Southern Rockies Program Year End Review
12/08/2021 - by Hattie Johnson and Kestrel Kunz
After another busy year in the southern Rockies, it is a great time to look back on our accomplishments and look ahead to what next year will bring. This year was full, yet again, with unprecedented challenges as well as opportunities. The first ever water shortage was declared on the Colorado River while hundreds of millions of dollars were appropriated for watershed restoration, aquatic habitat remediation and natural infrastructure in the West as a part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Climate change and out-dated water management makes our protection and restoration work as important as ever to ensure we have clean and healthy rivers to enjoy long into the future.
Check Out Our Winter Stewardship Update and See What Your Membership Supports!
12/08/2021 - by Evan Stafford
At the end of every year, American Whitewater takes an inquisitive look back at the success we’ve found and the steps forward we’ve taken in our vast array of projects across the country, and then quickly turns to the future and setting the next set of ambitious stewardship goals we hope to accomplish in the following year. We share these goals and the progress we’ve achieved towards them in our Winter Stewardship Update. And wow, do we have big plans for 2022. From dam removals, water rights to protect instream flows, and addressing the impacts of an unprecedented wildfire season, to securing new Wild and Scenic designations, improved regulations, access sites, and flows in state and local parks and sharing our newly produced whitewater safety films and other tools, we’ll have our work cut out for us. If our past success is any indication we’ll surely rise to the challenge, but we can't do it without your ongoing support to keep our work on track.
Prep-Work is Underway on Great Falls Catawba Restoration (NC/SC)
12/07/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
Nearly 20 years ago American Whitewater started working on new licenses for the chain of hydropower dams on the Catawba River, which spans North and South Carolina, with a special emphasis on restoring flows to the dewatered Great Falls of the Catawba. Hundreds of hours of negotiations and studies led to a settlement agreement in 2006, though the federal license was delayed until 2015 by litigation and other factors. Now, after six years of planning, Duke Energy is in the midst of a massive construction project aimed at bringing our two-decade old creative vision for this special place to life.
Recreation Not Red Tape: All the Details
12/07/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
First introduced in March 2016, Senator Wyden's Recreation Not Red Tape Act had a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this past week. We are pretty excited that the Committee has an interest in outdoor recreation and scheduled a hearing covering 9 bills focused on outdoor recreation. We were part of launching that interest among Committee Members when our Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director Thomas O’Keefe was invited to testify before the Committee in March 2019. We are carefully evaluating all of the bills and have worked with Outdoor Alliance to provide testimony to the Committee. Of the bills before the Committee we have had the most direct input on is the Recreation Not Red Tape Act. We have worked on this bill, first introduced in March 2016, for several years and provided extensive input on the development of Title III which is the most exciting. Title I includes reforms to the process for issuing outfitter-guide permits. We know that allocation of outfitter-guide permits is always an important topic for our members and we have worked hard to ensure proposed reforms do not come at the expense of members of the paddling community who prefer to organize their own trips.
2022 Advanced Southeast Release Schedule Set!
12/06/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
American Whitewater and our affiliate clubs have spent the past 25 years working to restore flows to incredible Southeastern rivers impacted by dams. A lot of our work has focused on Class II and III rivers like the lower Nantahala, Tuckasegee, Hiwassee, and Catawba, but we also secured releases in some classic steeper reaches previously dewatered by hydroelectric diversions. Each year we meet with power companies and agencies to schedule future releases, review ongoing ecology studies, and discuss any issues with the release programs. We strive to create a schedule with minimal conflicts to maximize recreational value. Read on for the 2022 dates for the Class IV/V Cheoah, Nantahala Cascades & Upper, West Fork Tuck, and Tallulah rivers.
AW Holiday Membership Offer + 2022 AW Calendars + Sweet New Merch!
12/03/2021 - by Bethany Overfield
Tis' the season! Our 2021 AW Holiday Membership Offer is now available. Get a one-year Standard AW membership along with a 2022 AW calendar AND a 28 oz AW water bottle . . all for just $60! Give a great gift (or treat yourself!) and support your favorite non-profit at the same time. . . rockin' river karma for the whole year!
Head over to our membership form to join or renew for yourself or select the 'Gift Membership' option to give the gift that keeps on giving. Act fast, this offer is good through December 31st.
Encourage Dam Removal Study on Chattooga River (GA/SC)
11/23/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
Tugalo Dam was built 100 years ago. For the past hundred years it has inundated four miles of the Chattooga River and two miles of the Tallulah River beneath a reservoir along the South Carolina and Georgia border. The dam owner has recently proposed to spend roughly $25 Million to upgrade their generators to last another two generations or more. American Whitewater and our partners are asking federal regulators to take a hard look at dam removal as an alternative to re-investing in this old dam that has buried two iconic rivers for a century. Thoughtful letters from paddlers describing the impacts of Tugalo Dam and the likely benefits of removal will help us make the case for a robust dam removal analysis.
Forest Service Proposes Expansive Post-Fire Tree Removal Project in California
11/23/2021 - by Scott Harding
The US Forest Service has recently proposed an expansive project that will cut and remove fire-killed or damaged trees across nine national forests in California. While targeted at roads, the project proposes to cut and remove fire-killed or damaged trees up to 300 feet away from roads. For roadside rivers, this could mean that trees will be cut right to the water's edge and there are numerous whitewater runs and Wild and Scenic rivers that could be impacted. American Whitewater has been tracking this project and recently submitted scoping comments to the Forest Service, encouraging the protection of streams and rivers.
Skagit River Recreation Flow Survey (WA)
11/12/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
Seattle City Light is in the process of securing a new license to operate the Skagit Hydroelectric Project before the current licensee expires in 2025. As part of that process a number of studies are underway that include an assessment of the impacts of hydropower operations on recreation. To collect information from the public, Seattle City Light is conducting an online recreation flow survey for three river segments on the Skagit River. American Whitewater, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and North Cascades National Park participated in the development of this study plan. The purpose of this recreation flow survey is to gather information about recreation flow preferences for three river segments on the Skagit River along a 25.2-mile length from the Goodell Creek Boat Launch inside the Ross Lake National Recreation Area to Howard Miller Steelhead Park near Rockport.
American Whitewater Succeeds in Protecting Rivers and Fighting Climate Change
11/10/2021 - by Evan Stafford
In a big win for river restoration and investment in public lands, the House passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (H.R. 3684), as amended by the Senate, late last Friday, November 5. This legislation will now be sent to the President’s desk. American Whitewater staff have worked with our partners over the past several months on a few key sections of the bill that keep more water in rivers and protect water quality. The bill includes an unprecedented $2.3 billion (yes, billion!) for environmental and recreation enhancements around and below dams (read: restoration of streams and recreation access upgrades), dam removal, and dam safety improvements. As part of a broad coalition of stakeholders in the future of hydropower dams, and in our capacity as leaders in the Hydropower Reform Coalition, we reached out directly to the White House, congressional members and their staff to request funding for these dam related priorities. We played a significant role in directing, what is in our estimation, the most money ever federally appropriated for the removal of dams, dam safety, and environmental restoration of dam affected rivers in the history of the United States.
2021 BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION - CURRENT MEMBERS PLEASE VOTE NOW!
11/10/2021 - by Evan Stafford
Each year American Whitewater's membership ratifies Board of Director members to serve three-year terms. These candidates volunteer to serve on the American Whitewater Board. Current American Whitewater members can cast their votes through Midnight Pacific Time, December 10th. Currently, American Whitewater has four Director Nominees to fill four open seats for election, you may vote for up to four candidates on the slate. The ballot for our Board of Directors election is placed online here.
Comments Needed By Nov. 26 to Secure Protections for West Slope Rivers (CO)
11/09/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
In August, we announced the release of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison Draft Forest Plan. This plan will guide the management of over 3.2 million acres and thousands of river miles, including high-quality paddling streams like the Upper East and the Taylor rivers. The current plan is over 38 years old and is severely outdated. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to effect change on our public lands and we need the paddling community to ACT NOW by submitting comments to the Forest Service. Make sure that you personalize your comments by sharing a photo or a personal experience about a river(s) on the Forests.
Opportunity to Provide Input on Washington State Recreation Planning
11/05/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
Every 5 years Washington State updates their State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). All states must have such a plan that is required to receive federal recreation dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The process is currently underway to update Washington State's SCORP for 2023-2027 and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office is soliciting input through a survey. In addition they are providing an opportunity to upload a photo and narrative description of a special place. Input from the whitewater paddling community will demonstrate our community's interest in river access and conservation and help American Whitewater to be more effective in advocating for our community's interests in statewide recreation planning.
Gila Wild and Scenic River Bill Reintroduced and Gaining Speed (NM)
11/03/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
Today, Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján reintroduced the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act. The Act, officially reintroduced on November 2, is poised to protect over 440 miles of free-flowing rivers and streams in the Gila and San Francisco watersheds in New Mexico. The success of this campaign wouldn’t be possible without the support of our local partners that have championed this effort and our dedicated members. Over the past couple years, thousands of paddlers and river lovers have voiced their support for protection of the Gila watershed by writing directly to our legislators, signing petitions, and sharing personal stories of the Gila. Your voices have been heard and securing permanent protection for the Gila and its tributaries is nearing the finish line. While the reintroduction of this bill comes as a great win, there is still lots of work to ensure that the legislation is passed through Congress. We will be working to get this across the finish line - for good. Please take a moment to thank the Senators for their hard work and dedicated to protect the Gila River!
American Whitewater Statement on Pending Sale of SDS Lands
10/06/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
This past week a consortium that includes Twin Creeks Timber, The Conservation Fund, and WKO announced plans to acquire SDS Lumber and Timber Companies. This acquisition includes significant land holdings in the White Salmon River watershed as well as adjoining lands in the Little White Salmon, Klickitat, and Hood River watersheds that are critical to the health of these spectacular rivers. These lands also represent the traditional territory of the Yakama Nation ceded to the federal government in the treaty of 1855. For years the local paddling community has accessed the White Salmon River across SDS lands with the Green Truss put-in being used as the traditional dividing point between the Farmlands and Green Truss runs on the White Salmon River. In partnership with Outdoor Alliance and the local paddling community, American Whitewater has published a Story Map that highlights the lands that are part of this transaction and the values they hold: https://arcg.is/SePWP
Paddle Wise – A Responsibility Code For River Runners
08/19/2021 - by Evan Stafford
Paddle Wise is a responsibility code for river runners developed by American Whitewater through a buildout and design partnership with NRS. The mission was to create a simple and shareable responsibility message for the increasing number of individuals participating in whitewater recreation. When you’re on the river you represent our community and your safe enjoyment of the river is in your hands. These helpful hints will not only make sure you represent the whitewater community well and enjoy the river safely, they’ll help protect, restore and maintain access to our rivers for everyone. Check out www.paddlewise.org for more info and the full toolkit which you can use to help spread the stoke for paddling responsibly.
It’s Finally Time to Protect Colorado’s West Slope Rivers!
08/16/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
Today, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest Unit announced the much-anticipated release of the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Draft Plan materials were released on Friday, August 13, initiating a 90-day review period. The GMUG National Forest is home to gems like Oh-Be-Joyful Creek, the Taylor River, Norwood Canyon on the San Miguel, and numerous others. Many of these rivers are free-flowing and offer outstanding values, including paddling, breathtaking scenery, fish habitat, and profound history and culture. This point in the plan revision process is the most important time for the river community to engage and speak up to protect our beloved West Slope rivers in Colorado!
Proposed Hydropower Dams on Little CO River Stopped (AZ)
08/03/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
This week, I returned from a 19-day Grand Canyon trip to learn that two proposed hydropower projects on the Little Colorado River had been formally abandoned. On July 26, Pumped Hydro Storage LLC officially surrendered their two preliminary permits for the Salt Trail Canyon and Little Colorado River Pumped Storage Projects. These two projects received preliminary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2019 and if completed, would have inundated 4.5 miles of the Little Colorado and created 4 dams up to 240 feet high. American Whitewater and our members were among hundreds of commenters that opposed these hydropower projects, including multiple native tribes whose sacred lands would have been irrevocably destroyed.
Comment Opportunity on Deschutes River Business Plan
07/31/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
The Bureau of Land Management Prineville District's Deschutes Field Office is seeking public comment on a proposal to change the fee structure for the Lower Deschutes Wild and Scenic River. The proposed changes are intended to make fees more equitable for all users, including non-boating users, throughout the year and to account for rising operating costs and the need for year-round maintenance.