Winery Waste Discharge Meeting

Coalition in Mendocino County forming to acquire Potter Valley Project

“During her talk, Pauli said “We have been putting together a coalition (because) it’s going to take effort from everyone who is dependent on this project to move forward and acquire it. I would say that our desired future outcome for the Potter Valley Project is to maintain the water supply reliability that this economy, and our communities, have evolved with since the 1920s. But at the same time, work on a shared resource plan and the protection of the environment that is part of our quality of life, not just on the Eel River, but on the Russian River, too.”

Coalition in Mendocino County forming to acquire Potter Valley Project

By Justine Frederiksen, Ukiah Daily Journal, 5/10/19

In Ukiah Thursday, at least two dozen people who depend on the Potter Valley Project for their farming operations gathered at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds to hear an update on the facility’s future.

“New information to come shortly, and a lot of work still to do,” said Janet Pauli, chairwoman of the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, a Joint Powers Authority that is exploring the possibility of acquiring the facility that Pacific Gas and Electric owns, but has essentially abandoned.

When pressed further for details after her talk, Pauli said “You’ll just have to be patient,” but did add, when asked if the news would be coming from the IWPC or Rep. Jared Huffman’s office, that “The news will be coming from all of us.”

During her talk, Pauli said “We have been putting together a coalition (because) it’s going to take effort from everyone who is dependent on this project to move forward and acquire it. I would say that our desired future outcome for the Potter Valley Project is to maintain the water supply reliability that this economy, and our communities, have evolved with since the 1920s. But at the same time, work on a shared resource plan and the protection of the environment that is part of our quality of life, not just on the Eel River, but on the Russian River, too.”

As one of five members of the IWPC, the city of Ukiah has contributed at least $70,000 to its exploration of a potential purchase of the hydroelectric facility and dam known as the Potter Valley Project, since it began as a tunnel in Potter Valley dug to help provide electricity to Ukiah in the early 1900s.

“This money is part of a larger pool of money being contributed by all five members of the (Mendocino County) Inland Water and Power Commission,” Sean White, the city’s director of water resources, told the Ukiah City Council at its May 1 meeting, describing the dam facility as “essentially a diversion of Eel River water through a tunnel that provides major benefits to Lake Mendocino, which provides a significant amount of our water supply.”

Since the owner of the facility, Pacific Gas and Electric, has declined to re-license the project and now abandoned it, White said “this is a major water supply moment for the Ukiah Valley,” and that a potential purchase was worth investigating by the city to “see if it is of local interest to have it be locally controlled. And I think it’s important enough to stay invested until we decide which way to go.”

Also at the Economic Summit and Trade Show hosted by the Mendocino Winegrowers Incorporated (MWI) Thursday, Glenn Proctor of the Ciatti Company, which he described as a “broker” facilitating sales of wine, said that sellers of both grapes and bulk wine were definitely facing challenges currently.

“It’s a buyer’s market right now,” Proctor said, urging people who had yet to sell their inventory to “adjust your expectations, because this isn’t 2017, it’s 2019.”

Proctor described the 2019 wine market in areas such as Mendocino County as one with lots of inventory and not a lot of demand, urging sellers to start emptying their wine tanks by “becoming active in the marketplace and being ready to pounce on an opportunity.”

Bernadette Byrne, the executive director of the MWI, said that PDFs of all of the presentations given Thursday will be posted on the organization’s website, www.mendowine.com, by Monday.

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