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.
Public Scoping Hearings have been scheduled this fall in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho and Montana to discuss the fate of Snake River Dams and their impact on salmon resources in the Snake River Watershed. We are encouraging the paddling community to engage in this public process which has implications for the overall health of the Snake River ecosystem and tributaries like the Lochsa, Selway, and Salmon River.
Snohomish County Public Works has published the long-awaited Environmental Assessment for repairs on the Index-Galena Road that historically provided access to the North Fork Skykomish River for whitewater boaters. Public input will be considered in agency decision making on whether repair of this important access road will move forward. The deadline for comments is October 31, 2016.
Next month marks the 40th anniversary of the designation of Montana's four Wild and Scenic Rivers (3 Flathead Forks + the Missouri). We now have a once-in-a-generation chance to expand on that incredible legacy of river conservation in Montana. Take action to support new river protections on the Flathead National Forest this week!
Earlier this year, Oregon Governor Kate Brown designated portions of the Molalla and Chetco Rivers as the state’s first new State Scenic Waterways since 1988. Now, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is developing rules that will apply to how the rivers are managed. The agency is seeking public comment on their proposed rules through 5 p.m. on Friday, September 30th. The whitewater paddling community highly values the Chetco and Molalla Rivers, and we encourage you to weigh in on this final step of the process!
The Oregon Water Resources Department recently proposed a new rule that will protect the instream uses of the Smith River and its tributaries. The rule is a critical step in proactively safeguarding the fish, wildlife, and recreation uses of the waters of the Smith River watershed in Oregon from ill-advised water development such as large-scale mining proposals. The agency is requesting public comment by 5 p.m. on October 28th, and we encourage you to weigh in!
The decades-old agreements between rafting outfitters and the Tennessee Valley Authority that provide for recreational water releases in the Upper and Middle Ocoee River will expire in 2018. TVA and the outfitters have been attempting to negotiate a new agreement for many months, and thus far no agreement has been reached. This week, American Whitewater and several regional affiliate clubs requested inclusion in those talks to represent our interests in the Ocoee River continuing to be a recreational treasure and economic boon to the region.
This summer the Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo National Forests are seeking feedback from the public on their update and revisions to Forest Management Plans. These plans set the stage for how the forest will be managed for the next 20 years. Unfortunately, the agency's draft analysis on Wild and Scenic Rivers has largely neglected whitewater recreation values of classic whitewater rivers, including Dinkey Creek. Paddler's voices are important in this process! The deadline to comment is August 25th.
This week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioned (FERC) issued a final order denying a license for the Twin Lakes Canal Company’s proposal to build a 109-foot-tall hydroelectric dam on the Bear River in southeast Idaho. American Whitewater and our partners have worked diligently for over 14 years to protect the Oneida Narrows section of the Bear River, and we’re celebrating this final decision, which will keep this section of river freely flowing!
Negotiations on an Energy Bill are about to get underway and the hydropower industry wants a piece of the action. Under the guise of "modernizing" hydropower and "reducing costs," the hydropower industry is working feverishly to get a free pass on environmental regulations that help us restore flows to rivers. If they are successful, it will damage our work to restore flows and enhance whitewater recreation downstream of hydropower projects. Take action today to help us restore rivers and keep them flowing.
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.
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