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TNC Investigates Flow Improvements in New England

Posted: 07/31/2009
by Kevin Colburn

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is currently investigating opportunities for restoring natural functions to the Connecticut River Watershed in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  TNC's efforts are focused on reconnecting rivers and streams, restoring floodplain forests, and managing flows for people and nature.  The Connecticut River Watershed is home to several whitewater rivers including the West, Deerfield, Millers, Ashuelot, Black, and Westfield rivers. TNC's efforts will bring a new level of science and cooperation to the management of dams in the watershed.   


American Whitewater recently met with TNC staff, and has begun participating in TNC's Connecticut River Program as a stakeholder.  TNC is working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers which operates several storage reservoirs on recreationally important rivers like the West.  We feel that these efforts could lead to revised flow regimes for several rivers in the watershed that could be better for the rivers, and hopefully better for paddlers as well.  AW will work closely with TNC and regional paddling clubs and businesses to assure that recreational values are considered in flow scenarios.  


Of particular interest to paddlers is the West River, where recreational releases have been curtailed in recent years due to a potential problem the dam has with passing stocked salmon smolt that are potentially outmigrating in the spring, and due to severe limits to the rate of change in flows in the fall.  Also of note on the West is a recent application by a private company to add hydropower generation to the dam.  In a watershed with far more questions than answers, we are hopeful that the resources and process that TNC is bringing to the table can bring some clarity to how the West and other rivers should be managed to meet multiple objectives.  


Learn more about TNC's Connecticut River Program here.


Read some of the scientific reports on the Connecticut River Watershed that TNC has generated in the past few years in the document box to the righthand side of this article.  


Associated Rivers

Ashuelot NH
3. Lower Ash II-IV
Black VT
West River VT

Associated Projects

West River (VT)
Paddlers have long enjoyed and defended the few recreational releases on Vermont's West River. New hydro proposals may offer opportunities or impacts.