AW’s strong conservation and access program was recently refocused and transformed into River Stewardship, an integrated approach to the mission work of our organization. In addition, stewardship recognizes that we have an ongoing commitment to the resources we work to protect and restore.
AW's stewardship program is managed by a National Stewardship Director who coordinates efforts between regional coordinators, volunteers, board members, and other staff members including our regional directors in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and California. Our Stewardship Team is in place to lead, train and support community-based activism representing the interests of boaters and the rivers we care for.
Our River Stewardship Team remains focused on our mission, “To conserve and restore America’s whitewater resources
and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.” Staying true to our mission, we will continue to integrate our most valuable asset, AW member volunteers, into the issues at hand.
In late 2012, PG&E directly challenged the authority of California’s water quality agency–the State Water Resources Control Board–to protect the beneficial uses of rivers impacted by hydropower projects. On Tuesday, May 7, American Whitewater and our partners testified at a hearing before the SWRCB, standing up for the agency’s authority to protect the public interest and respond to changing conditions in the future.
The long awaited first releases on the Missisquoi River in Sheldon Springs, Vermont, were cancelled due to a lack of rain in the northeast. The releases were scheduled for the first 6 weekend days in May, but we were forced to cancel the first three weekends while we wait for the rivers to rise. So put on your booties and do your best rain dance so we can enjoy this big water Class IV run in the bypass reach of the Sheldon Springs Dam.
This May and June join Paddle to the Sea – the Tuolumne River Trust’s popular paddle-a-thon where hundreds of river lovers and boating enthusiasts raft, canoe and kayak from the Sierra to San Francisco Bay. There is adventurous whitewater and mellow flat-water; fun one-day trips, or going the distance. Boaters of all skills and ages are encouraged to join.
Last week a federal judge ruled in favor of the US Forest Service in the case regarding the management of the Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River. The decision upholds the current USFS policy of allowing paddling December through April, above 350cfs, on 15 miles of the 21-mile-long upper Chattooga. While the legal decision is a disappointment, this new management plan is clearly a victory for the paddling community, and is the direct result of over 15 years of advocacy that included an active legal strategy.
May 4th (CheatFest Weekend) is the first scheduled Saturday release on Maryland’s Upper Yough! If water levels cooperate this will be a busy day on the river. For Friendsville, MD (population 491) the influx of hundreds of whitewater paddlers can cause problems. Minimize your impact on the town by driving safely, being discrete while changing clothes, and by being careful when carrying boats along busy Maple Avenue. Remember that there is no parking along Water Street or Morris Avenue (the two riverside streets) unless you are patronizing local businesses. Those invited by local residents to take out on their property should park completely off the street. American Whitewater takes care of the put-in at Sang Run; our suggested donation, $2 per visit or $20 for the season, remains unchanged. For an update on the planned boater parking lot, click the link below.
To date, Yosemite National Park has conducted an extensive amount of public outreach on the Draft Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan. Today the Park announced that they are extending the deadline for the public to submit comments to Tuesday, April 30th. American Whitewater submitted comments today, and you can read them here!
On Thursday, April 4th, the Department of Interior recommended removing four dams on the Klamath River, listing the action as the Preferred Alternative for a long-term solution to address native fishery and water resource issues in the Klamath Basin. The recommendation was set forth in the Department's Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which provides a comprehensive review of whether partially or fulling removing four dams owned and operated by PacifCorp will help to restore salmon runs to the Klamath River.
On Thursday, March 28th, the Nevada Assembly Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on AB 396, which is a bill that will ensure access for recreation on Nevada's lakes and streams. Strong access laws are especially important if you enjoy spending time on rivers, and paddler's voices are important in this process for Nevada. You can participate a number of ways…
Yesterday, Federal approval was granted for the removal of Millpond Dam on Northeast Washington’s Sullivan Creek. Millpond Dam has blocked Sullivan Creek since 1909, and removal should be completed within the next 5 years. In addition, streamflows will be improved for paddlers and fish from nearby Sullivan Lake Dam. American Whitewater has played an active role in the collaborative effort leading to this dam removal and other improvements since it began in 2008.
Efforts to roll back the boundary of California's Wild and Scenic Merced River are picking up again. H.R. 934 was recently introduced in the House, and if passed it would open the door for Merced Irrigation District to increase the height of the spillway at New Exchequer Dam by 10 feet and expand McClure Reservoir. Not only would this drown a segment of an outstanding river, but it would be the first time in the 45 year history of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that a designated reach would be shortened in the name of development.
In a bipartisan effort last month, the Senate introduced the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2013 (S.338). The Land and Water Conservation Fund has supported many projects that provide access and protect important rivers, including the White Salmon (WA), New and Gauley (WV), Illinois (OR) and Snake (ID). If passed, the bill will reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and support similar projects into the future.
In response to calls by American Whitewater, New England FLOW and the Appalachian Mountain Club, FERC today ordered FirstLight and TransCanada to study the potential for whitewater boating on the Connecticut River at Turner's Falls and Bellows Falls. The companies are seeking to relicense their projects at the Wilder, Bellows Falls, and Vernon dams in New Hampshire and Vermont, and at the Northfield Pumping Station and Turner’s Falls Dam in Massachusetts.
American Whitewater and the Vermont Paddlers Club today filed comments with FERC calling on Morrisville Power & Light (MWL) to schedule releases on the Green River in Vermont. In their comments filed today with FERC, AW & VPC called on the MWL to provide five weekend 2-day releases from the dam in order to provide additional paddling opportunities.
Federal regulators have recently approved study plans for the proposed Black Canyon Hydroelectric Project that would impact Ernie's Gorge on the North Fork Snoqualmie River. As an initial step in the study process, all paddlers who run this reach in 2013 should report their runs and fill out the survey.
Earlier today, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) re-introduced a set of wilderness bill including the Oregon Treasures Act, legislation that would protect the Chetco River, Molalla River, Rogue River, and Horse Heaven and Cathedral Rock sections along the John Day River.
American Whitewater is reaching out to our membership to encourage participation in a study of boating conditions and recreation safety conducted by consultants working with the Yakama Nation Fisheries program. The study reaches include Nason Creek, Twisp River, and Chewuch River. The overall purpose of the study is to identify known and anticipated river users and evaluate riverine hazards as habitat restoration projects are planned and implemented.
The Wall Street Journal published a story today outlining the debate over the possible de-designation of the Wild and Scenic Merced River. We believe that this type of coverage will help highlight the threat to the Merced and Wild and Scenic rivers everywhere.
On December 19th I represented American Whitewater at the annual meeting of their Whitewater Advisory Committee for Summersville Dam . The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the project, has worked closely with whitewater interests for many years. Their management plan takes into account both lake and downstream recreation (and their associated businesses) as well as lake and downstream fisheries, power generation, flow augmentation, and other matters. This year's realeases were very successful, and we're looking for another great season in 2013. For information on river gauge changes, fisheries management, and other matters please click the link below:
Polluted stormwater runoff is one of the key causes of degraded water quality on rivers throughout the country, and this fall, American Whitewater joined with other conservation and recreation groups to defend the Clean Water Act in the Supreme Court. We filed a "Friend of the Court" brief in support of NRDC and Santa Monica Baykeeper's efforts to ensure that municipalities clean up polluted stormwater. The case focuses on the L.A. and San Gabriel Rivers, and has implications for rivers that flow through towns and cities across the country.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has recently announced the commencement of relicensing proceedings for the Tomahawk and Grandfather Falls Hydroelectric Projects in Wisconsin. We are pleased to report that FERC has identified whitewater recreation as one of the issues requiring study and analysis and has proposed a whitewater flow study. Paddlers have the opportunity to attend next week's public meeting and file written comments.
Charity Navigator has recognized our diligence in adhering to strict financial accountability for the third straight year (something that only happens to the top 9% of non profits they rate). It is an honor to receive this top rating three years in a row for our philanthropic efforts in river conservation. At American Whitewater, we strive to maintain the high standards set forth by Charity Navigator and work hard to earn the trust and respect of our members.
More than two decades after we first investigated the recreational potential of a restored White Salmon River, and a year after a blast of dynamite punched a hole in the base of Condit Dam, the river is now navigable from the headwaters all the way down to the Columbia River! The White Salmon Narrows is a technically challenging new stretch of whitewater that is officially open to paddlers with the skill set to enjoy it safely. Paddlers running this section of river should be solid Class IV boaters who are comfortable running unfamiliar sections of river.
American Whitewater has a long running partnership with the Conservation Alliance and KEEN Footwear. A new video highlighting these partnerships and the stewardship efforts they support has just been released.
The Upper Nantahala River and Cascades releases mandated from FERC Relicensing of the Nantahala River will begin September 29-30, 2012. Endless Rivers Adventures and the Nantahala Outdoor Center will provide free shuttles to boat launch areas on the bypass sections. All paddlers and spectators are asked to use these shuttles as key access points will be closed to parking to provide for put-in and take-out locations on the river sections.
Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar ensured the long-term protection of Thunder Creek, a tributary of the Skagit River, by administratively designating the river corridor as wilderness. Once threatened by hydropower, this spectacular whitewater resource is now protected as a free-flowing river.
Removal of Condit Dam is nearing completion and we are getting ready to celebrate the moment on Saturday September 29th. Contractors still have equipment in and along the river that will be removed over the next couple weeks and a log jam resulting from the dam breach still needs to be addressed. It's important for paddlers to wait until this work is done and everyone considering this reach needs to understand the hazards associated with the class IV/V entrance drop into the Narrows.
The rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area have provided the boating community with a letter outlining what's in store for this year's Gauley season. As in previous years and to help with boater parking at Mason’s Branch, American Whitewater has leased the Legg field for additional space.
American Whitewater takes a look back at the previous year and distills the organization's projects, supporters and financial information - plus much more - into one document, our Annual Report.
Culminating a six-year effort, American Whitewater has reached significant flow agreements for the Yuba watershed. These agreements were memorialized in the amended license applications filed with FERC by the Nevada Irrigation District and Pacific Gas & Electric Company. We look forward to seeing you enjoying improved flows in the Yuba watershed!
The Wild Olympics Campaign, of which American Whitewater is a member, today cheered the introduction of the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by Congressman Norm Dicks and Senator Patty Murray to permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries (a total of 464 river miles) as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
Invasive aquatic alga known as didymo, or “rock snot,” has been found in the Youghiogheny River (PA). The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is reminding anglers and boaters that cleaning their gear is the easiest, most effective means of preventing its spread to other rivers.
Last year federal regulators issued a preliminary permit allowing a developer to investigate the hydropower potential of Ernies Gorge. The developer has since decided to move forward and initiate the process of applying for a license. As the first step in this process, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has called a public meeting (Tue June 19th) to solicit local input and identify study needs. We encourage paddlers to attend the meetings to make sure FERC staff and the applicant understand the value of this reach for whitewater recreation.
2012 marks the first year of scheduled releases on Pennsylvania's Class III+ Stonycreek River. The releases, in concert with a new whitewater park, and significant water quality and ecological recovery efforts welcome paddlers to enjoy a great recreational opportunity on the extremely fun Stonycreek River this year and for years to come.
American Whitewater and KEEN are profiled as an example of an outstanding partnership by the Conservation Alliance. The Conservation Alliance is a group of outdoor industry companies that disburses its collective annual membership dues to grassroots environmental organizations. They direct funding to community-based campaigns to protect threatened wild habitat, preferably where outdoor enthusiasts recreate.
River outfitters and American Whitewater joined together decades ago to protect the Gauley River from hydro development. The success of these business enterprises were one of the key reasons that the river was protected as a National Recreation Area. But with success has come new challenges. Professional guides find the number of kayakers on the Upper Gauley overwhelming at times and kayakers also find the number of rafts intimidating. Regardless of any “right of way”, it’s everyone’s job to avoid crashes! Here’s what you can do to avoid collisions with commercial rafts.
The report on paddling access to the Ausable River has finally been issued: late, incomplete, biased, and erroneous. All of the data in the study support year round paddling access, and the data is generally accurate and defensible. The dam owner, New York State Electric and Gas, has maintained its position however that no access should be allowed to the beautiful Class IV river. It is now up to FERC, and AW and KCCNY will be filing comments this week requesting year round access.
A cornerstone of our outreach and education program designed to empower our volunteers is our Stewardship Toolkit, an on-line resource built on a decade of AW institutional knowledge in conservation, access, and safety issues. Each link below is a chapter containing a wealth of information. These topics are constantly being updated and we invite additional contributions.
6) River Access
Navigability Law Primer
State Navigability Law
State Liability Law
Paddling in National Parks
Private Land Closures
Barbed Wire / Obstructions
Protecting a Streamgage
8) River Safety