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Eel River Dams Coming Down

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has agreed to remove both the Scott and Cape Horn dams.

Eel River Dams Coming Down

Removing the Scott (pictured) and Cape Horn Dams will make the Eel River California’s longest free-flowing river and will reconnect salmon and steelhead with almost 300 miles of cold-water habitat. (Michael Wier photo)

In the Aug-Sep issue of 2022, Fly Fisherman magazine ran a story written by Dick Galland titled “Historic Opportunity.” In that story, the author outlined the historic significance of the Eel River and its steelhead, explained that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) 20-year license to operate dams on the Eel had expired, and announced that a group of conservation organizations intended to sue PG&E to prevent further destruction of the river’s salmon and steelhead populations.

More than a year later, PG&E has agreed to remove the dams, and on November 17, 2023, released a draft of its decommissioning plan for the Potter Valley Project that includes complete and expeditious removal of both Scott and Cape Horn dams.

Removing these dams will make the Eel River California’s longest free-flowing river and will reconnect salmon and steelhead with almost 300 miles of cold-water habitat! Located about 20 miles northeast of Ukiah, Scott and Cape Horn dams are over 100 years old and no longer generate electricity. CalTrout, the Round Valley Indian Tribes, Trout Unlimited and others have long advocated for a free-flowing Eel River to improve the health of the river and its salmon and steelhead populations.

“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.

“CalTrout has been a staunch advocate for removing the Eel River dams and restoring this important watershed from headwaters to estuary,” said Curtis Knight, executive director of CalTrout. “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.”

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