AW's January Volunteer of the Month presented by Kokatat: Andrew Grizzell
01/26/2022 - by Bethany Overfield
Andrew (Andy) Grizzell has been an ardent supporter and champion of American Whitewater for decades. He’s the lead organizer of the annual Millrace Massacre and Iceman Championship, an incredibly challenging race circuit that takes place in Columbia, SC on the Saluda River. He’s turned the event into a significant fundraiser for American Whitewater and has donated thousands of dollars to our cause. We want to take a moment to spotlight his enthusiasm and to say, "Hey! Thanks!" by honoring him as our January AW Volunteer of the Month presented by Kokatat.
It's Permit Season!
01/19/2022 - 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.
Making Policy Progress in Colorado
01/12/2022 - by Kestrel Kunz
The Colorado based stewardship team had the pleasure of working with a team of graduate students from the University of Colorado’s Masters of the Environment program in 2021. We set them up with the task of investigating the feasibility of a state run wild and scenic river protection program in Colorado. The team, Sarah Hamming, Sarah Heller, and Jack Sheehan, dove deep in literature to learn about the history and workings of the WSRA, other state programs and other mechanisms for protecting water in Colorado. Thanks to the far reaching stakeholder outreach of the students, the concepts have already been the topic of discussion in river conservation circles and will hopefully spark bold changes for the valuable waters of our headwaters state.
Crude Oil Trains Threaten Colorado River (CO)
01/12/2022 - by Kestrel Kunz
The federal Surface Transportation Board has approved construction and operation of the Uinta Basin Railway, a project that has the sole purpose of increasing waxy crude oil extraction and transporting it through Colorado to Gulf Coast Refineries. The fossil fuel extraction in the Uinta Basin would lead to53 million tons of carbon emissions per year and would send up to ten 2-mile long oil trains per day alongside some of Colorado’s most prized rivers, including the length of the Colorado River itself.
Nolichucky River Wild and Scenic Designation Update (NC/TN)
01/12/2022 - by Kevin Colburn
What’s up with the Nolichucky? We get this question a lot here at AW, and it’s a good one. As recent news articles have reported, regional efforts to designate the 7.2 mile Nolichucky River Gorge as the region's next Wild and Scenic River are currently stalled at the county level. Right now county leaders are neutral and support is vast among regional citizens. We remain hopeful that these counties and others in Western North Carolina will honor and celebrate rivers like the Noli that paddlers know deserve Wild and Scenic status. Here at American Whitewater we’ll keep working with local leaders and citizens to protect some of the region’s best whitewater rivers, including the Noli.
Let's Continue the Conversation Kern River (CA)
01/06/2022 - by Theresa Lorejo-Simsiman
Paddlers are invited to join American Whitewater and the National Park Service for a Zoom discussion to share an update on American Whitewater’s participation in the relicensing process for the Southern California Edison KR3 Hydroelectric Project, which encompasses the Wild and Scenic North Fork of the Kern River from Fairview Dam to Riverside Park.
Paddlesports Safety on the Agenda for the 2022 Washington Legislative Session
01/03/2022 - by Thomas O'Keefe
For the past several years the Washington State legislature has had an interest in improving paddlesports safety and reducing fatalities. While the interest in boating safety is appreciated, the specific legislative proposals introduced over the past few years have had issues and not advanced out of committee. We are providing updates on where things stand as the legislative session gets underway and paddlesports safety is once again on the agenda. Last year's bills to establish a boater education card (HB 1018 and SB 5176) are still live although supporters have indicated they don't plan to move these proposals forward. New this year is a bill that would require those engaged in paddlesports to wear a personal floatation device (HB 1707).
American Whitewater Releases New River Safety Films
12/09/2021 - by Evan Stafford
American Whitewater is proud to announce the release of our new series of river safety films! Beginning with Planning and Preparing for a River Trip and At the River and on the Water, these new films offer up to date and easily digestible tips to help keep you and your friends safe on the water. Designed to simply and effectively communicate the most basic elements of whitewater safety, these films provide a basis for the essential but not always accessible or readily available river knowledge that anyone wishing to spend time in a river environment should know. Produced by American Whitewater under a grant from the U.S. Coast Guard, directed and edited by Mountain Mind Media, and beautifully shot in locations across the country, there has never been a more approachable and compelling film series designed to increase basic river safety knowledge and understanding. Our hope is that everyone from professional instructors, outfitters, whitewater clubs, national parks and national forests to retail shops, whitewater centers and individual paddlers will adopt these films and share them with new and experienced paddlers alike, as we strive for a more knowledgeable and safe community.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!