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Chattooga Public Meeting Scheduled for July 27th

Posted: 07/07/2006
by Kevin Colburn

The USDA Forest Service will hold a public meeting on July 27th in Highlands, NC to give an update on the Upper Chattooga River visitor use capacity analysis.  The meeting will be from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, July 27th at the Highlands Civic Center, 600 North 4th Street (US HW 64), Highlands, NC.

According to Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest Supervisor Jerome Thomas, “The purpose of this meeting is to update the public on where we are in process, share information on data collection methods and explain how the public can assist us in this data collection.”  Forest Service personnel and independent contractors will present an overview of the data collection methods and then be available at “interest stations” to answer specific questions about data collection methods and how the public can assist. 

Specific topics to be covered at the interest stations include: 

  1. Review of existing literature on the Chattooga River and studies of similar rivers.
  2. Field observations of existing uses and conditions within the upper and lower
    Chattooga River corridors.
  3. Assessments of trail conditions, campsites, litter, and water quality.
  4. Collection of information on river flows at all four upper river bridges.
  5. Reconnaissance trips down the river at various flow levels with expert panels of boaters, anglers, and researchers.

The USFS also stresses that the boating ban is still in place and that "Any floating on the Chattooga River above Highway 28 may only be allowed by Forest Service permits associated with this analysis."  They also clarify that "Activities allowed during this analysis period are only for data collection purposes, and may or may not be allowed in the agency’s final decision." 

American Whitewater and several other organizations and individuals are currently suing the USFS over this boating ban.  Thus, the User Capacity Analysis is based on an artificial baseline which we believe to be illegal - one in which boating is banned.  While our lawsuit continues to seek to remedy this inequity and inherent study flaw, we will continue to participate in the User Capacity Analysis to advocate for a fair and scientific analysis.  We encourage paddlers interested in the management of the Chattooga River to attend this meeting and voice your opinions and concerns. 

Questions or comments regarding the meeting can be answered by John Cleeves, Chattooga Analysis Team Leader, Francis Marion/ Sumter NF, 803-561-4058