By Dayna Ghirardelli, Executive Director
A few months ago, I wrote about the Russian River Water Forum (RRWF) by introducing its intended purpose to find solutions around the Potter Valley Project. (PVP) I hope my communication clearly conveyed that I had a lot to learn on the topic. Since then I’ve begun to grasp the various players, stakeholders, impacts, deadlines, and the acronyms that go with all of them.
At the first RRWF planning group meeting, each group was asked to submit an interest statement. The Sonoma County agriculture representatives made clear that the goal of their participation is “to contribute to the process of developing long-term water diversion solutions that guarantee access to water.” While this group does not agree with the deconstruction of any dams, continued water diversion to the Russian River is critical. (Read the full interest statement on page ___.) The entire statement conveys their intent, goal, and recognition that while the final blueprint for maintaining the diversion may not look exactly as they would want it, they’ll remain neutral on the more controversial components. Conversely, I listened to folks during their self-introduction at the first planning group meeting say that their only purpose for participating was to ensure, at all costs, that the dams come down.
How can a group of varying interests come together to find collective resolve if there are those who won’t give a little? I commend the Sonoma County Water Agency for, at the very least, bringing all factions to the table.
Planning group meetings have been convened monthly since May. Prior to the August meeting, a proposal called the “New Eel-Russian Facility” was submitted to PG&E by the Sonoma County Water Agency, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, and Round Valley Indian Tribes to advance a regional solution for preserving flows in the Russian River and improving Eel River fisheries. (See the entire press release on page ___.)
As expected, this was the topic of conversation at the August planning group meeting, and in true fashion, it was met with resistance. One would think the resistance would be centered around an unlivable situation, rather the focus was on not being privy to the proposal prior to submission. I was quite surprised by the amount of time that was consumed discussing what some felt as being blindsided. I personally felt like we finally had something to talk about.
Without this proposal, PG&E’s decommissioning plan would have included the removal of the PVP and all its components that facilitate water diversion to the Russian River. While there’s much yet left to consider, the bones of this proposal imply a sustained long-term water diversion to the Russian River so considering the Ag representative’s interest statement, this seems promising.
Under this proposal, discussions on the future of Cape Horn and Van Arsdale Dams are on the table, though I’m hopeful “modification” ensues over the “removal” of the facilities at Cape Horn Dam to allow for upstream and downstream fish migration. I cannot understand why, at a time when we are experiencing dry weather more often, and when even Governor Newsom recognizes the need for more water storage in California, we are entertaining the idea of taking infrastructure down. There are over $7 billion in bonds earmarked for water supply infrastructure projects as desired by the voters of California when they passed Proposition 1 in 2014, yet there is continued pressure to completely remove water storage that has been in place and depended on for over a century.