Upper Nantahala and Cascades Releases (NC) – September 29-30, 2012
By: Mark Singleton
The Upper Nantahala River and Cascades (bypass reach) releases mandated from FERC Relicensing of the Nantahala River will begin September 29-30, 2012. These releases will be for 7 hours each day with the water at the Cascades by 10AM.
On Sept.29, Duke Energy will release approximately 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water into the river, resulting in Class V water conditions in the Cascades area and a Class III-IV rocky/technical section between the end of the Cascades and the confluence with the powerhouse canal.
On Sept. 30, 425 cfs will be released for five hours resulting in Class V at the Cascades and Class III-IV in the section downstream of the Cascades. This will be followed by 250 cfs for two hours.
Also note that the river section from the Nantahala Powerhouse to the NOC will have more water as the bypass releases are in addition to the releases from the powerhouse.
Endless Rivers Adventures and the Nantahala Outdoor Center will provide free shuttles to boat launch areas on the bypass sections. All paddlers and spectators are asked to use these shuttles as key access points will be closed to parking to provide for put-in and take-out locations on the river sections. Shuttle pick-up will be on Duke Energy property immediately adjacent to the USFS Nantahala put-in along State Road 1310, Wayah Road. Loop shuttles are also planned for the Cascades section.
American Whitewater asks that boaters please be patient with the shuttle system, as many paddlers will likely be looking for access to the upper river. Remember, eight releases will be scheduled for next year and each year after that for the life of the new hydropower license. This section of river also runs with natural flows mostly through the winter months. The Wayah Road that follows the Upper Nantahala and Cascades is a very narrow road with limited roadside access and the community upstream is concerned about their ability to travel the road unimpeded.
The Upper Nantahala consists of two distinct whitewater runs. The uppermost section is known as the Cascades, and offers advanced and expert paddlers a relatively short Class V descent over numerous waterfalls and slides. The Cascades are a highly technical river corridor that is not well suited for large groups or paddlers without the prerequisite skills and equipment. Be ready to help other parties in need of assistance on the river and don’t count on a roadside rescue squad. It is highly recommended that Cascades paddlers be comfortable on other Class V rivers.
The section from the base of the Cascades to the powerhouse is generally referred to as the Upper Nantahala and offers intermediate to advanced paddlers a longer Class III/IV descent. This section is best suited for levels above 400cfs. There are no opportunities to commercially raft these reaches.
The flow schedule for the weekend will be as follows:
• Saturday: 300cfs (Optimal Cascades flow) from 10am to 5pm
• Sunday: 425cfs (Optimal Upper Nantahala flow) 10am to 3pm
• Sunday: 250cfs (Standard Cascades flow) 3pm to 5pm.
Duke Energy, in partnership with Western Carolina University, will seek public comments on the releases. Please fill out a questionnaire to provide feedback for future releases.
About American Whitewater’s Role In These Releases
From 2001 through 2003 American Whitewater participated in an innovative negotiation process to decide the future operations of the dams on the Nantahala and Tuckagegee. AW staff attended full-day meetings at least once a month for 3 years and spent countless hours analyzing and assisting with studies. We focused our efforts on whitewater paddling mitigation, the design of an environmental enhancement fund, and the removal of Dillsboro Dam on the Tuckasegee. We worked closely with other stakeholders including our volunteers, the Carolina Canoe Club, local outfitters, Duke Power, and state and federal agencies throughout the process. Based on three years of work and negotiations, AW signed a settlement agreement in 2003 calling for sweeping environmental and recreational enhancements in the Nantahala, Tuckasegee, and Little Tennessee watersheds. Since this time the relicensing has been held up at FERC (relating to delays in removing Dillsboro Dam on the Tuckasegee River). The dam was removed in 2010, and FERC issued the New License for the Nantahala Hydroelectric Project on February 8, 2012.