Requirements to Provide Whitewater Recreation Upheld for Fox River (WI)

posted October 22, 2011
by Thomas O'Keefe

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In an important affirmation of the value of whitewater recreation at federally-licensed hydropower projects, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled against City of Kaukauna's request to eliminate requirements to mitigate for lost whitewater recreational opportunities with the expansion of their hydropower project. Kaukauna had argued that whitewater boating was unsafe and as evidence cited an inicident this spring where a boater swam out of a hole and self rescued.

Under the new license, Kaukauna will increase the hydro project's total installed capacity to 7 MW and its hydraulic capacity to 5,260 cfs. The increase in hydraulic capacity through the powerhouse will decrease the frequency, duration, and magnitude of the spill into the natural river channel that have historically provided boating opportunities every spring. The expanded project will result in decreased whitewater boating opportunities when the project is operating, so that in normal water years, there could be 17 less days when there are boatable flows. As mitigation FERC required 4 scheduled days for whitewater recreation and development of a formal put-in access.

Citing past precedent where American Whitewater has successfully advocated for whitewater recreation at federally-licensed hydropower facilities, FERC made the following statement:

"All whitewater boating poses some risk, including the risk that rescue may be required, or may not be possible.  The fact that there may be risk involved with whitewater boating or other recreational activities does not obviate a licensee’s responsibility to provide recreational opportunities in accordance with area needs."

We are optimistic that this ruling will allow us to move forward with implementation of a plan to recognize and manage whitewater recreation consistent with the license issued for this project.

Read FERC's complete ruling:

Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

Associated Rivers