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Spring Tallulah Releases Cancelled, More Releases Sought (GA)

03/02/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Tallulah Gorge State Park has cancelled whitewater paddling opportunities this spring on the Tallulah River due to Covid-19 concerns. In response, American Whitewater and several partners are asking Georgia State Parks for two actions. First, we are asking that the closure be lifted so that paddling can be allowed this fall, if not this spring, with some standard Covid protocols in place. Second, with several partner organizations we are proposing that a long overdue shift be made in how aesthetic flows are released by the dam owner to provide for significantly more paddling opportunities each year, starting this fall.  

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Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act Passes House

03/01/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

As the first action on public lands legislation this Congress, the House just passed on a 227-200 vote an impressive package of river conservation bills, many of which include priorities for the whitewater paddling community. The bills that formed this package, known as Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act (H.R. 803), include more than 1000 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, over 1.5 million acres of new Wilderness, and more than 1 million acres of sensitive watersheds closed to new mining claims. These bills passed the House of Representatives last Congress in February 2020 and again in July 2020 as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, but unfortunately saw no action in the Senate. Wasting no time in the new Congress, the House took up these bills again, and passed them with a couple more bills as amendments. 

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Over 1,000 Miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers is Back in Congress

02/24/2021 - by Evan Stafford

Late last year you may remember our push to pass over a thousand miles of Wild and Scenic designations and millions of acres of protections for some of the most storied whitewater landscapes in the West, including the Grand Canyon (AZ), the Dolores (CO), the Olympic Peninsula (WA), and several whitewater rich watersheds in California (Trinity Alps, Central Coast, San Gabriels) under the banner of the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act (PAWA) and by attaching it to the end of year must-pass National Defense Authorization Act. Ultimately that play was unsuccessful, however now this legislation is back under the Protecting America’s Wilderness And Public Lands Act (PAW+) and it’s headed to the House floor for a vote this Wednesday February 24th. Your Congress person needs to hear that these river protections are important to you and as usual we make it super simple with our easy-action form. The details of the river protections included in this bill can be found in this prior article we wrote when this package was first introduced in Congress. 

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Stream Access Threatened By House Joint Resolution 5 and 8 in New Mexico

02/16/2021 - by New Mexico Paddlers Coalition

Thirty New Mexico State Representatives have introduced two resolutions asking voters to amend Section II of the state’s Constitution (“New Mexico’s Bill of Rights”). Both resolutions ask voters to approve elevating hunting and fishing into constitutional rights.  Its title “Protecting the Right to Hunt, Fish and Harvest Wildlife” would be more accurately described as “Protecting Property Rights over your Right to Hunt, Fish, or Float.”  These ballot initiatives are designed to preempt stream access rights litigation currently being considered by the NM Supreme Court. Click here to email the NM House Natural Resources Committee and let them know to oppose both bills.

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New Virginia River Access Fee Program Delayed Until 2022

02/11/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The media is reporting that the new fee program affecting river access areas owned and managed by Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources river access areas has been delayed one year, from starting in July of 2021, to instead starting in July of 2022. The delay is to allow for additional input and reconsideration of how the program should be implemented, apparently specifically to reduce impacts on outfitters. A committee will review the new law and make recommendations on possible improvements. American Whitewater encourages Virginia paddlers to get involved through their state legislators, through club participation in the committee, and through any public comment opportunity.

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Tell New Larimer County Commissioners how Important a Healthy Poudre River Is

02/11/2021 - by Hattie Johnson

In August, we asked our members to take action to help protect flows in the Cache La Poudre (CO). The County Commission was analyzing the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) for its adherence to the Larimer County Land Use code under an application for a 1041 permit. Despite the 203 letters from our supporters and the majority of all comments raising concerns about the project, the Commission voted 2-1 to approve the permit.

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American Whitewater Members Topple Two California Dam Proposals

02/11/2021 - by Theresa Simsiman

American Whitewater and members of the paddling community were called upon to stop two detrimental dam proposals, Centennial Dam and Alder Reservoir. These project proposals were included in a project list for an update to the Cosumnes, American, Bear and Yuba Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (CABY Plan). The CABY Plan outlines water management objectives for over 300 miles of California whitewater and comments were requested before a vote to accept the 2021 plan update.

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Help Protect Colorado’s Western Slope Rivers this Valentine’s Day

02/09/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

American Whitewater is asking the paddling community to step up this Valentine’s Day to help protect rivers like the Taylor, Oh-Be-Joyful, and San Miguel rivers in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) in Colorado. This Valentine’s Day and for the whole month of February we are collecting LOVE LETTERS from you to your favorite river in the Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests. We want to hear directly from you about why you love these rivers and why they are worth protecting. We have made this easy-to-use form to submit your letter to us! 

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Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante Monuments on the Path to Restoration

02/09/2021 - by Hattie Johnson

As a part of the day one executive order on “Protecting Public Health and Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis”, the new administration directed the Secretary of the Interior - along with the Attorney General, Secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and Tribal Governments - to review the boundary changes made by the previous administration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. A report will be provided to the President with recommended appropriate actions. This review and subsequent report will determine whether or not the original boundaries of both Monuments should be restored. American Whitewater will remain engaged and supportive of the restoration of these national monuments, and will let you know when you can speak up for these rivers.

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Restoring Public Input and Strong Environmental Reviews to Federal Projects

02/09/2021 - by Evan Stafford

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the essential law outlining environmental review for public lands and rivers projects. Recent changes to rules governing implementation of the law significantly undermined the Act’s efficacy. The previous administration released new Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) rules which shortened the time frame for completing environmental studies, limited the types of projects subject to review, and no longer required federal agencies to account for a project’s cumulative effects on the environment, such as climate change. The rules, exempting a significant amount of projects from environmental review not only led to worse ecological outcomes, but severely restricted public input on Federal management decision-making. NEPA environmental reviews are the main opportunity for the public to find out about and comment on federal projects, even if their concerns are more shaped by recreation issues, such as maintaining access. The new administration through the January 20th “Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” has ordered a review of these changes to the CEQ NEPA regulations. This executive action has the power to restore public input in federal land management decisions and establish NEPA environmental reviews for projects where they should be required. Revising these rule changes is a priority for American Whitewater. 

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Overnight Camping Permits Once Again Available for Paddlers on Redwood Creek

02/09/2021 - by Scott Harding

Redwood National Park stopped issuing dispersed camping permits for Redwood Creek late last year, leaving paddlers unable to legally do the 25-mile Redwood Creek overnight trip in the towering old-growth redwood forest. We’re pleased to announce that the Park is now issuing these permits via the internet to whitewater boaters, just as flows are perfect for this seldom-run river. (Photo by Sara Gallagher)

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Access Restored to Multiple NW California Whitewater Rivers

02/08/2021 - by Scott Harding

Almost 70 miles of whitewater on three rivers in far Northern California are now re-opened to public access—and paddling—after the U.S. Forest Service lifted closures that had been in place since last year’s wildfires. American Whitewater worked to ensure that access to these rivers—none of which were actually affected by last year’s wildfires—was fully restored.

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Prop DD Funds Beginning To Emerge

02/08/2021 - by Ian Stafford

In 2019 American Whitewater endorsed Proposition DD in Colorado. This ballot measure created a sustainable funding mechanism for the Colorado Water Plan via revenues from sports gambling. From bets on Belarusian soccer to Colorado Rockies baseball, Colorado's water is starting to see the outcome of this successful measure, and we're pleased to report that funding is coming in higher than we expected for its first year. 

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Representative Simpson Proposes a Bold New Vision for the Snake River (WA/OR/ID)

02/07/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

After three years of careful study and conversations, Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID-2) has released an Energy and Salmon Concept that includes a proposal to breach the four Lower Snake River Dams while making significant regional investments in salmon conservation, recreation, transportation, agriculture, and energy. American Whitewater supports the efforts of Representative Simpson to launch this converastion; we welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue on a proposal that would have a signficant impact on our work throughout the Columbia River basin for years to come. 

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Railway in Arkansas and Eagle River Corridors to Receive More Scrutiny (CO)

02/05/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

Last week, we urged you to send your comments to the federal Surface Transportation Board asking them to deny Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway's (CMPR) request to be exempted from important regulatory proceedings regarding their proposed lease and operation of the Tennessee Pass rail line. The rail line traverses the Arkansas and Eagle Rivers in Colorado and has been inactive for almost 25 years. Today, rather than approving their exemption, the Surface Transporation Board (STB) has postponed a decision on the exemption, in part due to the comments submitted by American Whitewater and our members. On January 22, American Whitewater formally petitioned the STB to stay (or postpone) the effective date of the exemption in order to conduct a more thorough review of CMPR's proposed lease and operations on the Tennessee Pass Line and we additionally requested a complete and thorough environmental review of the project. While our full request has not been approved by the STB, their move to postpone their decision on the exemption until further review of all comments and objections is worth celebrating! 

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Grand Canyon 2022 Main Lottery Update (AZ)

02/05/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

In December, we shared an update on how the Grand Canyon has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Grand Canyon closed on March 24, 2019 and all permitted river trips were canceled through June 14, 2019. Up to 1600 self-guided trip participants had their trips canceled by the NPS and were given the option to reschedule for the same launch date in 2022. To make up for the lost trip opportunities due to the pandemic, American Whitewater's affiliate club, the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA), advocated for additional self-guided permits in the 2021, 2022, and 2023 season. At GCPBA's request, the National Park Service approved the addition of small (8-person or fewer) trips every other day in March and October for 2021, 2022, and 2023. The additional March 2021 dates were made available in a follow-up lottery that rain on October 27, 2020. Fast forward to February 2021 and it is again that time of year. The annual Grand Canyon main lottery began on February 2 and will run through February 26. In regular Grand Canyon permitting fashion, the current permit application is for launch dates in the 2022 calendar year. However due to the COVID-19 impacts explained above, the 2022 launch dates have some modifications. Read on to learn more! 

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Salt River Season Suspended (AZ)

02/05/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

The Salt River lottery for the 2021 river season has been suspended due to COVID-19 mitigation measures put in place by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The Tonto National Forest has a close relationship with the WMAT and the Forest Service is supporting their decision to close their recreation areas to the public. Similar to other Tribes, the WMAT has been hard hit by COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate compared to other populations in the U.S. American Whitewater sends our condolences to those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and we ask that paddlers respect the current river suspension. If White Mountain Apache Tribal Lands reopen to the public then an announcement will be made initiating a first come first serve permit process for the Salt River Canyon. This will be announced on, through the Salt River listserv, and on American Whitewater’s website.  

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Protecting Whitewater Releases Under State Water Quality Standards

02/02/2021 - by Bob Nasdor

Clean water advocates are buoyed by the recent Executive Order, issued on the first day of the new Biden administration, revoking a prior executive order that resulted in regulations limiting the ability of states to require that hydropower dams meet state water quality standards. The new Executive Order (Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis issued January 20, 2021) revokes Executive Order 13868 (promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth issued April 10, 2019) that began a rulemaking process under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. We are actively working to encourage the administration to begin a new rulemaking process that would rescind the recent EPA Section 401 regulations and restore the vital role of states in protecting our rivers.

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Clean Water Act Headwater Protections On Path to Restoration

02/02/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Within their day one executive orders, one of the first things the new administration did was to start the process of restoring more robust Clean Water Act protections to our nation’s rivers that were weakened under the prior administration. This is good news for rivers and paddlers. This first-day executive order signals that a new rulemaking is coming that will restore protections to many headwater and desert streams in particular, which will of course restore protections for many downstream river reaches and their communities too. Rulemaking often takes two or more years and has multiple opportunities for public input. 

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East Fork Virgin River Proposed Dam Halted for More Analysis (UT)

02/01/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater learned of a dam and diversion proposed in the East Fork of the Virgin River watershed late last year and was among several organizations that filed comments questioning the analysis behind the proposal. It was announced last week that approval of the dam approval would be delayed so a more robust analysis can be conducted. This is good news for the Wild and Scenic East Fork of the Virgin River as it flows through Zion National Park downstream of the proposed dam.  

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