Posted: 12/04/2000

There is growing recognition nationwide of how whitewater recreation benefits river communities and improves local economies. This recognition has improved access, restored rivers, removed dams, and changed attitudes on the role of extractive industries-it has led to better rivers and better paddling. But not everyone shares this vision.
American Whitewater needs your help to battle the TVA.
The HUGE bureaucracy that believes rivers are its own personal property.
That bureaucracy is the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Founded in the 1930's to provide flood control, navigation, reforestation, agricultural and economic development for the Appalachian heartland, the TVA now concentrates solely on producing power. The largest electrical utility in the United States, it is the exclusive provider for a region spanning 80,000 square miles.
TVA's dams control the rivers of the southeast, including both the lower and upper Ocoee, two of the most popular whitewater river sections in the country.On July 26, the TVA wrote to American Whitewater. The purpose of the letter? To thank American Whitewater's Ocoee Festival for "contributing to the economic well-being of the Ocoee region", and to alert us that:
"After 2001 TVA will no longer provide free water
for whitewater events on the Ocoee..."
This is not just a question of water for an event.
Like other battles we've fought, this is a question of
'just whose river is it, anyway?'
Is it for everyone? Or just for the TVA?
The upper Ocoee, site of the 1996 Olympic races, is totally dead, de-watered by TVA's upstream dams. Water is allowed in the riverbed only in two instances: 1) when local outfitters pay for the water, and 2) during the 13 days of "free" water provided by the TVA for events such as the Ocoee Rodeo and USCKT team trials.

Last year, water on the Ocoee generated more than $40 million and hundreds of jobs for local communities, the state and U.S. Forest Service - but unless the TVA gets their cut, they're taking their water and going home!

American Whitewater will fight this decision. I promise you we will not pay to put water back into a river where it belongs. But if we are to tackle an agency as powerful as the TVA we will need your help.

    American Whitewater believes the TVA has gone too far. We do NOT agree that:

    • financial well-being for the TVA outweighs the benefits to so many others.

    • lake recreation and hydropower are worth more than whitewater.

    • $22+ million spent by taxpayers for the Ocoee Whitewater Center was a one-time deal.

    • TVA owns the water (we believe it is a public resource).

    With your support, American Whitewater WILL:

    • As with other dam issues, organize a coalition of paddlers, outfitters, local businesses, and others to help us improve the upper Ocoee

    • Establish communications between this coalition, TVA, the Administration, Congress, other federal agencies, and the State of Tennessee to help us put water back in the river, and

    • Work to restore the Upper Ocoee-not just for 13 days, but for an annual flow schedule that benefits the river, whitewater paddlers, and the local economy.

How can American Whitewater hope to win this battle, and how can you help change the situation on the Upper Ococe?

1) Through volurteer effort. Grassroots activists accomplished every river victory ever won, and American Whitewater's recent efforts are great examples. We plan to use whitewater's greatest asset boaters like you - to help us work with the many others affected by this self-centered decision.

Please email: Craven Crowell, Chairman Tennessee Valley Authority and let him know how you feel about the TVA stopping the Ocoee Flow.

Or print out this let ter and mail it to:

            Tennessee Valley Authority
            400 W. Summit Hill Dr.
            Knoxville, TN 37902-1499
            Phone: 865-632-2101

2) By supporting Americar' Whitewater generously. Slaying giants today costs money, and I think you'll agree it is worth our effort and send a gift today. Please go here to make an online donation.

Boaters are altering - for the better - how others look at rivers. Working together, we can change the thinking of the TVA, improve one of the Southeast's greatest whitewater rivers, and again stop those who hold rivers hostage for their own use. Please help us today!

Richard J. Bowers
Executive Director American Whitewater

P.S. If you paddle in the southeast, you know American Whitewater has already made strides toward restoring whitewater rivers like the Cheeah, Nantahala, and Tuckaseegee. What a shame if we can't save a river that has already demonstrated its great recreational potential! Please support us as generously as you can.

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Risa Shimoda
601 Hudson Ave #102
Takoma Park, MD 20912-3213