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American Whitewater Members Topple Two California Dam Proposals

Posted: 02/11/2021
By: Theresa Simsiman

American Whitewater and members of the paddling community were called upon to stop two detrimental dam proposals, Centennial Dam and Alder Reservoir. These project proposals were included in a project list for an update to the Cosumnes, American, Bear and Yuba Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (CABY Plan). The CABY Plan outlines water management objectives for over 300 miles of California whitewater and comments were requested before a vote to accept the 2021 plan update.


Given that the principles of the CABY Plan include “embracing multi-agency collaboration, stakeholder involvement and integrated, regional approaches to water management”, American Whitewater and our watershed colleagues were surprised that the plan would include in its project list two contentious dam projects. The impact to the Yuba and Bear watersheds from Nevada Irrigation District’s (NID) proposed Centennial Dam project has been well documented by our friends at South Yuba River Citizens League. This includes the inundation of the Bear whitewater run from Highway 174 Bridge to Lake Combie.  Meanwhile, the Alder Reservoir project is simply a repackaged manifestation of a decades old bad idea from the El Dorado County Water Agency (EDCWA) which would severely dewater the South Fork American River including popular runs from Strawberry down through Golden Gate.


Armed with this knowledge American Whitewater asked the paddling community to weigh in during the commenting period. Participants, with the majority self-identifying as paddlers, signed on to the ZOOM call to voice their objection to these dam proposals. American Whitewater noted the impact to recreation by referencing an Outdoor Industry Association study that showed that residents of the 3rd and 4thCongressional Districts, where these watersheds reside, spend over 3.7 billion dollars annually on recreation. But the most effective comments came from local paddlers highlighting the personal impact these projects would have to the rivers and lands they grew up on.


Amazingly, by the end of this spirited ZOOM call representatives from both NID and EDCWA signaled their desire to remove both dam proposals from the CABY project list. This allowed CABY group members to approve the updated 2021 plan with an emphasis on reevaluating the plans “consensus” statements and policies. Toppling two new dam proposals from an influential water plan in one fell swoop doesn’t happen every day. American Whitewater gives our profound thanks to Gavin Rieser, Jeff Venturino and Axel Hovorka as well as the many other AW members who took the time out of their day to speak up and make a huge impact!


We can not say that these dam proposals will completely go away so American Whitewater and our members will need to stay vigilant!


Photo by Trevor Croft Rafting Magazine - Golden Gate on the South Fork American River - Threatened to be dewatered by the EDCWA Alder Reservoir proposal.





Theresa Simsiman

Sacramento, CA

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Associated Rivers

American, Silver Fork CA
American, South Fork CA
American, South Fork CA
American, South Fork CA
American, South Fork CA


CABY - Conservation Group Comments on IRWMP 2021 Update and Alder Reservoir Project (2/10/2021)

CABY - Conservation Group Comments on IRWMP 2021 Update and Alder Reservoir Project

Outdoor Industry AssociationCalifornia 3rd Congressional District (2/10/2021)

OIA California 3rd Congressional District Outdoor Recreation Economic Impact Fact Sheet

Outdoor Industry Association California 4th Congressional District (2/10/2021)

OIA Outdoor Recreation Economic Impact Fact Sheet - 4th Congressional District

Alder Reservoir Concept (2/10/2021)

a 175,000 AF reservoir with 110 MW capacity at 3 powerhouses and power generation up to 470,000 MWh annually. This “Large Alder” project, with its potential to provide the greatest public benefit, is the focus of this concept paper.

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