2007 Top Ten Stewarship Issues: Update

Posted: 11/07/2007
By: Ben Van Camp
At the start of the year we outlined our top ten issues. While we have worked on dozens of projects over the course of the year we wanted to take this opportunity to provide an update on what we’ve accomplished and the challenges that remain. With your support we will continue working on these projects to achieve our collective goals of conserving, restoring, and enjoying whitewater rivers.

1. Colorado Initiative

What We’ve Accomplished: American Whitewater hired Nathan Fey to represent the Colorado paddling community and in the last few months, AW membership in the state has increased by 30%. With this support from the community we are fully engaged in statewide efforts to quantify water use and availability. AW is providing the state with recreational water needs data to protect flows that support healthy river systems and the $230 million whitewater recreation industry. We are also working to protect the best rivers in the state through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Challenges Remaining:
These statewide water supply planning efforts are the biggest threat facing Colorado’s rivers, and threaten downstream needs across the Southwestern United States and Mexico. With massive diversion schemes on the drawing board that could fundamentally change the distribution of water in the region, we will work to fold instream ecosystem needs and recreational considerations into all levels of water supply planning and quantification.

2. Restoring Rivers for Salmon and Boaters
What We’ve Accomplished: For much of the last century, rivers in the Pacific Northwest have been harnessed for hydroelectricity, irrigation, and flood control. The impacts have been felt by both salmon and paddlers, but this summer Marmot Dam on the Sandy River was removed culminating several years of hard work and restoring this river for salmon and boaters.

Challenges Remaining:
We are now gearing up for a major public comment period on the Snake River dams. Four dams on the Snake have drowned 140 miles of river and dozens of rapids. These dams have decimated salmon populations that would otherwise thrive in Idaho’s great rivers.

3. Restoring the Feather River, CA
What We’ve Accomplished: Why would the USFS allow PG&E to vary flows by 6’ a day for power generation but only .2 foot per day for recreation? At issue were the standards set for the protection of Foothill Yellow Legged Frogs. We filed for a hearing that will enable us to make sure the same standards are applied to all river users.

Challenges Remaining: We will continue to question the ability of some agencies to scrutinize recreation releases while turning a blind eye to the other significant impacts occurring on this river.

4. Outdoor Alliance
What We’ve Accomplished: Earlier this year the member organizations of the Outdoor Alliance, representing human powered recreation, all coordinated efforts in Washington, DC to advocate for our public lands. As a result of our efforts the House Interior Appropriations Committee passed the best budget we have seen for public lands in a decade.

Challenges Remaining: Passage of a budget by both the House and Senate that invests in the management of our public lands will require continued effort through 2007.

5. Little Tennessee Campaign, NC
What We’ve Accomplished: Last fall a grant from the Conservation Alliance, provided us with the resources to launch our initiative to restore the headwaters of the Little Tennessee. So far this year we successfully received the approval from federal regulators for the removal of Dillsboro Dam on the Tuckasegee River and have hopefully encouraged the state of North Carolina to do the same.

Challenges remaining:  We need to keep constant pressure on the state for removal of Dillsboro Dam and on federal regulators for licensing of the other Tuckasegee and Nantahala river dams. 

Learn more about American Whitewater's work on the Cheoah, Tuckaseege and the Nantahala.

6. Chattooga River, NC/SC/GA

What We’ve Accomplished: In 2007 paddlers had the first opportunity to legally boat the upper Chattooga in over 30 years in January.  This study showed that the Chattooga is a great paddling resource and that allowing it would have no biophysical impacts and would only affect a handful of other recreationists on a handful of days.  Paddlers have rallied behind these findings throughout the year as the USFS considers the issue.

Challenges remaining: 
We’ll have to comment on the Environmental Assessment in November and then react to a decision due out in December.  The reaction could require an administrative appeal and/or litigation.

7. White Salmon, WA
What We’ve Accomplished: Earlier this year the local county was threatening to acquire Condit dam by condemnation and break the carefully crafted settlement agreement for dam removal. We have successfully pushed back and assisted local proponents of dam removal in their efforts to highlight the benefits of a restored river.

Challenges Remaining: Federal regulators must still issue a final decision for dam removal. We still have some work to do to ensure a favorable decision that will allow dam removal to proceed.

8. Government Owned Dams
What We’ve Accomplished: Many of the whitewater releases that we enjoy are made possible through a government regulated process, however government owned dams do not have to follow their own rules.  American Whitewater is working to see that government owned dams are not given a free pass on responsible management and we are having some success.  On the Savage we helped to secure the first two releases in a decade this summer.

Challenges Remaining: While our work on individual projects continues we will also be working with national staff at federal agencies to improve opportunities for river-based recreation. Agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers have traditionally focused on reservoir recreation, but we are highlighting the opportunities that exist on rivers downstream of these projects.

Learn about American Whitewater's work on the Upper Yough (MD) and the Lehigh (PA).

9. Gauley River Access, WV
What We’ve Accomplished: We managed to maintain the existing lease with the Mason’s Branch field this year, and we continue to monitor and support the federal purchase of the Woods Ferry access area.
Challenges Remaining: We will have to stay engaged until an access area is purchased. Any purchase will require political and financial support.

10. Ausable River, NY
What We’ve Accomplished: Paddlers rallied in unprecedented numbers to support AW’s ongoing efforts to open the Ausable River.  Unfortunately, FERC has yet to reach their decision.

Challenges Remaining: The greatest challenge on the Ausable is patience.  This long overdue decision is promised to us this fall, and we must await it and determine if additional action is needed.  

While we are proud of all the work we have accomplished this year, including many projects not listed here, and the growth in our stewardship program, we need your help to sustain our success.  Your support through memberships and donations enables our staff to be active and engaged in the process of river stewardship. Donations don’t have to be large; each person doing a small part makes a noticeable difference.

When you donate, join or renew your membership, or purchase a gift membership for your paddling buddy, you are helping to meet the many challenges whitewater rivers face. To support American Whitewater's work today click here.

Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

Full Profile

Associated Projects

Ausable Access (NY)

AW has fought a dam owners attempt to block access to the stunning Ausable Chasm.

Chattooga Headwaters (NC)

The US Forest Service has banned boating on the upper 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.

Colorado SWSI (CO)

Colorado's Statewide Water Supply Initiative may very well determine the fate of Colorado's whitewater rivers by dictating how much water can be removed from rivers to serve a growing population.

Gauley River (WV)

For many years AW has worked on the protection of this river and advocated for public access.

Nantahala Relicensing (NC)

AW has worked with regional stakeholders to relicense several dams on the Nantahala River and its tributaries since 2000.

White Salmon Restoration (WA)

American Whitewater has been engaged in a long-term effort to protect and restore one of the Pacific Northwest's most spectacular year-around whitewater rivers.

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!