Feds OK plan to keep more water in Lake Pillsbury reservoir

Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Federal authorities have granted temporary flow reductions aimed at keeping more water in Lake Pillsbury, a small but crucial reservoir high in the Mendocino National Forest that supplies water to the Eel River, Lake Mendocino, the Russian River and the people, farmers and fish dependent on them. The move is aimed at ensuring healthier river flows into the fall.

The changes, implemented Monday by PG&E, which owns the reservoir, will remain in effect until June 18, providing sufficient time for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to collect and review public comments on the changes and make a final determination. A 15-day comment period began Monday. The amount of the flows will vary depending on factors that include how much water is in the lake.

Potter Valley Irrigation District board member Janet Pauli is happy with the decision and optimistic it will remain in place until Dec. 1, as requested. The district is dependent on a water diversion from the Eel River.

“It’s important,” she said of the effort to conserve the water until the next rainy season.

PG&E sought the change largely to maintain at least 10,000 acre feet of water in the reservoir through the fall in order to prevent its banks from sloughing, downstream turbidity and potential blocking of its outlet. There currently is about 38,500 acre-feet of water in the reservoir. An acre-foot is about enough water to fill a football field a foot deep, or supply one household with 893 gallons of water a day for a year.

Environmentalists, water agencies, fisheries officials and farmers hope that holding back water in the reservoir now will mean there will still be water flowing in the fall.

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