillsbury. PG&E told FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that an initial engineering assessment indicated that leaving the gates open is a necessary seismic safety measure. Meanwhile, PG&E is about twenty months away from the deadline to submit a plan to surrender the project. It’s still unknown how long that will take, or what exactly it will entail.

In 2021, when a transformer broke in the powerhouse, the utility declared its intention to spend $5-$10 million to repair it, in the belief that it would generate enough electricity to amortize during the surrender process. But just a few days after the announcement about leaving the spillway gates open, PG&E informed FERC that it “no longer intends to replace the Potter Valley transformer.”

The future of the project has been uncertain for years. And multiple committees, composed mainly of water users in the Russian River watershed and environmental advocates on the Eel River side, have struggled to reach a compromise. But Lake County Counsel Lloyd Giuntivano and Carol Cinquini, of the Lake Pillsbury Alliance, say one group has been consistently sidelined throughout the talks…

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.