A River of Opportunity

A River of Opportunity, Eel River, Dam Removal, Potter Valley Project

The Eel is a river of opportunity. Seizing these opportunities can have impacts far beyond our watershed. When you support Friends of the Eel River, you are a part of precedent-setting litigation, helping shift the culture of unjust water management, and preserving habitat essential to protecting endangered species.

Did you know that once the Potter Valley Project is removed from the headwaters, the Eel River will be California’s longest free-flowing river? We’re excited to earn this badge of honor, but mostly we’re excited to see chinook salmon, summer and winter steelhead, pacific lamprey, and other migratory fish return to the prime spawning and rearing habitat in the upper basin.

Scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service have verified that the mainstem headwaters behind Scott Dam maintain cool water throughout hot, dry summers. That thermal refuge also provides escape from predation by invasive pikeminnow. Access to over 280 miles of habitat trapped behind Scott dam will be especially beneficial for the Endangered Northern California summer steelhead. The potential for recovery of this unique run of native fish also lies in the genes of rainbow trout behind the dam – some of their offspring could become summer steelhead if given access to the sea.

Please consider a generous donation today – our efforts to expedite Eel River dam removal are the best hope for the world’s southernmost run of summer steelhead.

Did you hear we are suing both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and PG&E for violations of the Endangered Species Act? This is perhaps one of the most significant legal challenges we’ve embarked on and we’re honored to be joined by our partners at the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Trout Unlimited, California Trout, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources. This litigation is expensive; we know we can rely on all of your support to make this happen. A win in this case will have implications far beyond the Eel River.

River of Opportunity, Eel River, Groundwater, Salmon, Steelhead
Mainstem Eel River disconnected 8.29.2014 | David Sopjes

Of course, we also have to ensure salmon and steelhead have the habitat and conditions they need downstream. That means reconnecting the incredible 7-square-mile estuary and maintaining adequate migration flows upstream. We’ve been engaging with Humboldt County’s effort to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan – a process which appears to actually obscure impacts of groundwater pumping. When flows are high the Eel has plenty of water to share. But during dry times, which are more and more frequent, we must be cautious about water use regardless of whether the straw dips into surface flows directly or indirectly via groundwater.

This is why we just filed a public trust lawsuit to protect flows in the Lower Eel. We hope this action will result in Humboldt County developing a regulatory program for groundwater use which protects surface flows during critically dry times.

In 2023 we look forward to getting out onto the landscape more with all of you. We are making plans to once again host public hikes and to develop more opportunities to get our hands dirty protecting the public spaces we care about.

Members will be notified of these opportunities first, so please make a donation today to ensure your membership is active.*

And speaking of getting out and appreciating the rugged Eel River, the Great Redwood Trail is well on its way to becoming a reality! I’m thrilled to share that Mendocino Railway’s efforts to take a portion of the right-of-way have been rejected and the newly formed Great Redwood Trail Agency has begun their master planning process. We worked fervently over the last year to protect the North Coast from the threat of transporting coal via rail. Now we can finally close the door on that scary chapter and step out onto a new path. We are at the beginning stages of forming a Great Redwood Trail Friends chapter for Humboldt County, please contact us if you know any entities that would like to join.

Taking action in your own backyard, saving your salmon, produces ripples of positive impacts. You’re helping grow trees upstream, providing nutritious meals for future generations, and helping the near-magic of ecology thrive.

Thank you for sticking with us and helping to Free the Eel!

For the fishes,




Alicia Hamann

Executive Director

PS – A survey of Washington State residents shows people were willing to pay $30-$97 per household for salmon recovery efforts in the 1990s. What are local salmon runs worth to you today?

*Active members have made at least one donation within the last 12 months