Temporary Flow Variance Approved for Eel and Russian Rivers


April 1, 2014

The temporary variance issued on February 3 is now terminated, based on Lake Pillsbury meeting the “dry” year designation in mid-March. See this letter from FERC to PG&E.

March 26, 2014

When FERC granted the flow variance extension to PG&E on February 3, they required that PG&E file monthly reports that provide the status of inflow to Lake Pillsbury, actual minimum flows provided, and an estimate of when the temporary variance will no longer be necessary. The first of these reports was filed on February 28, stating that PG&E has determined a continued need for the variance.  The second report, filed on March 25 states that there is no longer a need for the approved variance.  See links below to read the full reports.

February 4, 2014

On February 3, FERC granted the flow variance extension to PG&E until “such time as inflows reach the “dry” year inflow classification. However, if the licensee requires an extended variance until inflows reach the “normal” designation, it may request an additional variance, after further consultation with the resource agencies and stakeholders”

On February 2, Friends of the Eel River filed a comment/protest.

January 17, 2014

On January 15, PG&E requested an extension to the flow variance they were granted by FERC in December. They requested to be “granted temporary variance until reduced flows are no longer operationally necessary and inflow to Lake Pillsbury meets the “dry” or “normal” flow requirements.

On January 15, Friends of the Eel River filed a motion to intervene.

January 3, 2014

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, owners of the Pottery Valley Project have requested and been granted permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reduce flows to the main stem Eel River at Cape Horn Dam, from Lake Pillsbury at Scott Dam, and into the East Branch of the Russian River.  This is a temporary variance, valid until January 31, 2014.

The Sonoma County Water Agency followed, requesting permission from the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce releases from Lake Mendocino to the Russian River. Their request was also granted

See documents and media coverage below for additional details.

Media Documents
FOER Protests PG&E’s Flow Reduction to Eel River, Calls for Revisions to License

Virginia Graziani, Redwood Times, January 28 2014

Termination of Temporary Variance

This letter from FERC to PG&E acknowledges PG&E’s March 25 monthly report, and documents the termination of the temporary variance.

April 1, 2014

PG&E Seeks More Flow Reductions to Eel and Russian Rivers

Virginia Graziani, Redwood Times, January 14 2014

Potter Valley Project Variance Update 2

The second monthly report from PG&E to FERC, stating that although “dry” classification happens on the first of the month, Lake Pillsbury storage levels now meet “dry” classification for April 1 and there is no longer a need to continue the variance.

March 25, 2014

Water Officials Cut Russian River Releases from Lake Mendocino

Sean Scully, The Press Democrat, January 2 2014

Potter Valley Project Variance Update

The first monthly report from PG&E to FERC showing the status of inflow to Lake Pillsbury and explaining why the variance cannot yet be lifted.

February 28, 2014

A Woeful Year of Rainfall May Bring Water Limits for 2014

Sean Scully, The Press Democrat, December 30 2013

Lake Pillsbury at 13 percent of capacity

Lake Pillsbury at 13 percent of Capacity on December 30 (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Order Granting Extension of Temporary Variance

From FERC to PG&E, reiterating PG&E’s January 15 request, summarizing background information and input/comments from agencies and public, and granting extension of variance until inflows to Lake Pillsbury reach the “dry” year classification.

February 3, 2014

Action Alert: PG&E Complicates Climate Energy on the Eel River

Gary Graham Hughes, EPIC, December 19 2013

Friends of the Eel River Comment/Protest

     Under the present extreme and extraordinary circumstances, Friends of the Eel River concurs that FERC should immediately grant the extension requested by PG&E on Jan 14 of this year to the variance that has been in effect for the Potter Valley Project since mid December of 2013.

     Please note that FOER’s support for continued extension of the flow variance and limited releases to the Eel River is necessarily limited to the present circumstances, and is not intended as a withdrawal of any of the points made in our comment letter of Weds, Jan 15, 2014. Nor have we seen any reason to change our position that any continued diversions to the Russian River, now running at a steady 10 cfs actual, over a 5 cfs floor, are unjustified given the relative importance of flows for salmonids in the mainstem Eel River.

 February 2, 2014

Water Agency Seeks New Approach to Russian River Flow

Sean Scully, The Press Democrat, Decmeber 19 2013

Friends of the Eel River Motion to Intervene

January 15, 2014

Sonoma County Seeks State’s OK to Cut Russian River Water Releases

Sean Scully, The Press Democrat, December 15 2013.

Read the comment posted by David Keller, Friends of the Eel River Bay Area Director, for a reminder of the problematic nature of the Russian River’s reliance on water from the Eel River.

Extension Request for Flow Variance Due to Limited Water Availability

From PG&E to FERC, includes a graph of monthly inflow to Lake Pillsbury from 10/10 to 12/13, as well as responses from National Marine Fisheries, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Round Valley Indian Tribes.

January 15, 2014

PG&E Seeks Reduction in Releases to Eel River Due to Drought

Virginia Graziana, Redwood Times, December 10 2013

Flows from Potter Valley Project into Eel and Russian Rivers

Flows from PVP

Click here for data

Proposed Minimum Flow RequirementsCurrent and Proposed Minimum Flow Requirements for the Eel and Russian RiversThe above variance will be temporarily permitted until January 31, 2014.

Order Granting Temporary Variance of Minimum Flow Requirements 

From FERC to PG&E, allows for temporary variance until January 31, 2014.

December 12, 2013

Urgent Request for Flow Variance Due to Limited Water Availablility

From PG&E to FERC, includes consultation responses from National Marine Fisheries, CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Round Valley Indian Tribes.

December 9, 2013

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