Story Corps

Placeholder Image Clouds hangs low over Lake Pillsbury
photo credit: Hitchster/flickr

Recently, Pacific Gas and Electric announced a major change to its operations at Scott Dam - which forms Lake Pillsbury - on the Eel River in Lake County.

The spillway gates atop Scott Dam, are now open and will remain open going forward.

PG&E normally closes the spillway gates in springtime, allowing lake levels to increase by millions of gallons in some years. The decision comes after PG&E's latest assessment of the century old dam, which showed a higher vulnerability from a catastrophic seismic event than previously thought.

PG&E says the chances of such an event are still low, a once in 900 year occurrence, but the utility says, to reduce the risk, it will lower lake levels.

The seismic safety of Scott Dam has long been a concern of community stakeholders.

"This is something that Friends of the Eel River has really been focused on for many years now," Alicia Hamann said. "Because of the nature of the confidential classification of information regarding stamp safety, it just always had us really concerned that we weren't seeing the whole picture.

Hamman is the executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Eel River.

"I think that everyone who is following this closely was really surprised with how quickly PG&E appeared to act on whatever information it is that they got from their consultants," Hamann said.

The future of Lake Pillsbury has become subject of speculation as PG&E looks to relinquish its control of the Potter Valley Project.

Hamman said PG&E's announcement that an expedited, partial, or even full removal of Scott Dam may be on the table needs to be taken very seriously.

"If I were someone who, you know relies on that water, I would really be thinking about my irrigation practices and finding ways to cut back on waste and really thinking creatively about how to ensure that everyone has enough water," Hamann said.

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