Preserving the Eel River and its Cultural Uses
Fly the Valley and Eel with Round Valley Indian Tribes leaders who are engaging in the efforts to protect the Eel River, and fly with students who were graduating high school later that very day! And later, fly with press reporting on the dam removal campaign and what that will mean for the Eel and the region's water.
The Wild and Scenic Eel River flows through north-central California. Once one of the largest salmon producing rivers in the state, the river has supported Indigenous people since time immemorial with water and sustenance in the form of salmon, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey. But these culturally important species have been reduced to just a fraction of their former abundance by historic logging, water diversions, road building, pollution, and by a hydroelectric project that entombs the headwaters of the Eel River behind two aging dams.
Scott and Cape Horn dams form the Potter Valley Project and divert water out of the Eel River headwaters and into the Russian River. Cape Horn Dam is the first obstruction salmon swimming upstream face. The dam, built in 1908, has a fish ladder, although some species like lamprey are still unable to navigate past the dam. 12 miles upriver, Scott Dam completely blocks fish from accessing a 300 square mile watershed. The headwaters behind the dams represent some of the most important habitat for salmon in the entire Eel River watershed.
EcoFlight's partners are advocating to remove these dams to save the Eel's salmon and steelhead runs and to restore natural riverine flows and temperatures that will promote a healthy ecosystem. The obsolete dams no longer generate electricity, and recently, dam safety concerns have forced the owner of the dams, Pacific Gas and Electric, to reduce the volume of water stored behind Scott Dam. PG&E is expected to propose to remove both dams as part of their license surrender and decommission plan due later this year. The Eel River was named one of American Rivers’ Most Endangered Rivers of 2023
, highlighting the importance, urgency, and necessity of dam removal for the health of the river.
Dam removal would make the Eel – already one of the most protected rivers in the state – California’s longest free flowing river. It would also provide restorative justice for local Tribes that have long depended on the Eel River as central to their cultural identity and as a source of traditional food.