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Dam Owner Offers No Releases on New River Dries

Posted: 08/04/2015
by Kevin Colburn

Yesterday, the power company that de-waters the New River Dries with the Hawks Nest Dam proposed zero dam releases that would mitigate their impacts on whitewater recreation and naturally variable flow patterns. The proposal is contained in the Draft License Application for a new 30-50 year federal license for the dam.  American Whitewater will be offering a balanced response to this extreme proposal that outlines the value and potential for restoring significant recreational and ecological values to the New River while allowing profitable power generation to continue.  

The power company also proposes to continue blocking vehicular access to a significant portion of the river reach between the dam and the Cotton Hill Bridge. This proposal would maintain current limits on river access for many paddlers and other recreationists, especially those with disabilities. 

The New River Dries is a spectacular 5.5 mile section of high quality class III-IV whitewater at moderate flows. Paddlers weave through a maze of giant boulders beneath vertical sandstone walls that often rise directly from the river, and are even treated to views of a natural arch. The rapids are fun and the run has significant potential to support commercial as well as private paddling.  

The Hawks Nest Dam diverts all but 100cfs (a relative trickle) from the river except when huge flows spill over the dam, typically in the winter months. Under natural conditions the river would be enjoyable every day of the summer, but the dam's diversion reduces those opportunities to only a couple summer days on average.     

American Whitewater has been an active participant in the dam relicensing process and will continue to push for restoring a more natural flow regime and public access to the New River Dries. Power companies occasionally propose to maintain their decades-old monopoly on rivers in their license applications, however this extreme approach merely drives up costs and conflicts and does not result in outcomes that favor them.

As we develop a formal response to the Draft License Application over the next 90 days we'll share ways that the paddling community can speak up for restoring the New River Dries.  Your support of our stewardship team is a great way to help too.   

Associated Rivers

Associated Projects

New River Dries (WV)
The Hawks Nest Dam de-waters six miles of the New River most of the time, and the relicensing of the dam began in 2012.