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Posted: 04/28/2020
By: Mark Singleton

Like you, I am feeling disappointed for lost river time on my favorite runs due to social distancing measures that attempt to flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmission. I write to you today to say that we will get through this, it will not be easy but thanks to strong support from our members we can weather the storm. During the financial crisis of 2008, American Whitewater's lean administrative model had a huge impact on keeping our stewardship program intact. I suspect the same will be true in the coming year. I can't say I know when we get back to any sense of 'normal' but what I can say with total confidence is the staff of American Whitewater remain focused on delivering river stewardship project success.

Back in 2005, American Whitewater developed a regional model for our river stewardship work and embedded staff in communities across the country where we had active long term projects. This regional approach to our stewardship work has given our staff plenty of experience working remotely and from home. Here are some examples of projects staff are currently focused on.

• Kevin Colburn has been working with power companies to reschedule many dam releases in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic for later in the year, and diving deep into advocating for rivers during a pivotal stage of forest plan revisions in NC and ID. 

• Trading a spring river trip to Utah for bike adventures in the neighborhood, Thomas O'Keefe is managing project work for the Pacific Northwest from his home office in Seattle, WA. He has been focused on preventing a new dam on the Chehalis River, ensuring Klamath Dam removal stays on track and includes a vision for the public to enjoy this resource, and is in regular communication with elected officials to ensure economic recovery includes investments in outdoor recreation infrastructure. Tom is also homeschooling his kids in the physics of water pressure and the principles of hydropower.

• From her home in Carbondale, Colorado, Hattie Johnson has been getting multiple flow and boatable days studies off and running on rivers in the southern Rockies. These studies provide valuable data to advocate for flow protection. 

• Nestled into the Front Range, in Boulder, Colorado, Ian Stafford has developed advocacy tools for AW members, and partners alike! Along with organizing these tools, he created an online legislative training video to help inspire members to get more involved with their elected officials.

• From Crested Butte, Colorado, Kestrel Kunz has been diving deep into forest-wide management plans in Arizona and New Mexico, fervently writing technical comments in support of better river protections. In her free time, Kestrel has been exploring the local roads via sneakers and rollerblades, and doing a lot more baking than usual - banana bread, blackberry crisp, cinnamon rolls... 

• In between social distanced bike rides along the Wild & Scenic American River Parkway, Theresa Simsiman is working from home on the San Joaquin watershed. This includes a final draft review of Long Term Operating Rules that will soon provide annual recreational flows on the popular Horseshoe Bend Reach. And downstream she is working with Pacific Gas & Electric to complete a whitewater boating study for the San Joaquin River Gorge.

• Working from his home office on the river left side of California's Salmon River, Scott Harding has been reviewing state water quality certifications for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River and is continuing work with AW's California staff to secure access to the full length of the Slab Creek run on the South Fork American River.

• From the Mad River Valley in Vermont, Bob Nasdor has been working on hydropower dam relicensing in the northeast and on the national scene. Bob has been working securing additional whitewater releases on the Mongaup River in New York, joining with affiliate clubs Appalachian Mountain Club and Kayak & Canoe Club of New York. At the same time, Bob is preparing to challenge new EPA regulations that will limit the ability of states to protect their rivers from harm by hydropower projects.

• From Membership Headquarters in the Bluegrass State, Bethany Overfield has been working hard to stay connected with AW Members as they navigate through this difficult time. Outside of her standard membership routine, she's been exploring new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms in order to better serve our membership base. In her free time, she's been busy in her garden prepping for the long growing season in Kentucky and has recently become enamored with making pancakes for dinner. She takes long walks with her geriatric dog and dreams of long river trips. 

• We're a resourceful crew at AW, so it's no surprise that even our Communications Director, Evan Stafford is deep in stewardship issues local to his home in Fort Collins, CO, and throughout the Rockies. Right now he's working with our partners and management agencies to make sure access to rivers on public lands are open wherever it makes sense, while at the same time asking paddlers to keep it local and respect river closures.

Thanks to your ongoing support American Whitewater is able to continue our work on these projects and many more. If you have the capacity to make an additional donation to our efforts it would be greatly appreciated. Like most nonprofits in this era, American Whitewater is likely going to see a shortfall in revenue for the year. Small donations add up, so don't let size hold you back.


Despite the current public health crisis, the fight for wild rivers continues and American Whitewater is well positioned to play a major role in protecting and enhancing what makes wild rivers special. Thank you for being a part of this awesome river community. Please stay safe and healthy.

We are all in this together,

Mark Singleton

Executive Director

American Whitewater

Mark Singleton

PO Box 1540

Cullowhee, NC 28723

Phone: 828-586-1930
Fax: 828-586-2840
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