Comments to FERC re: Amendment of License for Diversion

March 17 2009

Hon. Kimberly D. Bose
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20426
Re: Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project No. 77-212:
Comments on Draft Environmental Assessment for Application of Amendment of License for Diversion of Water at Lake Pillsbury (Potter Valley Project)
Dear Secretary Bose:

Friends of the Eel River (“FOER”) submit the following comments concerning the Draft Environmental Assessment (“EA”) prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) regarding a proposal (the “Project”) by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (“PG&E”) to divert additional water from the Eel River for frost protection and late fall irrigation activities carried out by the Potter Valley Irrigation District (“PVID”).

As shown below, the EA fails to meet the minimum legal requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§4321 et seq. The EA’s conclusion that the Project will have no significant effect on the human environment is demonstrably erroneous. This conclusion relies on the assumption that the Project will not increase diversions from the Eel River, even though the EA itself acknowledges that such an increase is the primary purpose and chief effect of the Project. Furthermore, the EA uses an incorrect and unsubstantiated “baseline” for analysis of the Project’s environmental impacts. The EA also fails to adequately analyze the Project’s impacts on fisheries, including impacts to threatened and endangered salmonids, and further fails to disclose that the total amount of water proposed for diversion under the Project exceeds both PG&E’s and PVID’s water rights. Finally, the EA fails to analyze cumulative impacts and neglects to consider a range of alternatives. NEPA requires much more.

The Project also threatens to violate the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq. The EA’s conclusion that this Project will not affect listed salmon and steelhead, again, is predicated on erroneous assumptions. Indeed, the sole purpose of this Project is to modify restrictions imposed under the ESA in order to avoid jeopardy to threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Eel River. Accordingly, FERC must reinitiate consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Read our full comments here.