For the last several years, I’ve been optimistically sharing that if everything fell perfectly into place, the Eel River Dams could be out of the river by 2030. We’ve just learned that my optimistic timeline may turn out to be realistic. People like you who keep our bills paid deserve huge credit.
Friends of the Eel River has consistently held strong positions, made strategic moves, and played critical roles driving toward dam removal.
For years we’ve exposed serious dam safety concerns present at Scott Dam. We’ve commissioned studies, reviewed and cataloged dam safety documents, and decried the opaque nature of classifying dam safety documents. And we’ve written to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, PG&E, and a range of elected officials with our concerns that PG&E was ignoring significant dam safety issues at Scott Dam. This spring, in response to a seismic risk study of Scott Dam ordered by the California Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD), PG&E announced it would never again completely fill the Lake Pillsbury reservoir.
Along with a group of conservation and fishing industry advocates, we’ve brought federal suits against both FERC and PG&E for violations of the Endangered Species Act. These actions articulate numerous harms both Scott and Cape Horn Dams cause to listed species. Together, both lawsuits underscore the need for expedited dam removal.
And finally, we’ve dedicated countless hours to developing clear, factual, scientifically accurate explanations of the project, its operations and effects, how it harms the ecosystem, and the unmatched opportunity that dam removal offers for recovery. We do our best to address the tide of misinformation, to speak truth to power in seeking an end to injustices the Potter Valley Project has forced upon Eel River communities over the last century.
Compared to other dam removal projects, it feels like a free-flowing Eel River is just around the corner. But don’t get me wrong, correcting a century of injustice is an uphill battle all the way to the end. We need to keep up this steady pace to ensure that the fish make it home before it’s too late.
Of course, as I hear many wise people say in this era of removing barriers, dam removal is just the beginning.
We also need to make sure that endangered species like the Northern California summer steelhead have the full protection of both the state and federal laws to help them recover. In 2021 we succeeded in listing the southernmost run of summer steelhead as Endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. Soon we will re-petition the federal government to secure a similar listing with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Of course, there must be sufficient flow and quality habitat throughout the watershed to allow for our native fish to thrive. This is why we brought suit against Humboldt County, to ensure that groundwater use in the lower river is appropriately managed when dry conditions require curtailment. And to protect the public trust values in a flowing Eel River.
There’s much work to be done to catch up on decades of neglected road maintenance. We are continuing to work with Humboldt County, using our Cannabis Mitigation grant program, to fund sediment reduction projects in sensitive salmonid habitat.
Finally, we need to make sure everyone can access this wonderful river! How else are we to continue cultural practices that have shaped the river and its people since the beginning of time, or to encourage new generations to fall in love with the river? Through our work with the Great Redwood Trail Friends and partnering with allies like the Wiyot Tribe and local fishing and boating communities, we are protecting historical river access points and identifying appropriate locations for new access.
In April American Rivers listed the Eel as one of the ten Most Endangered Rivers ™ in the nation. This listing is given to rivers at a crossroads, with real opportunity to solve a pressing threat. We are thankful for this opportunity to draw some much-needed attention to our very special watershed, and to rally widespread support for starting the long process of recovery for the Eel, its fisheries, and our communities.
For the Fish,