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Agencies Consider New River Dries & AW Proposal (WV)

Posted: 01/04/2017
By: Kevin Colburn

Right now, West Virginia and federal agencies have a rare opportunity to restore water to the New River Dries, a beautiful 5-mile stretch of Class III-IV rapids that is typically dewatered by the Hawks Nest Dam. The opportunity comes as the agencies draft a new license for the Hawks Nest Dam that will cover the next 30 to 50 years. Earlier today, American Whitewater proposed a schedule of dam releases that would support significant river recreation, profitable power generation, industrial power customers, and the river’s ecology. Comments in support of our proposal submitted by January 8 would help restore the New River Dries.

Late last year the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released their Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA), in which FERC proposed 15 scheduled annual releases in the spring and early summer, online flow information, improved year round access at the powerhouse and Cotton Hill, and a process to determine the best way for the public to launch near the dam during releases. We would like to thank FERC for their proposal, which has significant value yet falls short of what we believe to be fair to paddlers and optimized for all interests.

Our Proposal is as follows:

  • 41 days of recreation releases scheduled each year in the range of 2000-2500cfs to provide for outstanding Class III/IV paddling, while prioritizing 1,600cfs for power generation. Because of high and low inflows, paddlers will get an average of 32 days of releases each year, the power company only has to actively provide 25 days of releases, and the industrial power consumer’s base needs are met at all times.
  • Support for DEA recommended flow information
  • Support for DEA recommended access at Cotton Hill, and the powerhouse, plus requested year round vehicular access to the dam area, or at least a process to consider and produce that result.
  • A license article requiring annual reports on the status of the current industrial need for power, and requiring a license amendment to consider additional releases if the current industrial need for power changes in the future.

This proposal is a win for all interests, and American Whitewater is seeking broad support for it.

You Can Help (and it is easy)!

Individual respectful comments submitted prior to January 8th referencing P-2512 (the project #) in support of American Whitewater’s January 4th comments (reference our comments as "FERC elibrary 20170104-5070") may be submitted to federal decision makers here:

If you represent a paddling club or recreation-oriented business, an organizational sign-on letter is being circulated for your consideration. Contact kevin(at)americanwhitewater(dot)org asap for more information. 

Background Information:

  • The FERC Draft Environmental Assessment on which we are commenting.
  • American Whitewater's Comments and Proposal in response to the DEA.
  • Our proposed schedule (note because of low inflows an average of 32 out of 41 scheduled releases will actually occur):


    Proposed Release Days

    Resulting Scheduled Paddling Days (average)





























Associated Projects

New River Dries (WV)

The Hawks Nest Dam de-waters six miles of the New River most of the time, and the relicensing of the dam began in 2012.

Associated Rivers

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