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Five groups sue PG&E, claim project harms endangered fish in Eel River

Eel River (FILE)
Eel River (FILE)
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In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, five commercial fishing and conservation groups allege that PG&E is illegally harming the Eel River's salmon and steelhead populations by maintaining and operating the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project.

According to the groups, the project's two dams—the Scott Dam and the Cape Horn Dam—have created a barrier that is preventing the endangered species from accessing a crucial habitat above the dam.

Among the five groups making these claims are Trout Unlimited and Friends of the Eel River.

"They're forced to spawn in these warm waters. It's killing a lot of fish now," Trout Unlimited California Director of Law and Policy Matt Clifford said.

PG&E has stated that it does plan to remove the dams, though it maintains that the project and its dams are in compliance with all environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.

"It's not inconceivable that if all the agencies did what we're hoping they will as quickly as possible, that the dams could be coming out in 2028 or 2030," Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Alicia Hamann said.

In the meantime, the plaintiffs want to ensure that temporary measures are taken to protect the fish and if possible, find ways for them to access the currently-obstructed habitat above the dam.

"It's things like operating that fish ladder in a different way and maybe implementing some short-term fixes through construction," Clifford said.

In a statement provided to North Coast News, PG&E wrote in part, "for the past 100 years of PG&E owning and operating the Potter Valley Project, PG&E has complied with the licenses issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authorizing the operation of the project."

In August 2022, the same five groups behind Wednesday's lawsuit filed a similar suit against FERC, in which the groups called for modification of the project license in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act.


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