The Eel River’s foremost outstanding value is its anadromous fishery, including threatened and endangered populations of coho salmon, chinook salmon, and steelhead. The South Fork Eel is considered the largest producer of coho salmon in the system and perhaps one of the largest producers in all of California. The whitewater recreation values of the Middle Eel River are also considered outstanding.
PG&E’s Potter Valley hydroelectric project on the upper main Eel River upstream of the protected segments has contributed to the long-term decline of the river’s anadromous fisheries and is the focus of an effort to remove the dams and restore the fishery. More recently, diversions of Eel River tributaries to irrigate cannabis crops, have also raised concerns about impacts to flows and fisheries.