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Army Corps Torpedo’s West River Releases (VT)

Posted: 03/26/2009
By: Kevin Colburn

Paddling representatives were shocked this week to receive a letter from Richard Carlson of the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) stating that the spring release on the Vermont’s popular West River would be made during the week rather than on a weekend as has been the practice for decades.  This news follows an ACOE decision last fall to move the release earlier into the spring when the state park that provides access is closed.  In combination, these two decisions render the releases almost recreationally useless.  What has for decades been a valued and vibrant recreational opportunity has been needlessly and senselessly eliminated by the ACOE. 


This news is especially shocking because paddling representatives walked away from a meeting with the ACOE last fall feeling that a productive course of action was finally underway. Opportunities were discussed to shift the spring West River release into May to benefit salmon and paddlers alike instead of the ACOE proposal for an early April release.  Also discussed were opportunities to slightly delay natural pulse flows to provide weekend boating opportunities.  Now, without discussion, the releases will occur during the week in early April when use will be severely limited. 


We ask that West River paddlers take action on this issue.  The two most important steps to take are:


  1. Call, write, or email the Governor of Vermont requesting that he encourage the Vermont Department of Natural Resources to support whitewater boating on the West River. 
  2. Call, write, or email your Senators or Representative (no matter whether you live in Vermont or just paddle there) and request that they ask the Army Corps of Engineers why they are not supporting whitewater boating on the West River at Ball Mountain Dam, near Jamaica, VT.


We ask that paddlers consider and share the following points:


  • The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the Vermont Department of Natural Resources, has eliminated both natural and planned recreational opportunities below Ball Mountain Dam without justification.
  • Whitewater releases have an important economic value to local economies and had occurred historically
  • There is no conflict between salmon or other environmental issues and whitewater releases if the releases are scheduled to avoid impacts created by the reservoir during the outmigration period.
  • Whitewater releases resemble natural flows in their timing and magnitude.
  • The West River system is highly manipulated for reservoir recreation and flood control.  In this context the whitewater releases represent a miniscule departure from natural conditions. 
  • The Army Corps has communicated poorly and in a misleading manner with the paddling public.
  • The Army Corps was supposed to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement on their project operations several years ago, which has yet to happen, so these arbitrary decisions to curtail public recreation have no official record to justify them.
  • There are easy solutions for providing whitewater recreation, flood control, and environmental protection.  It CAN be done, and it SHOULD be done.     
  • Ask that releases be immediately resceduled to occur on the weekend of April 11 and 12.


Please call, write, or email the Governor or your political representatives in DC right away. For more information read the documents attached to the right of this article, or visit the Friends of the West River Website. 



ACOE Response to 2009 Release Request (3/30/2009)

Response of the Army Corps of Engineers to paddlers' request for a viable whitewater release on the West River for the spring of 2009.

West River Fall 2008 Meeting Synopsis (3/26/2009)

A synopsis of the October 30, 2008 meeting between paddlers and the Army Corps of Engineers regarding whitewater recreation below ACOE dams in New England.

Associated Rivers

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.

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