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Russell Fork Study Needs Congressional Support

Posted: 02/17/2010
By: Kevin Colburn

It has been almost 2 decades since the flow regime of the Russell Fork River (VA/KY) has been updated.  Alot has been learned in that time regarding the recreational opportunities and ecological needs of rivers.  Before the Army Corps of Engineers can update the release program however, they have to conduct a costly study of the impacts and opportunities associated with potential changes.  A group of regional stakeholders are advocating that Congress allocate $250,000 in 2010/2011 and another $250,000 in 2011/2012 for the ACOE to conduct this study.


Paddlers that would like to see a more benefitial set of releases on the Russell Fork, including the potential for summer releases, should contact their congressmen and women and ask them to support an appropriations proposal titled "Reallocation Study of the Big Sandy Watershed." This proposal would benefit rivers in VA, KY, and WV, as well as paddlers, anglers, and other regional river enthusiasts.  Several regional clubs and other organizations are gearing up to support this proposal.


Look up your Senator or Representative, and send them an email or give them a call if you would like to voice your support for the appropriation for the "Reallocation Study of the Big Sandy Watershed."  It may be more important to call your Representative than your Senator, and calls from VA, KY, and WV are especially important. 




The reallocation study will consider six reservoirs in KY and VA will address current watershed demands such as water supply and recreational releases. The water for some of these reservoirs originate in WVA. The requested study has significant impact in economically deprived areas of these three states.

The six reservoir projects in the Big Sandy Watershed. Flannagan and North Fork of the Pound Lakes are located in VA. Fishtrap, Dewey, Paintsville, and Yatesville Lakes are located in KY. In 1992, operational changes were implemented to provide Fall recreational whitewater releases from Flannagan Lake.

The project purposes for the original reservoirs in the Big Sandy Watershed were formulated based upon existing and future scenarios for the watershedâs water resources. Current day requirements may have changing demands for the water storage in the lakes for alternative purposes. Therefore, this study will identify if a reallocation of the original project purposes is necessary.

This study would likely increase whitewater releases from Flannagan Dam, resulting in increased tourism and recreational enjoyment of the Russell Fork River.

Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

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