New Dam Proposed for Chehalis River (WA): Take Action and Comment
The Chehalis River has one of Washington state's longest continuous sections of Class III whitewater, yet it remains relatively unknown to many paddlers due to access issues involving restrictive policies of a private timber company. A new flood control dam proposal would eliminate 14 miles of this wild and free-flowing Class III whitewater (West Fork to Pe Ell), forever keeping paddlers from discovering this underused trove of quality whitewater in southwestern Washington. Paddlers and other river enthusiasts have an opportunity to provide input on the fate of the Chehalis River by submitting a comment on their Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Take this opportunity to comment and help protect this free-flowing river today! Take Action Today
Help get new river access and flow info for the Kaweah River (CA)
The Kaweah River is one of the crown jewels of southern Sierra whitewater. Flowing out of Sequoia National Park, the river and its forks offer challenging, non-stop whitewater through golden granite canyons. But despite its grandeur and popularity, boaters have long been challenged by inadequate public river access and a lack of real-time flow information for the Middle Fork and East Fork Kaweah rivers.
American Whitewater is working to resolve these issues through the hydropower relicensing process for Southern California Edison's Kaweah Hydroelectric Project, and we need your help. Please read more and take a few minutes to send online comments supporting improved access and flow info.
Photo by Darin McQuoid (East Fork Kaweah River)
Keep it in Your Zip Code – How to Paddle in a Pandemic
Our friends at Outdoor Alliance recently released How to Get Outside (during a pandemic), a set of guidelines for recreating in the most responsible way possible. We borrowed their considerations and added some paddling specific ideas. This is an important time for paddlers to be a part of the solution to both help slow the spread of COVID19 and advance stewardship efforts for your favorite rivers. The first step is simple - stay in your zip code. A short abstinence from paddling outside your neighborhood can save lives and keep the delicate balance that ensures enough water to boat and river access in many rural communities from shifting in the wrong direction. Maintaining constructive relationships with communities where we recreate is in our long-term interest as we work with them to improve the health of rivers and our opportunities to enjoy them.
Colorado State Policy April Update
Spring has sprung in Colorado, but these uncertain times have seen unprecedented change at the state level of government. This months Colorado Policy update highlights important water policy that has already been passed through both chambers of the Colorado State Legislature, and have either been signed, or are waiting to be signed by the Governor. Along with an update on legislation that has already been passed, you can get an update on the closure of the State House during these uncertain times, and find out a bit more about the question that is currently facing the Colorado Supreme Court about how the legislature will be able to move forward with its traditional calendar. Lastly, as always, there are a handful of resources that are here for you to be able to utilize during this time at home.
Lochsa Area Streams Need Your Help Again (ID)!
The Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests are taking another big step toward eliminating protections from most or all of 89 outstanding whitewater streams in the Lochsa, Selway, and Clearwater watersheds. These rivers have been found eligible for Wild and Scenic designation and should be protected through the Forest Planning process. Instead, the Draft Forest Plan proposes to remove those protections for political reasons through a misapplied process they call "suitability." Maybe you are one of hundreds of paddlers that sent a letter on this issue in the last stage of the Forest Planning process. Over 99% of public comments supported protection for all 89 streams. The Forest Service ignored these letters. The most protective alternative they considered protects less than half of these streams. We need to speak up again as a community at this last critical public input opportunity.
A Note from our Membership Director
If your membership is up for renewal and you've lost your job or your income has been greatly diminished, we will extend a complimentary basic membership for a year. We don't want to lose touch with you! Many of you have supported us for decades and some for less than that, but we need all of your support to continue our mission. Reach out to me and I'll set you up! Shoot me an email or give me a call (866.262.8429). We only ask that you stay engaged with us and with our work. We'll continue to send pleas out for help-whether in the form of volunteerism or the submission of comments to make sure our collective voice is heard. Click below to read more....
Nantahala-Pisgah Forest public meetings and comment period delayed
The much-anticipated Draft Forest Plan for the 1.1 million-acre Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest was released in February, but the public meetings and comment period are being delayed because of COVID-19. We are grateful for the pause in the process to allow the public time to give the new Forest Plan the attention it deserves. We'll be taking the extra time to review the plan with our collaboration partners in great detail. We'll let paddlers know when it's time to attend a public meeting and submit comments, and we will as usual offer advice on how those comments can be the most helpful.
Green River Release Schedule Set for 2020 (NC)
Last year, Northbrook Energy purchased the Tuxedo Hydropower Project from Duke Energy. This hydropower project provides the flows for the Class III+ Upper Green, the Class V Narrows, and the Class II Lower Green - all of which are popular whitewater runs. As the sale was underway, American Whitewater and others advocated for assurances in the contract that recreational releases would continue to follow a predictable pattern and be communicated as a forecast online. The contract contains these guarantees for the public, and earlier today river users got on the phone with the power company for a positive conversation confirming the 2020 schedule.
Navigating Troubled Waters with American Whitewater
A large part of our stewardship work at American Whitewater is following the science of healthy, clean rivers, and how to enjoy them safely, and that commitment continues to this day. The science of what's happening with COVID-19 suggests that within our communities, including the paddling community, we need to take whatever precautions are necessary to slow the spread of this virus. At American Whitewater, we work off a regional and remote model, where all of our staff work from home offices and have for the past 15 years. That means that we're already well set up for best practice social-distancing and thanks to the incredible support from our members and partners we're well positioned to continue to fight to protect and restore our whitewater rivers and our access to enjoying them safely.
New Mexico Boaters ask NM Supreme Court to Overturn Non-Navigable Waters Rule
American Whitewater has been working with an outstanding coalition of conservationist and recreationist in New Mexico to challenge a 2018 Game and Fish Commission rule that allowed landowners to certify streams on their property as non-navigable and threaten criminal trespass.
With the pro-bono support of Santa Fe based lawyer, Gene Gallegos, our affiliate club, Adobe Whitewater Club, New Mexico Wildlife Federation and New Mexico Chapter Backcountry Hunters and Anglers filed a petition to the New Mexico Supreme Court to invalidate this rule. The petition in full can be found here. We are committed to supporting our colleagues in this case and will continue to update you on the progress.
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!
CEQ PROPOSES RULE CHANGES TO NEPA PROTECTIONS
American Whitewater and its partners, including Outdoor Alliance and the Hydropower Reform Coalition, are filing comments today on the administration's proposed rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The proposed revisions would allow federal permitting without adequately considering climate change impacts, limit consideration of alternatives, and limit public participation in the permitting process. AW is committed to protecting our natural resources from degradation by assuring thorough environmental review before federal permitting to ensure the protection of environmental quality including appropriate recreational uses. Today is the last day to take action on this issue so please use our simple easy action form to make your voice heard right now!
Arizona Rivers Need Protection, Public Comments Due March 12
The Tonto National Forest is accepting public comments on their forest-wide management plan revision until March 12 - just 6 more days! On December 13, 2019 they officially released the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIS) for a 90-day comment period. Forest Plans are vitally important as they are the blueprint for resource management and they provide an opportunity to secure better protections for rivers and their surrounding landscapes. As part of the plan revision process, the Forest Service is required to rely heavily on public input to inform management direction, plan components, and new designated areas. If you are a local Arizona boater, or have had the lucky opportunity to paddle the Salt River, or if you've chased storms across state lines to catch Arizona's famed creeks, or maybe you just have a fervid love for America's public lands and the wild, free flowing rivers and creeks that run through them. No matter the case, these rivers and their surrounding landscapes need your voice. These are our public lands and we have an important role to play in how they are managed. Use this super easy comment form to tell the Forest Service what you think!
Washington State Legislative Session Underway - Bills Affecting Paddlers
Three bills in the Washington State legislature have direct impacts to the whitewater paddling community: HB 2443 would require all boaters in the state, regardless of age, to wear a PFD on the water; HB 2444 would in its original form require regular renewal of boater education cards for motor boaters but is being considered for modification to require paddlers to also obtain a boater education card to use a human-powered craft; and SB 5613 would create new authority to vacate a county right of way that abuts a waterway. We encourage the paddling community in Washington State to review these bills and provide input to the legislature.
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!
American Whitewater Releases New River Access Planning Guide
In a joint project with the River Management Society, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), and National Park Service (NPS), American Whitewater has published the River Access Planning Guide. American Whitewater is regularly called upon to assist with river access projects. Some are a spectacular success, while others are a disappointment. Over the past three years, American Whitewater has been working with the NPS Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Programs to better understand how success comes about when a river access project is developed and provide guidance for a step-by-step process that leads to projects that meet user needs and are sustainable both ecologically and financially.
Owyhee Canyonlands Legislation Introduced (OR)
This week's introduction of the Malheur County Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (S. 2828) represents a historic move to protect over 1.1 million acres of public lands as wilderness in Malheur County centered around the Owyhee Canyonlands. The legislation also includes protection for an additional 14.7 miles of the Owyhee River as Wild and Scenic.
Recreation Not Red Tape Act: a bill to benefit outdoor recreation
For the past several years American Whitewater has worked with our partners on the Recreation Not Red Tape Act (H.R. 3458/S.1967). This is among the most important piece of positive policy we expect to see this Congress in terms of improving outdoor recreation and our access to rivers on public land. Senator Wyden originally approached us on the idea of a bill to benefit outdoor recreation to encourage sustainable use and enjoyment of public lands and waters. Learn more and take action to join us in supporting this legislation.