On November 17th, a California utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., announced its plans to remove two dams on the Eel River, by filing an initial draft license surrender application (the 94-page document can be accessed through this link). For simplicity, PG&E started the drawn out process of decommissioning and deconstructing its Potter Valley project–the two 100 years old dams on the Eel. “The draft plan calls for removing Scott and Cape Horn Dams, two of Northern California’s most harmful fish passage barriers, and restoring the Eel River to a free-flowing state,” said Curtis Knight, Executive Director of California Trout. If everything goes to schedule, advocates of free-flowing rivers and healthy, wild fisheries can expect removal to begin in 2028.

“Dam removal will make the Eel the longest free-flowing river in California and will open up hundreds of miles of prime habitat unavailable to native salmon and steelhead for over 100 years,” Trout Unlimited California Director Brian Johnson said in a news release. “This is the most important thing we can do for our salmon and steelhead on the Eel River, and these fisheries cannot afford to wait.”

Restoring the Eel River will give Northern California’s salmon and steelhead runs, which have declined to fractions of historic abundance, a chance and return this resource back to Tribes and communities dependent on free flowing rivers and abundant, wild fisheries. “The Round Valley Indian Tribes have relied on the Eel River and its fishery since time immemorial. Today marks a historic first step in restoring this important cultural and natural resource to health,” said Lewis “Bill” Whipple, President of the Round Valley Indian Tribes Tribal Council. By the time the Eel dams come down, so too will the four on the Klamath River, marking an incredible opportunity for river reconnection and recovering sustainable populations of migratory species throughout the US West Coast.

Cover picture from Cal Trout.

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