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AW Calls Foul on Ausable Chasm

Posted: 03/14/2007
By: Kevin Colburn

Today, American Whitewater sent a compaint to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding the ridiculous delays in providing public access to New York's Ausable Chasm.

The dam owner, New York State Electric and Gas, has totally blocked public access to the incomparable Ausable Chasm for decades - without justification.  FERC agreed with American Whitewater that access should be possible and would be a public benefit, and required NYSEG to complete a whitewater flow and access study and proposal.  The data was collected over the summer and fall of 2005, and NYSEG has failed to issue the report for the past 17 months.  The analysis should take about one week.  The result has been the loss of the 2006 paddling season, and if FERC does not act quickly and succinctly, we may lose the 2007 season as well.

The Ausable Chasm naturally flows at boatable levels virtually all year, providing a spectacular class IV summer and fall boating opportunity.  There is NO reason for blocking access to this river, and we have asked FERC to request the study report immediately and follow up quickly with a decision that allows paddler's access to the Ausable River every day of the year, beginning by May, 1st.  Letters from paddlers may also help move this woefully delayed project along. 

More information can be found at:




Send a letter or post card to FERC today at the address listed below with the same heading, stating that you want whitewater boating access to the Ausable River right away at the Rainbow Falls Project, FERC project #2835.  Our letter is below.


Magalie R. Salas
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Mail Code: DHAC, PJ-12
888 First Street NE
Washington, D.C. 20426
RE: Delays in the issuance of a whitewater study report for the Rainbow Falls Project, FERC project # 2835, on New York’s Ausable River.
                                                                                              March 14th, 2007
Dear Secretary Salas,
            On August 18th, 2004, FERC issued a new license for the Rainbow Falls Project, FERC project # 2835, on New York’s Ausable River. This license required that the Licensee complete a whitewater recreation study on the Ausable Chasm in collaboration with other stakeholders including American Whitewater. Because the project is operated as a run of river project and because several different flows were needed, several dates spread throughout the 2005 paddling season were selected on which paddlers were invited to access the river, paddle it, complete a survey, and participate in a focus group.  The dates of study were June 25th, July 10th, July 24th, September 24th, and October 22nd, of 2005. 
            It has been a nearly a year and a half since the final portion of the on-water study and the Licensee has not even submitted a study report to FERC. We requested this report on January 26th, 2006 in an email to project manager Hugh Ives: “I am also writing to request a status report on the boating study done last year on the Ausable.  Where are we at on drafting a report and making a proposal?” Mr. Ives responded: “The RF report is in the works… Should be out for review asap.”    
            On May 3rd, 2006 we wrote to NYSEG again: “The NY water recreation season is starting to crank up and I am getting calls about the Ausable.  People are anxious to get on the river this season and I think it is a reasonable goal.  The river is very desirable and I would like to get a report to FERC asap so that we can wrap this project up and get people on the water.  It has been a year and 7 months since FERC issued the license and I am beginning to get frustrated.  It has been 6 months since the last boating date, and the analysis is VERY simple.  I simply cannot understand why it is taking so long.  Please let me know asap when we can expect to see the draft report.”  
            Once again the answer was that the report was just about done and should be out any day. Subsequent and interim calls resulted in the same response. Several months ago we had the opportunity to review drafts of the study report yet still no report has been filed with FERC. It has been 2.5 years since the license was issued and 17 months since the final data collection.  The entry and analysis of this data should take no more than one week. We have carried out similar studies and can’t imagine the need to take 17 months. 
            The needless loss of the 2005 and 2006 paddling seasons on the Ausable Chasm is a significant loss to the public. 
Paddlers are now facing the potential of yet another year of not being allowed to paddle through what was found to be a spectacular Class IV gorge. The Ausable Chasm is not only one of the most unique and beautiful paddling resources in the New York and Vermont area, it also flows at suitable levels virtually all spring, summer and fall when very few other whitewater opportunities exist. This fact makes it inordinately valuable. Every day that the public remains literally locked out of this public treasure is a shameful abuse of the authority granted to the Licensee to build their dam and powerhouse. There remains no reason for paddlers to be locked out of this amazing resource – yet that has been the case for many years.    
            We write today to ask that FERC:
1.      Immediately request the extremely overdue report on the Ausable Chasm whitewater study.
2.      Upon receipt of this report, act swiftly to require open public access to the Ausable Chasm in time for the spring boating season, no later than May 1st, 2007. 
 Our primary interest is to restore year-round, free, legal paddling access to the incomparable Ausable Chasm in time for public enjoyment this summer. We respectfully ask FERC to assist us in meeting this interest. There is simply no excuse for the delays and lost opportunities, and yet another year of banned public access would be totally unacceptable. 
Thank you for considering this request.
            Kevin Colburn
            National Stewardship Director
            American Whitewater
            1035 Van Buren St
            Missoula, MT 59802

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