Whitewater Boating in the Chelan Gorge Returns (WA)
A whitewater boating opportunity will once again be available on the Chelan Gorge this September 18th and 19th and registration is open on the Chelan PUD website. Chelan PUD, the owner and operator of the hydroelectric project has expressed ongoing concerns with slope instability in Reach 2, the 0.75 mile reach immediately upstream of Entrance Exam and the start of the class V whitewater. Chelan PUD suspended the the whitewater boating event in 2018 and again in 2020 due to observed significant increased slope instability and consequent potential sloughing of earth and rock material within Reach 2 of the Chelan River.
In early 2020 Chelan PUD engineers observed significant ground movement of the hillside in Reach 2: “The scarps that have been monitored over the past 20-years have increased in size significantly, particularly in the past year. Due to observation of the increased scarp size and the amount of regular falling rock and debris, Chelan PUD engineers believe that a hillside failure is imminent.” Chelan PUD contacted American Whitewater and requested our support for an indefinite suspension of whitewater boating in the Chelan Gorge due to this hazard. American Whitewater agreed to a one-year suspension of the whitewater boating event and requested a meeting to revisit the issue in 2021. Chelan PUD committed to annually consult with American Whitewater by June of each year to provide an update on the hillside situation and discuss whether there have been any changes to warrant continued whitewater boating events.
American Whitewater and Chelan PUD met early this year and Chelan PUD determined that “monitoring of the active scarps in Reach 2 indicate that, while movement is still occurring and material continues to slough off the hillside into the Chelan River, the risk of hillside failure has not changed substantially from previous years, wherein Chelan PUD informed the boaters that there was risk but allowed the event to occur with the clear acceptance of the risk from each boater.”
We worked with Chelan PUD to establish the following safety provisions that will allow resumption of a whitewater event in 2021:
1) provide boaters and spectators information on the location of the Reach 2 potential landslide
area at the start of the day of the event and explain the dangers;
2) prior to boaters entering the river, encourage them to go through the Reach 2 section of the river expeditiously, preferably without stopping (i.e. you can stop at the top of Entrance Exam but if you need to adjust a backband or empty your boat please don't do that in the reach immediately upstream of this drop).
Chelan PUD requires that American Whitewater have a representative present for these events and Daniel Patrinellis has once again volunteered to serve in this capacity.
While safety is important whenever individuals make the decision to paddle class V, this is especially the case on the Chelan Gorge. This is a run for skilled and confident class V boaters; it is not a run for class IV paddlers just making the jump to class V. All with the skills to boat this reach are welcome but we ask that everyone work together as a team, make conservative decisions, and represent the community well.
Additional detail can be found in Chelan PUD's filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:
2020 Notice of Suspension of Whitewater Events:
2021 Notice of Resumption of Whitewater Events: