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Despite Challenging Year AW Found Lots of Success in 2020

01/23/2021 - by Evan Stafford

In difficult times rivers bring us solace. Those rivers we spend the most time with fill our hearts with truth and wisdom. One of those truths is that we are the guardians of our rivers. For many, the past year was incredibly challenging, but because our community rallied around us, our resilient team was able to continue working hard to protect, restore, and ensure our safe access to flowing water. Thank you! Our stewardship work in 2020 played an integral role in the historic passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, killed a dam project in the San Joaquin River Gorge in California, and stopped a gold mine at the put-in for the Numbers run on the Arkansas River in Colorado, among hundreds of other success stories for whitewater rivers in 2020.

Check out our impact graphic for a birds eye view of the river stewardship we got done at American Whitewater in 2020. 

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Urgent: Help Protect Browns Canyon and the Arkansas and Eagle River Valleys

01/21/2021 - by Hattie Johnson

It’s hard to imagine what it would be like if up to 10 trains full of heavy crude oil and hazardous chemicals were rumbling by while paddling the Arkansas or Eagle Rivers. It would, without question, change the experience in negative ways, including opening up the opportunity for the major disturbances associated with any kind of derailment and spill of hazardous materials into the river.  We need your help today to protect these incredible places. This past New Year’s Eve, Colorado Midland and Pacific Railway filed a notice of exemption for lease and operations of the Tennessee Pass line that runs through the Eagle and Arkansas Valleys to Parkdale. You have two options to make your voice heard. We have created a sign on letter to be submitted along with American Whitewater’s’s technical comments. However, if you’ve got the time to go the extra mile, we’ve included detailed directions below to submit your own filing directly to the Surface Transportation Board. Please follow these directions carefully and copy if you decide to file your own comments. Comments are due by January 22 - please take action today! 

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Dam Repairs to Affect Flows in New River Gorge and Dries (WV)

01/21/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The Bluestone Dam blocks the New River not far upstream of the popular New River Gorge and New River Dries, and is currently undergoing significant repairs. These repairs will keep 9 of the 16 gates out of service until 2027, allowing for total releases of around only 12,000cfs. This management will dampen high flows, resulting in longer and more moderate flows than naturally occur in the river. Intriguingly, these releases will regularly overwhelm the 10,000cfs maximum diversion of the Hawks Nest Hydroelectric Project, and result in more frequent and predictable spill releases into the New River Dries.

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Statement on the Presidential Inauguration of Joe Biden

01/20/2021 - by American Whitewater

Today, January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden was officially sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Inauguration day is one of the most important symbols of the strength of our democracy and a peaceful transfer of power is critical for maintaining the public’s trust in our democratic institutions. These institutions hold the power to protect and enhance our ability to enjoy the rivers and watersheds we love, and we see an abundance of opportunities to positively influence the future of our country's whitewater streams and to ensure access to rivers and clean water for all as we move forward in 2021. 

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Comments Can Help Shape Summersville Lake Management (WV)

01/19/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

A new Draft Master Plan for Summersville Lake, which provides releases on the Gauley River, is open for public comment until February 16, 2021. The Draft Plan covers the significant public land surrounding the reservoir, including Battle Run Campground, several trails, numerous rock climbing areas, and boat ramps. Unfortunately the Plan does not cover water releases, which the Agency states are covered by a seperate plan. Paddlers that use these lands are encouraged to review and comment on the Draft Plan. 

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New Requirement to Carry a Boater Education Card Proposed for Washington State

01/19/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Legislation has been introduced in the Washington State legislature that would require operators of all boats and vessels that are human-propelled (e.g. kayaks, canoes, rafts, stand up paddle boards) to possess a boater education card providing evidence of completing a boating safety education program. A hearing has been scheduled in the House and we anticiapte a Senate hearing will be scheudled shortly. We encourage members of the paddling community to weigh in through a written comment or by testifying at the hearing.

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EPA Notes Significant Concerns with South Fork Salmon Mine Project

01/16/2021 - by Evan Stafford

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a letter to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) detailed numerous concerns, including the potential for degradation in water quality and the "disproportionately high and adverse impacts to tribal populations,” in response to the proposed Stibnite Gold Project in the South Fork Salmon watershed (ID). A large-scale gold-antimony mine in the headwaters of this major tributary to the Wild and Scenic Salmon River could significantly harm the protected water quality of these Native American tribal fishing grounds and the classic whitewater paddling in the drainage according to the EPA. "Based on our review of the draft EIS, we continue to have significant concerns regarding potential impacts to water quality and aquatic resources," the EPA expressly noted in their 29 page comment on the Forest Service’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Midas Gold’s proposed mine operations. 

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Update - Proposed Gravel Pit at the Confluence of the Eagle and Colorado DENIED

01/15/2021 - by Hattie Johnson

Thank you for quick mobilization earlier this month to urge the Eagle County Planning Commission to deny an application for a gravel pit that would run for a mile along the Upper Colorado River just upstream of its confluence with the Eagle. There were 148 letters sent to the Commission in barely over 24 hours. In line with recommendations of Eagle County staff and at the urging of many residents and visitors, the commission denied the applications with a 4-2 vote on the evening of January 6th.

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New Fee Program Comes to Some Virginia Access Areas

01/15/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Last year the Virginia Legislature passed a new law into effect that requires the public to pay a fee to use river access areas that are managed by the Department of Wildlife Resources. The new fees kicked in January 1, 2021, and the program is outlined in news articles as well as on the Department's website. If you do not have a fishing license, the fees are $23 for an annual pass or $4 per day for a day-pass. The legislation seems to have passed with little discussion or public outreach, and caught many paddlers off guard. American Whitewater conducted a mapping analysis of the effects of this new fee program, and found that it applies new fees to at least 67 public access areas located on whitewater runs. Paddlers are encouraged to let their state legislators know they feel about the newly legislated fee system. 

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The Rollout of 2021’s Great American Outdoors Act Projects

01/14/2021 - by Scott Harding

The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) was signed into law in August 2020, providing $9.5 billion to address the maintenance backlog on federally managed public lands through 2025. Although there have been some challenges with its implementation thus far, we are now starting to see some much-needed maintenance projects getting queued up.
Here is a quick brief on a few of our favorite GAOA-funded projects that are being lined up this year by the US Forest Service.

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Piru Creek Pyramid and Frenchman’s Flat Flow Restoration Update

01/14/2021 - by Theresa Simsiman

American Whitewater is coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service to bring flows back to Piru Creek below Pyramid Lake. A little over a year ago American Whitewater coordinated a Whitewater Boating Controlled-Flow Boating Study on this highly valued resource. The study was performed to inform the hydropower relicensing process for the South State Water Project operated by the California Department of Water Resources and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).  The study overall, demonstrated a viable solution for providing recreational flows on two Piru reaches – Pyramid and Frenchman’s Flat. This involves shaping the annual deliveries of block water to provide up to 6 days of recreational flows at 300 cfs between the months of November and February. American Whitewater is now working to develop a whitewater flow measure that will be protective of the Arroyo Toad, an endangered species, and one that would mimic a natural storm event to galvanize support from the managing agencies and maximize conservation and recreation values. 

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New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

01/14/2021 - by Evan Stafford

The New River Gorge, a premier paddling destination in southern West Virginia is set to become a national park, thanks to designating language in year-end funding legislation passed by Congress this past December. The "New River Gorge National Park and Preserve," will become the 63rd national park in the U.S., and will continue to be one of three federally designated landscapes in West Virginia managed by the National Park Service (NPS). The Gauley National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National Scenic River are the other two areas managed by the NPS. Its original designation as a national river took place in 1978, but its place as a world class boating, climbing and adventure tourism destination has solidified over time and prompted West Virginia’s Congressional representatives to pursue this upgraded recognition. 

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It's Permit Season!

01/14/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

If you haven't started already it's time to start planning for that big multi-day trip you've been wanting to do. American Whitewater's permit database can help you find the information you need.

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Private Timberlands Bordering Classic Whitewater in Columbia Gorge For Sale

01/14/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

The pending sale of 101,000 acres of private timberland by SDS Lumber Company in Washington and Oregon represents an urgent, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conserve this vast landscape for wildlife, climate, recreation, and local communities. These lands include portions of the watersheds of the White Salmon, Little White Salmon, Klickitat, and Hood Rivers. American Whitewater is engaged with leaders in the local paddling community, conservation groups, and land trusts to prevent conversion and fragmentation of this landscape that could occur with a sale. Our preferred outcome is conservation of the most ecologically sensitive lands in the river corridor, uplands retained as working forest in a manner that provides economic and recreational benefits for the community benefits, formalization of river access sites that are open to the public, and recognition that these lands are within the Yakama Nation’s ceded area that presents opportunities for restorative justice.

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Plan to Improve North Fork Nooksack River (WA) Finalized

01/14/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

For the past several years American Whitewater has worked with the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance Program, American Rivers, Whatcom Land Trust, the Nooksack Tribe, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Washington Department of Transportation to address serious safety issues associated with the primary take-out for the North Fork Nooksack River at milepost 27. While the run starts on National Forest Service lands, paddlers are left to find their own take-out along a river reach that flows through lands that are predominately owned by private landowners. We are pleased to report that we have developed a plan and are in the process of securing funding for a formal access in the vicinity of Maple Creek at milepost 27 that will provide parking and river acess off the highway.

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States, Tribes, and Dam Owner Announce Agreement for Klamath River Dam Removal

12/10/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom joined with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, leaders of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, and Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp in announcing an agreement to provide additional resources and support to advance the most ambitious salmon restoration effort in history. The project, when completed, will address declines in fish populations, improve river health, and renew Tribal communities and cultures. The restored river will also provide new opportunities for recreational boating.

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What Makes a Boating Access Work (or Not)?

12/08/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Confluence Research and Consulting has released a report highlighting examples of 269 boat launches from a wide range of locations, geographic settings, amounts and kinds of use, and types of facilities. "The Good, the Bad and the Unusual: What Makes a Boating Access Work (or Not)?" is the first of its kind and the first iteration of a national river access database. The database, report and photo gallery were developed by Confluence Research and Consulting in partnership with a team the National Park Service, River Management Society, and American Whitewater.

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Gauley Season 2020

08/21/2020 - by Mark Singleton

While Gauley Fest has moved to a virtual format for 2020 due to Covid-19 and social distancing concerns, releases on the Gauley River will still take place. American Whitewater received the following open letter to boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area. This information will keep you up to date on important management actions of the National Park Service on the Gauley River for the 2020 season.

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07/07/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

In the ongoing saga of hydro dam developments proposed within striking distance of Grand Canyon National Park, American Whitewater is asking for help from the paddling community to stop a development that would impact the greater Grand Canyon area and its tributaries. Back in October 2019, we wrote an article outlining the proposal submitted by Phoenix-based hydroelectric company Pumped Hydro LLC to place two dams on the Little Colorado River, a tributary of the Colorado River's mighty Grand Canyon. This proposal was met with a large amount of pushback for the cultural impact on indigenous tribes, ecological impacts, and water use. To address these concerns, Pumped Hydro decided to file an alternative (yet equally problematic) proposal for a hydro development on Big Canyon, a tributary of the Little Colorado River. The Big Canyon project permit application has been accepted into the Federal Energy Regulation Commission's (FERC) registrar, initiating a public comment period on the project ending August 1 and we need members of the paddling community to step up and make their voices heard!

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We Need your Help to Protect Paddlers’ Access to New Mexico Rivers and Streams

07/07/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

Rivers once promoted by the New Mexico State Parks Division in their publication "New Mexico Whitewater - A Guide to River Trips" are now being blocked by private landowners with barricades, cables and No Trespassing signs. This includes upper Chama and Pecos river segments. Privatizers have filed additional applications that would close several other river segments in New Mexico, and their lawyers are threatening an "immense wave" of constitutional "litigation" in the event that "any action by the Court, the Legislature, the Department, or the Commission… restrict[s] landowners' rights to prevent the public from using their streambeds underlying public waters." American Whitewater has been working with our local partners in New Mexico to ensure that this new Rule is rescinded. We need your support to win this battle. If you're in a position to contribute, doing so will help us with legal expenses for our partners and outreach.

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