River Stewardship is an integrated approach to the mission and program work of American Whitewater. Our stewardship program is made possible through on-going membership support. In our national stewardship project work we have some major buckets that our work falls into. One of the simplest ways to break these buckets down is to think of them as categories outlined in; Protect, Restore and Enjoy. Our community knows firsthand that you can’t love what you don’t know. It’s our common love of whitewater that makes us such passionate defenders of rivers. Here is an outline of historic and current project work that provides an illustration of how we function and the impacts of our collective efforts.
Protect American Whitewater has been a key player in protecting our treasured free-flowing rivers through growing the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. From our early advocacy in support of protecting the Selway River in Idaho, to our recent invitation to testify before Congress on the value of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie in Washington State, we are a consistent voice for those who experience first-hand the beauty and joy of free-flowing rivers.
Restore American Whitewater has restored flows to dry rivers below dams across the country, and is a pioneer in bringing political and scientific legitimacy to restoring flows in a way that both improves riparian habitat and connects people to rivers. Rivers like the Feather in California, Chelan in Washington, Fox in Wisconsin, and Cheoah in North Carolina were once dry, but are living rivers again thanks to our leadership. We’ve also worked with fellow river advocates to remove dams that have outlived their useful life, restoring fish habitat and recreation opportunities to rivers throughout the country, including Washington’s White Salmon River (Condit Dam), North Carolina’s Tuckasegee River (Dillsboro Dam), and Montana’s Clark Fork River (Milltown Dam). We are currently engaged in advocating for recreational flows on the New River Dries (WV), something that could bring tremendous value to an economically depressed area with new recreational opportunities for adventure based tourism.
Enjoy American Whitewater knows that those who have a personal connection to rivers are the most powerful and effective river conservation advocates. We connect the public with rivers through promoting whitewater safety and improving public access to waterways. We also maintain the National Whitewater Inventory – a comprehensive database of over 7,000 whitewater runs, representing the nation’s most extensive atlas of whitewater rivers.
This compelling mix of stewardship project outcomes allowed American Whitewater to foster strong additional corporate and foundation support. We are able to solicit three additional dollars for every membership dollar we received. That three to one match allows us to stretch your membership investment. Where else can you make a one dollar investment and immediately stretch it to four dollars in support of river conservation? This match, combined with a lean organizational model, allows American Whitewater to leave a footprint much larger than our actual shoe size.
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, California and the Northeast. 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.
Immediately downstream of the New River Gorge, a beautiful 5.5-mile section of the New River has been dewatered for generations. Paddlers call this reach the New River Dries, and know it for the huge surf waves that form at high water. The Hawks Nest hydroelectric project removes 10,000cfs from the Dries, leaving only 100cfs except when high flows overwhelm the dam. The relicensing of the dam offers a once-in a lifetime opportunity to restore flows to the New River. American Whitewater filed comments today with federal regulators outlining our vision.
The Flathead National Forest is a treasure trove of whitewater paddling thanks to the three forks of the Wild and Scenic Flathead River, the Swan River, and many robust tributaries. Today, the Forest released their new inventory of streams they intend to protect as eligible for future Wild and Scenic designation. The inventory includes 22 outstanding streams, 10 of which are new eligible streams totalling 125 river miles. These streams were recommended for protection by American Whitewater, our partners in Montanans for Healthy Rivers, and citizens from across the state and country.
Over the past couple years American Whitewater has been working with regional paddlers, the National Park Service, and other interested folks to improve river access on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers near Harpers Ferry, WV. One outcome of that effort has been recognition of the parking, access, and shuttle services the rafting outfitters in the area offer provide. The outfitters worked with private boaters to share a fact sheet of the various services they offer, which you can download.
American Whitewater is pleased to announce the successful completion of the Green River Dam rehabilitation project. This is a big win for the Green River and we want to thank our partners at the NRCS for their role.
Please take a second to sign our thank-you letter and tweet your thanks for a successful project!
The relicensing of 5 hydropower projects along the Connecticut River is moving closer to conclusion with the release of the whitewater boating study report for Bellows Falls and Sumner Falls (NH/VT). American Whitewater and its affilliates filed comments today in support of the study conclusion that valuable whitewater boating opportunities exist at both locations. AW and its partners also recently filed comments in response to the Draft License Application filed by FirstLight for the Turners Falls and Northfield Mountain (MA) hydropower projects, demanding restoration of flows to the natural river channel.
Cortez, CO - Over the past several months, AW and agencies in the Dolores River basin have been studying anticipated runoff and inflows into McPhee Reservoir in Southwest Colorado, and negotiating how best to provide optimal paddling conditions on the lower Dolores River. The most recent forecast was released today...
Soak Creek has been named Tennessee's newest Scenic River—the first to earn the designation in 15 years. A tributary of the Piney River, this free-flowing creek serves as critical habitat for the iconic species of the Cumberland Plateau and provides a wide range of outdoor opportunities for all ages as it winds through a scenic gorge and along the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park. The designation helps to formalize the work local landowners, nonprofit groups and state agencies have done to ensure the public has access to this pristine natural treasure for generations to come.
Forty three percent of paddling in the United States is on public lands. These shared lands form the backbone of our access to wild rivers, they are our American inheritance, and they are under attack. Last year congress passed a resolution that paved the way for our forests, wilderness areas and parks to be put up for sale.
As the whitewater release season begins, it's time to celebrate our partnership with the town of Friendsville, MD, the takeout for the popular Upper Youghiogheny River. American Whitewater works closely with the town, negotiating the releases and managing parking and other issues. The new parking area is now entering its second season. Paddlers raised $25,000 in seed money and a $10,000 in-kind donation which in turn attracted $160,000 in grants to build it. Don Millard, a paddler from Fort Hill, PA, mows the grass here and at Sang Run. Thanks to his work river access fees are unusually low: The season opens on Friday, April 15 and every Friday thereafter. The first full weekend is May 6-9; Cheat Fest Weekend! Please observe the usual courtesies when in town: Use the rest rooms and change facilities at the parking area. Don't drink alcohol in public and avoid loud behavior that would disturb nearby residents. Never park in residential areas along the river. And take time to patronize the many businesses in town who are eagerly awaiting your arrival. Click through for more info on the river and the release schedule:
The North Fork of the Feather River will be boatable every day for the rest of 2016! Flows will increase because of a revised flow schedule and the wet year we are having in California. Almost twenty years ago, American Whitewater made it our goal to restore the North Fork Feather River and this new flow regime is a testament to our success.
Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission is considering whether to protect the North Fork Smith and its tributaries under the Clean Water Act's highest type of water quality protection. The river is threatened by a nickel strip mine proposal in its headwaters, and you can help protect the North Fork Smith and its tributaries by weighing in.
Dave Brown, the man behind Friends of the Ocoee and Citizens For Gauley River, has announced his intent to retire as executive director of America Outdoors, the national outfitters association. The team of lawyers and scientists he assembled in the early 1980's to keep the Upper Gauley from being dammed - Pete Skinner, Pope Barrow, Mac Thornton, and Steve Taylor - later became the core of a Board of Directors that revitalized American Whitewater. He also organized the first Gauley Festival, which would later be handed over to American Whitewater. Outfitters have been a vital part of the coalition seeking to protect whitewater rivers and Dave has been an outstanding leader in these fights. Click through for his refections on his remarkable career.
The Forest Service has been managing the Upper White Salmon River (upstream of Farmlands) as a Wild and Scenic River since it was designated by Congress in 2005. The Forest Service has schedulded a public listening session for April 28th to solicit feedback on the development of a river managment plan.
California is emerging from a multi-year drought and numerous dam proposals threaten rivers throughout the state. These proposals do little to address the state's water concerns and come with a hefty price tag. American Whitewater is focusing efforts to stop these unnecessary surface storage projects.
This morning, Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer from Oregon released the Recreation Not Red Tape (RNR) Act, which is an effort to recognize the importance of recreation on public lands and waters.
Thanks to a turbine replacement project requiring a hydropower diversion to be shut down for much of 2016, paddlers will get a longer and better season on the Malad River this year. Have fun and be safe out there!
Every spring paddlers in the Midwest make their annual pilgrimage to enjoy a few weeks of great whitewater on the creeks that flow into Lake Superior. One of these creeks is the Yellow Dog in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve is working to purchase private forest land along the river and make it a Community Forest. The goal is within reach and the paddling community can make a critical contribution.
The National Park Service is celebrating its Centennial this year (2016) and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act’s 50th anniversary is coming up in 2018. We encourage the paddling community to get out there, take photos, and enjoy rivers while finding your park! You can help tell the story of these rivers which supports their conservation and stewardship by sharing your photos.
American Whitewater joined in petitioning the Washington Department of Ecology to amend its inadequate flow rule for the Spokane River. In setting the rule, the state agency ignored all public comments in support of protecting the Spokane River, and adopted a flow rule of 850cfs, a flow that is too low and jeopardizes the health of the Spokane River and public uses that include whitewater recreation. We are seeking a minimum summertime flow of 1,800 – 2800cfs to support fisheries and recreation, and protect higher flows for recreation when available.
Paddlers made a strong showing at the January 28th Deep Creek Watershed Planning Meeting in McHenry, MD. Releases from Deep Creek Lake that support paddling on the Upper Youghioghenny River have been under attack by homeowners on backwater lots who are left high and dry during droughts. Friendsville town councilman Jess Whittemore and Upper Yough outfitter Roger Zbell have been ably representing whitewater paddlers for years. Jess told me that the presence of so many boaters, especially those who own property in Garrett County, made a strong impression on the County Commissioners. They were also impressed by the many thoughtful emails recieved from paddlers throughout the East. This will put us in a good position for the 2019 relicensing. Thanks to Friendsviller paddler and attorney Bob Allen for representing American Whitewater. Jeff Macklin photo.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is embarking on a new planning project that will guide recreation on DNR-managed lands in the Nooksack River and Whatcom Lake watersheds for the next 10-15 years. The effort will kick off with two public open houses that will be scheduled for January.
On December 1st Black Canyon Hydro LLC filed its License Application for the Black Canyon Hydropower Project. If constructed, this project would involve dewatering Ernie’s Gorge and putting it in a pipe to generate hydropower. We expect that a public comment period will soon open providing an opportunity for feedback on their application.
In response to of the state’s draft basin plan for southern Vermont, American Whitewater and scores of boaters pressed the state to support the expansion of releases on the West River. Restrictions by the Corps of Engineers and Agency of Natural Resources have led to the elimination of nearly all scheduled boating opportunities on the West River over the past two decades, eliminating recreation opportunity and hurting the local economy. AW and its partners have been working to restore these releases.
In response to requests by American Whitewater, several affiliates, and other stakeholders, FERC directed Brookfield Renewable to study the impact of its hydropower operations on whitewater boating on the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts. Boating groups and our supporters are seeking to determine optimal whitewater boating flows from the Fife Brook Dam and whether changes in hydropower operations would enhance boating opportunities, access and navigation.
Tis the season when American Whitewater works with power companies and other groups to schedule the coming year's dam releases in the Southeast. In addition to hundreds of releases on Class I-III rivers like the Nantahala, Tuckasegee, and Catawba, we put together an outstanding integrated schedule of Class IV and V opportunities. Check it out!
The House is expected to vote the week of November 30th on energy legislation (H.R. 8) that is really, really bad news for rivers. The bill comes as a response to the hydropower industry's efforts to weaken the authority of tribes and state and federal agencies to protect water quality, fish and wildlife, public lands and recreation. If passed, hydropower provisions of H.R. 8 would tip the balance in strong favor of the hydropower industry, and do so at the expense of the local communities that rely on rivers for their livelihoods. Paddler’s voices are important in the process and we encourage you to reach out to your member of Congress today!
American Whitewater, along with other paddling groups and outfitters, filed comments with FERC responding to the Whitewater Boating Evaluation at Turners Falls on the Connecticut River. The study showed that there is strong demand for boating on this section of the Connecticut River if sufficient flows, scheduled releases, better access, and real-time information are provided. The groups filed the comments in order to provide additional information for the environmental review and to respond to the unsupported statements by FirstLight, the utility performing the study, claiming that there is little demand for boating at Turners Falls.
American Whitewater is deeply disappointed to see Congress fail to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund ahead of its expiration on September 30. You can help us continue the push by contacting your member of Congress and highlighting the importance of this vital program that helps provide river access. If constituents speak up we can keep it near the top of the agenda and we will be able to get it reauthorized.
Citing a host of environmental concerns raised by American Whitewater and our partners, the federal government has recommended denial of an application seeking to build a 109-foot-tall hydroelectric dam on the Bear River in southeast Idaho. Federal regulators agreed with our view that the Oneida Narrows represents a regionally unique and important river recreational resource that would be destroyed by the proposed dam, for which mitigation is not possible.
American Whitewater is proud to announce the two affiliate recipients of the 2015 Clif Bar Flowing Rivers Campaign. Each group will receive a $1,250 grant to go towards their respective stewardship projects. Thanks to the many affiliate groups who participated in this year's grant process. Most of all, a huge thanks goes out to Clif Bar for sponsoring this wonderful opportunity for river stewardship!
Since 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been a critical source of funding for important river access projects and other recreational pursuits across the country. This fund however is set to expire on September 30, 2015 unless Congress reauthorizes it. We’re calling on all paddlers to reach out to their Congressional representatives and ask them to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The hydropower industry is pushing legislation that threatens your whitewater. We encourage paddlers to share their personal experience enjoying rivers where hydropower projects provide recreational flows. We oppose any bill that would undermine the public's ability to balance hydropower interests with non-power values like recreation, fish and wildlife.
Last fall the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department solicited input on the designation of a segment of the Molalla River that includes the Three Bears run as a State Scenic Waterway. American Whitewater is actively supporting this designation. We encourage the paddling community to attend the meeting and file comments.
A hardy group of northeast boaters climbed into the natural river channel below a hydropower dam to participate in a flow study designed to assess whether whitewater flows should be restored to this dewatered river reach on the Connecticut River. While significant obstacles remain, this site has the potential for providing instruction, playboating, and a big water feature that that could be run throughout much of the year and provide a much needed boost to the local economy.
On Wednesday, May 13th the House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing about the draft "Hydropower Regulatory Modernization" Act, which proposes to gut important environmental and public interest protections in the Federal Power Act. These are the very tools that American Whitewater and our partners have used to put water back in rivers across the country that were once completely devastated by the impacts of hydropower. If passed, all of the whitewater and access gains we've made over the last 25+ years could easily become a thing of the past. We encourage everyone to contact their Representatives and make their voices heard.
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