Senators Merkley and Wyden Push to Expand Smith River National Recreation Area
05/07/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
Senators Merkley and Wyden introduced legislation this week to expand the Smith River National Recreation Area into Oregon. In 1990, Congress enacted legislation to establish the Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA) to protect the watershed, but the boundary of the NRA stopped at the Oregon border, leaving the North Fork of the Smith River and its tributaries unprotected. The whitewater community knows how special the North Fork of the Smith River is for its unparalleled water quality and exceptional opportunities for whitewater boating. The NRA expansion by 58,000 acres would permanently withdraw the land from new mining claims, helping to protect this sensitive area from proposed nickel strip mines, and protect 74 miles of scenic rivers, including Baldface Creek, Chrome Creek, and nearby streams. In addition, the legislation would task the U.S. Forest Service with updating the recreation plan to reflect the new additions to the National Recreation Area, and produce a special study of streams, fens, wetlands, and potentially unstable and vulnerable aquatic habitat areas.
Tonic of Wild – Online Event to Highlight Pacific Northwest Stewardship Issues
05/07/2021 - by Evan Stafford
Save the date! On May 26th, American Whitewater will be hosting a special night of speakers, film showings, games, prize drawings and more to raise awareness for river stewardship issues in the Pacific Northwest. A Tonic of Wild will take place at 7pm Pacific Time and will feature a special presentation on the Wild Olympics legislation from professional kayaker and photographer Chris Korbulic. You do not want to miss this. Soon we’ll have an online auction with tons of great items and you can be entered to win some other great gear in our membership drawings by joining American Whitewater today.
Mokelumne (CA) 2021 Scheduled Recreational Releases
05/07/2021 - by Theresa Lorejo-Simsiman
Annually, in accordance with the negotiated 2001 License Order and Settlement Agreement for the Mokelumne River Hydropower Project, American Whitewater coordinates recreational releases with Pacific Gas & Electric, the Ecological Resource Committee including the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. These annual releases are determined by the water year type which is predicated on the forecasted inflow into the downstream Pardee Reservoir. This year’s water year type is Critically Dry which allows for recreational flows on Tiger Creek and Electra in May & June.
Annual Rec Flows Start this Spring Horseshoe Bend San Joaquin River (CA)
04/29/2021 - by Theresa Lorejo-Simsiman
Paddlers get your boating gear together for annual recreational flow releases on the Horseshoe Bend reach of the San Joaquin River. After nearly two decades of direct advocacy and engagement, American Whitewater is pleased to announce the fruits of our labor. In March 2021 Southern California Edison (SCE) announced they finally secured approval of Long Term Operating Rules for operation of the Big Creek 4 Hydroelectric Project on the San Joaquin River. These rules outline long awaited flow improvements that will begin this Spring. In a win for American Whitewater, managing agencies, and the North Fork Mono Tribe, SCE will now provide flow releases that restore more natural flow patterns that are both optimal for recreational paddling and protective of native aquatic species.
Take Action to Protect Water Quality in Colorado
04/28/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
Colorado’s waters are at stake. From our high mountain streams to the backyard of urban communities, water quality is threatened state-wide. The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has proposed a change to the antidegradation rule that would allow for more pollution into higher quality waters without review or justification. The proposed rule would go against the very premise of the Clean Water Act, which the Commission is tasked with implementing and overseeing in Colorado. Help us protect the antidegradation policy by signing on to this petition to the Water Quality Control Commission.
Final Bear River (ID) Release Moved to September
04/27/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
The final 2021 release on the Black Canyon of the Bear River has been rescheduled to September 11 and 12, 2021. This shift was made possible because the dam owner will be conducting maintenance work this summer and fall that will increase base flows in the river, which decreases ecological concerns with late season paddling releases. The same rescheduling occured last year as well. Our partners in managing the Bear River graciously supported this change, which was requested by American Whitewater and was popular with regional paddlers last year.
AW Volunteers of the Month Presented by Kokatat: Barry Grimes and Emily Grimes
04/26/2021 - by Bethany Overfield
American Whitewater is stoked to recognize Barry Grimes and Emily Grimes as our April Volunteers of the Month for their tremendous work with the National Paddling Film Festival (NPFF). NPFF has been going strong since 1984 but found itself in peril this year due to Covid restrictions and the inability to hold an in-person event. In an effort to keep the festival alive, Emily took over the reigns and launched the first-ever Virtual National Paddling Films Festival. Pulling off anything for the first time is hard as heck and Emily really stuck the landing!
Barry Grimes, Emily’s dad, was a founding father of the film festival and has worked tirelessly on pulling it off every year since its inception. Barry is humble about his efforts when it comes to the fest, but without him, the show would not go on. The folks with NPFF have donated a substantial amount of money over the years to AW and we know it takes an incredible amount of time and effort to pull these festivals off—we can’t thank the all-volunteer NPFF crew enough, but we’ll try!
Comments Needed on River Protection in the Arctic
04/06/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
A new proposed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) management plan for 55.7 million acres in Northern Alaska would fail to protect any of the 11 rivers their analysis finds to be eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. If you have paddled any of the affected rivers in this area we strongly encourage you to review the planning documents and submit comments in support of protection of Wild and Scenic River values in the Central Yukon Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. Deadline is June 9, 2021.
Black Canyon Put-In Closed for 2021 Season (CO)
04/06/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
The National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation announced this week that the East Portal Road which serves as the put-in for the Black Canyon section of the Gunnison River will be closed for maintenance for the duration of the 2021 season. While the road closure is an unfortunate obstacle for many this season, the needed maintenance of the road will lead to fewer unexpected road closures due to rockfall and will improve access to the Black Canyon for the long term. American Whitewater will track the status of the road closure and we will share an update as soon as access to the Black Canyon is reopened.
Train Operations in Eagle and Arkansas Corridors to Require Full Review (CO)
03/25/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
This morning, the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) made a much-anticipated decision on the revival of the Tennessee Pass Rail Line - a 160-mile rail line that follows the Eagle and Arkansas Rivers between Sage and Parkdale, Colorado. The STB formally rejected Colorado, Midland and Pacific Railway’s (CMPR) request to be exempt from oversight and regulation of their proposed operation on the line, which would be leased under an agreement with Union Pacific. This decision comes nearly three months after CMPR filed a notice of exemption on December 31, 2020, as people were bringing in the new year.
Whitewater Flows Secured in New Weber River Dam License! (UT)
03/24/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
A new 40-year license for a dam on Utah's Weber River includes four Saturday paddling releases each year prior to July 15, as well as flow information, accesss, and fish passage enhancements. This outcome is the result of American Whitewater staff and volunteers collaborating with the power company and other stakeholders over the past several years. The releases will provide relatively rare paddling opportunities near Ogden, Utah, in a region where dams and diversions have limited or eliminated many paddling opportunities. The new license requires a recreation plan be developed and other measures that will delay the initiation of releases until 2022. Big thanks to all our partners on the Weber, our lead volunteer Charlie Vincent, and the numerous volunteers who helped us collect data and solve legal and other challenges over the years! See you on the Weber next year!
The Nolichucky Needs You Again (NC/TN)
03/12/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
The Nolichucky area has several new Senators and Representatives that have never heard from the public about designating the Nolichucky as a Wild and Scenic River. They need to hear from you to learn about the river and your feelings on designation. At the same time, the new Congress is setting state and national level priorities and the Nolichucky does not yet have a bill to designate it as a Wild and Scenic River. The next two years mark an incredible opportunity to designate the Noli as the region’s next Wild and Scenic River, but first a designation bill needs to be introduced, and soon. Personal letters and calls are key to getting a bill introduced.
North Fork Skykomish Road Repairs to Start (WA)
03/11/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
After years of engineering and environmental analysis, and some legal challenges at the end, reconstruction of the Index-Galena road is about to get underway this spring. This road provides the primary access to the North Fork Skykomish, which was one of the most popular class IV runs in the Skykomish River drainage prior to major flooding in 2006.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!