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Help Restore the New River Dries Today (WV)

Posted: 10/22/2015
By: Kevin Colburn

If you would like to see flows restored to the New River Dries, now is a very important time for you to let federal regulators (FERC) know your thoughts.  The power company has proposed zero releases, and no vehicular access to the top of the run in their Draft License Application.  American Whitewater is asking for releases and access, but it is important for individual paddlers to make their voices heard too.  Send your comments in no later than 10/31/15. 

The Hawks Nest Dam diverts up to 10,000cfs around the 5.5 mile “Dries” of the New River all the time, leaving only 100cfs in the river during most of the year.  Only when flows exceed 10,000cfs does the river roar back to life.  These high flows are flashy and hard to catch.  Natural flows would make the river fun every day of the year, with summer base flows typically around 2,000cfs. Ramping back generation could return some or all of the natural flows to the river at any time.  Consider asking FERC to require releases to restore paddling opportunities in the summer and fall when flows are especially impacted by the hydro-project. Restoring better base flows and a series of pulse flows will also be good for the river's ecology and habitat.  

You likely know the Dries through paddling or watching videos filmed at very high water when epic freestyle waves come in.  Flows under 10,000cfs are rare and fleeting due to the hydropower diversion but offer a great Class III/IV whitewater trip with beautiful scenery, technical rapids, and a short shuttle.  In summer months the dam can’t release more water than is flowing into the reservoir, so we are focused on restoring pulse flows in the natural 2000-3000cfs range.  These flows are fun.  Consider focusing more on timing, value and number of predictable releases rather than specific flow volumes in your comments to FERC. 

The power company currently blocks the road to the dam with a locked gate, cutting off the upper 1.5 miles of the Dries to paddlers unwilling or unable to hike with their boats. This section has several fun rapids and many great surf waves and holes in the 2000-3000cfs range.  We are asking FERC to require the gate to be unlocked and that a nice public access and launch site be developed in the vicinity of the dam.  Consider asking for access to the whole Dries, not just the bottom 4 miles below the Cotton Hill Bridge.  Also, ask FERC to require the power company to provide a take-out for the life of their new dam license.

TAKE ACTION: You can easily submit a comment to the FERC using their eComment site. You’ll need to know that you are commenting on the Hawks Nest Hydroelectric Project, and that the proceeding or project number is “p-2512-069.”  The “p” is important. Comments should be submitted by Halloween.      

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