About a month ago I toured the McFadden Farm in Potter Valley. This was the first time I had been to Potter Valley and found it to be a beautiful farming community. The McFadden farm grows organic grapes, organic spices and organic beef. The farm has over 300 solar panels and also has its own hydroelectric powerhouse. The reason McFadden has his own hydro system is because his farm is located right where the Potter Valley Project, an underground water diversion system, created in the ’20s, that takes water from the head-waters of the Eel river and transfers it to the Russian river watershed, empties out. The beautiful lush agricultural Potter Valley would not exist without this diversion and there would be a lot less water in the Russian River.
I grew up on the Eel River. I feel some allegiance to this watershed. However, now I live in the Russian river watershed and I can see that the communities here have become utterly dependent on the Eel River water. I find water politics very interesting and often have so many stakeholders that it is impossible to please everyone. Friends of the Eel (who Mr. McFadden referred to as Nazis) is trying to stop the diversion and bring the water back to the Eel to improve habitat for Salmon and restore the Eel to its natural flow. Meanwhile the powerful agricultural families in Potter Valley and developers in Sonoma County are not willing to let this happen. I do believe that those people claiming the water needs to be brought back to the Eel should visit Potter Valley so they have some idea of what this change would cause this community. However, I also believe that the farmers in Potter Valley could be much more efficient with their water use.
To top it off the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors has been discussing putting in another diversion on the Eel at Dos Rios. What is funny is that the Eel is a wild and scenic river in Humboldt County while in Mendocino County it is looked as a source of water to be diverted to other watersheds for industrial and residential use. Oh, where will it end?
Learn more about the history of the project here