Governor Inslee Directs State Agencies to Cease Chehalis Dam Efforts (WA)
This past week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee directed Washington State Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Chehalis Basin Board to cease planning efforts and environmental review of a proposed new dam on the Chehalis River and instead develop and present a basin-wide, non-dam alternative to flood damage reduction. American Whitewater appreciates the Governor's decision that is responsive to concerns we raised throughout the environmental review process.
New Hydropower Legislation; A Bad Deal For Rivers
The recently introduced "Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act" by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) represents a short-sighted effort that would roll back critical river and clean water protections, cut the public out of decision-making in hydropower licensing, and put whitewater rivers at risk. This legislation would undermine our ability to successfully restore river health and opportunities for whitewater recreation. It is counterproductive to finding collaborative solutions that meet our nation's energy needs in a manner that adequately considers environmental impacts of hydropower. We stand ready to work together with the hydropower industry but this legislation represents the wrong approach.
Bear River Releases Rescheduled for Late Summer (ID)
Recreational releases were cancelled on many rivers this spring due to Covid-related travel restrictions and concerns, including several releases on the Black Canyon of the Bear River in Idaho. American Whitewater has worked with the dam owner to reschedule Black Canyon releases for late summer, specifically August 29 & 30, and September 12 & 13. These releases offer paddlers a rare opportunity to enjoy the Bear River late in the recreation season. In addition, irrigation flows of approximately 200-500cfs are currently being delivered through the Black Canyon all summer, creating additional and rare lower-water paddling opportunities 24-hours a day for the rest of the summer through the second week of September.
New River Dries to Flow Free This Fall (WV)
The owners of Hawks Nest Dam on the New River Dries is undertaking a thorough inspection of the Hawks Nest Tunnel this fall, something that has not been done since completion of the tunnel over 85 years ago. This work, slated to begin on September 8, 2020 and last for 60 days, will require drawing down the reservoir 20+ feet and will result in 2 months of natural flows in the New River Dries. The drawdown may also expose seldom-seen rapids on the New River beneath the Hawks Nest Reservoir. Enjoy this special fall Dries season!
Piney River and Tributaries Designated Scenic Rivers (TN)
On June 22, 2020, the Piney River, Little Piney River, and Duskin Creek, located near Spring City, became Tennessee's newest Scenic Rivers when the Governor signed a related bill into law. These creeks flow from the Cumberland Plateau down into deep cliff-lined canyons that are traversed by hikers, paddlers, and anglers. The creeks join adjacent Soak Creek as recently designated Scenic Rivers. American Whitewater and other paddling groups actively supported protection of these streams. The move recognizes that Tennessee is home to unique rivers and creeks that are a source of pride and rejuvenation for Tennesseans and should be protected for future generations.
AW Challenges New EPA Rule Weakening States' Ability to Protect Rivers
American Whitewater, along with several other river conservation partners, filed litigation today challenging new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that would limit the ability of states to protect water quality at federlly-licensed hydropower projects. The new rule effectively sidelines the role the states and the public have long played in permitting decisions affecting clean water, undercutting the central role of the states in protecting water quality under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The new rule guts the Clean Water Act's Section 401 provisions, which for nearly 50 years have provided for states' and authorized Tribes' self-determination in permitting for a wide array of projects requiring federal approval within their borders. The rule also suppresses state and Tribal public participation processes that moor U.S. water policy in the harbor of democracy.
Custer-Gallatin Plan Contains New River Protections (MT)
Today, Montana's Custer-Gallatin National Forest became the most recent National Forest to release their new final management plan. American Whitewater engaged with our partners in Outdoor Alliance Montana, working with local volunteer Chris Ennis, to provide detailed information to the Forest Service on the recreational values and needs. Over the several year long process we shaped a vision for the Forest that was refined and presented to the Forest Service. A central part of that vision for paddlers was a request that several streams be granted new protections through deeming them eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. The new Forest Plan contains 30 eligible streams, 18 of which are newly protected in the plan, and many of which were requested and supported by American Whitewater and our partners in Outdoor Alliance Montana.
A Victory for the San Joaquin River Gorge
American Whitewater efforts, funded by a Conservation Alliance grant, to protect the San Joaquin River Gorge received a big boost with news that the proposed Temperance Flat Dam is effectively dead due to its exorbitant cost. This dam proposal threatened to drown 18 miles of river including the entire San Joaquin River Gorge. Proponents of this project had to provide final costs as a condition of receiving $171 million in funds necessary to initiate the project from the Proposition One, Water Storage Investment Program. A recently-completed draft analysis for the Temperance Flat Authority pegged the cost of water provided by a new dam at $9000 per acre-foot of water over the 50-year capital cost repayment period. To compare, when this new dam was first conceived water in California was estimated to cost an average of $70 per acre-foot. Overall, this cost analysis backs up statements made by American Whitewater in the 2018 film You Can't Dam Your Way to Paradise - "All the dams that make sense to be built on the San Joaquin River Gorge have already been built. If they were economically viable, they would have been built a long time ago."
With Your Support we did great work in 2019! CHECK OUT OUR ANNUAL REPORT
American Whitewater is an organization that prides ourselves on getting work done, both effectively and efficiently. Eighty percent of every dollar we see goes directly to our stewardship work, and in 2019 we succeeded in turning that work into favorable outcomes on projects across the country. For a concise and graphic look at the work we accomplished together last year, check out our 2019 Annual Report.
Wild and Scenic with a Local Touch: Protecting the Upper Colorado River
After 12 years of hard work, the Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Alternative Management Plan was finalized and formally accepted by the BLM and USFS to protect and enhance the flow related values - like recreational boating - of the Upper Colorado River.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife to Require Hunting or Fishing License at River Access
In an unexpected and strategic move by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), a Colorado hunting or fishing license will now be required to access State Wildlife Areas and CPW-leased State Trust Lands (effective July 1, 2020). Many of these affected areas have historically been used for paddling, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and other non-consumptive recreation uses. CPW's press release stated that "This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties", and while we understand the need to increase revenue to support management of these areas, we have a few concerns with this strategy. On July 1, American Whitewater, Colorado Mountain Club, and multiple other organizations submitted a joint letter to CPW Commissioners requesting that they reconsider the new Rule and find a more practicable and sustainable method for collecting fees for these areas.
HELP US STOP HYDRO DEVELOPMENT ON BIG CANYON (AZ)
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!
We Need your Help to Protect Paddlers’ Access to New Mexico Rivers and Streams
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.
RESILIENCE live event and fundraiser for AW July 28
Please join our own Communications Director Evan Stafford, along with Brad Ludden and Joe Mornini for RESILIENCE on July 28!
Evan will share his thoughts on the lessons whitewater and river stewardship can teach us about resilience. Along with presentations from the other panelists, we'll also be raising funds for AW, First Descents and Team River Runner, and celebrating the launch of Joe Booth's new book, From the River. Register today!
Upper Yough Access Guidelines and Fundraiser
At Maryland's Upper Yough, one of the country's finest whitewater runs, American Whitewater has been maintaining the Sang Run Access for the past 20 years. With the 4th of July weekend coming up, a quick reminder that we are guests of the Town of Friendsville when we take out. In addition changing clothes discretely ad behaving respectfully, please observe social distancing during the pandemic. Garrett County has a low infection rate, and a mask when patronizing local businesses is the norm. We are also beginning our annual fundraiser to pay the expenses American Whitewater has at Sang Run. Out goal is $1,000, and we have already received $160. The Fee Box at Sang Run is still closed due to vandalism. We suggest $20 for the full season; $5 for one weekend. Please donate on line, or use the donation jar at the Wilderness Voyageurs shop at the takeout. Please go to https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Membership/donate/? and put "Upper Yough Access" in the comment box.
Relicensing of Montreal River Hydropower Projects Begins (WI)
In December 2019 Northern States Power submitted their Notice of Intent and Preliminary Application Document to relicense both the Saxon Falls and Superior Falls Hydroelectric Projects. These two projects regulate flows on the West Branch Montreal and Montreal Canyon. Both of these runs are enjoyed by paddlers from across the Midwest and offer opportunities that are unique to the region. American Whitewater will be filing formal comments and a study request within the next week requesting an evaluation of flow needs for whitewater boating and adequacy of accommodations for public access to the river. Paddlers in the region who know the river can help by filing personal comments.
Senator Wyden Introduces Legislation to Invest in Public Lands
As the impacts of COVID-19 ripple through the economy, Members of Congress are seeking ideas for what economic recovery looks like. Several Congressional offices have reached out to American Whitewater to solicit ideas for projects and initiatives that would benefit public lands and outdoor recreation while putting people to work. Over the past two weeks we have been working with our colleagues at Outdoor Alliance to develop some specific proposals. We are thrilled to report that Senator Wyden from Oregon has taken some our ideas and stepped up in a big way to make investment in public lands and the outdoor recreation economy a personal priority.
Great American Outdoors Act Introduced
It's been a wild ride this past week for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Restore Our Parks Act all initiated by a tweet from the President that began with these words: "I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks." We just got back from a week in DC working to make it happen and all indications are that we are on the cusp of getting legislation passed that directly benefits and provides resources for river access. The bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, introduced yesterday by 55 Senators, combines the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act and Restore Our Parks Act with some key changes and additional funding we requested. Use our easy action form to reach out your representatives today and help us make sure this incredible opportunity for funding river recreation and conservation does not pass us by!
Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, dies
Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, died on November 20th, 2019. He was 83. A microbiologist by training, Terry began paddling in the mid-1960's while a professor at Emory University. He took to whitewater readily, and it became an important focus of his life. In 1969 he met veteran paddler Doug Woodward, and in 1971 the two became the technical advisers for the movie "Deliverance." Afterwards, Terry and Woodward purchased the rafts Warner Brothers used in filming and bought 19 acres near the river. This became Southeastern Expeditions, one of the Southeast's first whitewater outposts on the Chattooga. In 1974, Terry took then-Gov. Jimmy Carter on three trips on the Chatooga River, totaling 57 miles. This inspired Carter to get the Chattooga included in the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and influenced later decisions protecting rivers across the U.S."Terry adopted me as one of his students," Carter told Outside Online in a 2017 interview. "it opened my eyes to the relationship between a human being and a wild river that I never had contemplated before that. When I got to be president I vetoed 16 different dam projects all over the United States." Terry eventually quit his Emory University job and started full time career in environmental advocacy, including founding American Rivers, a principal U.S. conservation group. For the next 30 years he specialized in environmental projects involving rivers and wetlands and later, when he became a board-certified toxicologist, he developed an expertise in hazardous waste cleanups. He was an active paddler until sidelined by Parkinson's Disease. A passionate teacher and advocate, he is sorely missed by all who knew him. Click through for an excellent obituary and a photo of Terry taking Governor Carter over Bull Sluice!