New Dam Proposed for Chehalis River (WA): Take Action and Comment
The Chehalis River has one of Washington state's longest continuous sections of Class III whitewater, yet it remains relatively unknown to many paddlers due to access issues involving restrictive policies of a private timber company. A new flood control dam proposal would eliminate 14 miles of this wild and free-flowing Class III whitewater (West Fork to Pe Ell), forever keeping paddlers from discovering this underused trove of quality whitewater in southwestern Washington. Paddlers and other river enthusiasts have an opportunity to provide input on the fate of the Chehalis River by submitting a comment on their Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Take this opportunity to comment and help protect this free-flowing river today! Take Action Today
Green River Release Schedule Set for 2020 (NC)
Last year, Northbrook Energy purchased the Tuxedo Hydropower Project from Duke Energy. This hydropower project provides the flows for the Class III+ Upper Green, the Class V Narrows, and the Class II Lower Green - all of which are popular whitewater runs. As the sale was underway, American Whitewater and others advocated for assurances in the contract that recreational releases would continue to follow a predictable pattern and be communicated as a forecast online. The contract contains these guarantees for the public, and earlier today river users got on the phone with the power company for a positive conversation confirming the 2020 schedule.
Great American Outdoors Act Introduced
It's been a wild ride this past week for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Restore Our Parks Act all initiated by a tweet from the President that began with these words: "I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks." We just got back from a week in DC working to make it happen and all indications are that we are on the cusp of getting legislation passed that directly benefits and provides resources for river access. The bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, introduced yesterday by 55 Senators, combines the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act and Restore Our Parks Act with some key changes and additional funding we requested. Use our easy action form to reach out your representatives today and help us make sure this incredible opportunity for funding river recreation and conservation does not pass us by!
Legislation With Over 1000 Miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers Passes House
This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of public lands and waters legislation. This legislation, known as Protecting America's Wilderness Act (H.R. 2546), amends the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019 by combining several bills we have worked on and includes 1,048 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in Washington and California. The primary bills of interest to the whitewater paddling community that are included in this legislation are Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (originally H.R. 2250); Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (originally H.R. 2199); San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (originally H.R. 2215); and Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (originally H.R. 2642). The legislation also includes the Colorado Wilderness Act (H.R. 2546) and protections for the Dolores River Canyon. The bill will be sent to the Senate for consideration.
2020 New River Dries Releases Scheduled (WV)
Last week, American Whitewater took part in the annual scheduling meeting for the New River Dries releases. Each year these releases will follow the same pattern: a weekend in mid-March, and then 3.5 consecutive weekends starting with the last weekend in June. For 2020, this means the releases are on March 21 & 22, June 27 & 28, and July 4, 5, 11, 12, and 18. Inflows have to be in a very specific range for a release to occur or it will be rescheduled, so double check the gages and the power company website before heading to the river.
Washington State Legislative Session Underway - Bills Affecting Paddlers
Three bills in the Washington State legislature have direct impacts to the whitewater paddling community: HB 2443 would require all boaters in the state, regardless of age, to wear a PFD on the water; HB 2444 would in its original form require regular renewal of boater education cards for motor boaters but is being considered for modification to require paddlers to also obtain a boater education card to use a human-powered craft; and SB 5613 would create new authority to vacate a county right of way that abuts a waterway. We encourage the paddling community in Washington State to review these bills and provide input to the legislature.
New Water Quality Rule Reduces River Protections
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army released a new rule, called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, dictating which rivers, streams, and wetlands are covered by the Clean Water Act. The new rule will eliminate water quality protections for an estimated 18% of streams and a majority of our country's wetlands. The rule is final, and will be implemented in 60 days barring intervention by the courts. These changes pose major concerns for public health and safety, water-dependent recreation economies, the rights of downstream landowners, and of course the many animals and plants that depend on rivers, streams and wetlands for their habitat. It's important if you oppose this rule to contact your representatives and ask them to stand up for our nation's clean water and to do their job of oversight over these agencies. Use our super simple easy action form to contact your reps today!
Tonto National Forest Draft Plan Open for Public Comment (AZ)
The Tonto National Forest is revising their forest-wide Management Plan for the first time since 1985. On December 13, 2019 they officially released the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIS) for a 90-day comment period ending on March 12, 2020. Forest Plans are vitally important as they are the blueprint for resource management and they provide an opportunity to secure better protections for rivers and their surrounding landscapes. As part of the plan revision process, the Forest Service is required to rely on public input to inform management direction, plan components, and new designated areas. Read on to hear about the public meetings that are happening this week!
Gila National Forest Releases New Draft Plan, First in 34 Years (NM)
For the first time in 34 years, the Gila National Forest is revising their forest-wide Management Plan. On Friday, January 17 they officially released the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIS) for a 90-day comment period ending on April 16. Forest Plans are vitally important as they are the blueprint for resource management and they provide an opportunity to secure better protections for rivers and their surrounding landscapes. As part of the plan revision process, the Forest Service is required to rely heavily on public input to inform management direction, plan components, and new designated areas. Read more for a complete schedule of Public Meetings that are happening this week!
Defining the direction of Our Policy work in Colorado
Colorado's rivers are national treasures, feeding rivers and communities all across the country. AW's Colorado team is proud to share our new report, Colorado Policy Pathways, that will help chart our approach to protecting and restoring these beloved rivers. At American Whitewater, we know that water policy is a key ingredient in driving smart solutions for the future of our rivers. Colorado Policy Pathways, outlines our approach to addressing the changes and challenges that Colorado's rivers face as the state's population grows and the outdoor economy booms.
Army Corps Study Threatens Lehigh River Boating
Paddlers on the Lehigh River below the Francis E. Walter Dam and Reservoir are concerned that a planned study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its partners, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection will lead to a reduction in whitewater boating opportunities on the Lehigh. The study will evaluate the feasibility of various alternatives to optimize project operation. Aside from the project's authorized primary missions of flood risk management and recreation, the study will also consider water supply and water quality, to identify possible improvements to the existing structure, infrastructure, and operations that will support current and future demands within the region. The Army Corps is holding a public meeting on January 9, 2020 at the Mountain Laurel Resort in White Haven, PA from 6-8 p.m. to explain the study and hear public comments. American Whitewater, Appalachian Mountain Club, and other organizations are expected to file comments with the Army Corps prior to the September 29th deadline in order to share our concerns about the study and potential impacts on boating, the outdoor recreation economy, and the Delaware RIver Basin. We encourage our members to attend the public meeting to voice their concerns.
AW Submits Weber River Safety and Access Proposal (UT)
During the ongoing dam relicensing process for the Weber Hydroelectric Project, stakeholders reached an agreement for the provision of four annual whitewater boating releases. Stakeholders agreed that American Whitewater would propose a safe and legal plan for river access for consideration in response to specific concerns voiced by the Forest Service. Releases will begin following a Forest Service determination that the proposed access is appropriate for public use, and the issuance of the Federal dam license which is expected any day now. American Whitewater has spent the past several months conducting legal and safety analysis, and last week we submitted our proposal that documents that recreational releases and public use on the Weber River are legal, reasonably safe, and appropriate.
Southeast Advanced Release Dates for 2020
American Whitewater and our affiliate clubs have spent the past 25 years working to restore flows to incredible Southeastern rivers impacted by dams. A lot of our work has focused on Class II and III rivers like the lower Nantahala, Tuckasegee, Hiwassee, and Catawba, but we also secured releases in some classic steeper reaches previously dewatered by hydroelectric diversions. Each year we meet with power companies and agencies to schedule future releases, review ongoing ecology studies, and discuss any issues with the release programs. In this post we are pleased to share the 2020 dates for the Class IV/V Cheoah, Nantahala Cascades & Upper, West Fork Tuck, and Tallulah rivers.
Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, dies
Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, died on November 20th, 2019. He was 83. A microbiologist by training, Terry began paddling in the mid-1960's while a professor at Emory University. He took to whitewater readily, and it became an important focus of his life. In 1969 he met veteran paddler Doug Woodward, and in 1971 the two became the technical advisers for the movie "Deliverance." Afterwards, Terry and Woodward purchased the rafts Warner Brothers used in filming and bought 19 acres near the river. This became Southeastern Expeditions, one of the Southeast's first whitewater outposts on the Chattooga. In 1974, Terry took then-Gov. Jimmy Carter on three trips on the Chatooga River, totaling 57 miles. This inspired Carter to get the Chattooga included in the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and influenced later decisions protecting rivers across the U.S."Terry adopted me as one of his students," Carter told Outside Online in a 2017 interview. "it opened my eyes to the relationship between a human being and a wild river that I never had contemplated before that. When I got to be president I vetoed 16 different dam projects all over the United States." Terry eventually quit his Emory University job and started full time career in environmental advocacy, including founding American Rivers, a principal U.S. conservation group. For the next 30 years he specialized in environmental projects involving rivers and wetlands and later, when he became a board-certified toxicologist, he developed an expertise in hazardous waste cleanups. He was an active paddler until sidelined by Parkinson's Disease. A passionate teacher and advocate, he is sorely missed by all who knew him. Click through for an excellent obituary and a photo of Terry taking Governor Carter over Bull Sluice!
American Whitewater Releases New River Access Planning Guide
In a joint project with the River Management Society, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), and National Park Service (NPS), American Whitewater has published the River Access Planning Guide. American Whitewater is regularly called upon to assist with river access projects. Some are a spectacular success, while others are a disappointment. Over the past three years, American Whitewater has been working with the NPS Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Programs to better understand how success comes about when a river access project is developed and provide guidance for a step-by-step process that leads to projects that meet user needs and are sustainable both ecologically and financially.
VT Supreme Court Protects Whitewater Boating on the Green River
The Vermont Supreme Court decided today that whitewater boaters have the right to paddle on the Green River. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision by the Environmental Division of the Superior Court that required the hydropower project on the Green River in Morrisville to provide three annual scheduled releases. This is a precedent setting decision because it establishes that whitewater boating is a designated and existing use protected under the Clean Water Act, that scheduled releases are necessary to protect that use, and that Vermont ANR failed to meet its burden to show that providing scheduled release would result in a lowering of water quality.
Comments Needed to Support Upper Yough Releases (MD)
The 12-year state permit that governs the releases from Deep Creek Lake into the Upper Youghiogheny is up for renewal, and decision-makers would benefit from hearing from paddlers. Three public meetings and significant discussions have led to broad agreement on some minor changes that are important to the paddling community, and other important issues remain unresolved. Your comment letters could help ensure the Upper Yough is managed in a responsible manner for years to come.
Ashley National Forest (UT) Information Needed
The Ashley National Forest is in the process of updating its land management plan-something that hasn't happened since 1986. This creates an opportunity to advocate for better protection of streams and rivers across the 1.4 million-acre National Forest, which spans from the Uinta Mountains to Flaming Gorge. Right now, American Whitewater needs your help updating the National Whitewater Inventory to include better information on the rivers within the Ashley National Forest. We ask that paddlers familiar with this area add photos and descriptions to the NWI, check out our recent comments, and consider sending a comment letter to the Forest.
Owyhee Canyonlands Legislation Introduced (OR)
This week's introduction of the Malheur County Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (S. 2828) represents a historic move to protect over 1.1 million acres of public lands as wilderness in Malheur County centered around the Owyhee Canyonlands. The legislation also includes protection for an additional 14.7 miles of the Owyhee River as Wild and Scenic.
AW Launches Hiwassee Dries (TN/NC) Flow Survey
American Whitewater has long had an interest in restoring flows to the 13-mile long, biologically diverse Hiwassee River Dries. American Whitewater is gathering information on the recreational, hydrological, and ecological attributes of the river in order to create a science-based vision for a restored Hiwassee Dries. We have created an online survey to hone in on the recreational flow preferences of paddlers who have run the river. Ultimately this will help us create proposals for flow restoration that meet ecological and recreational goals in an integrated manner. If you have paddled the Dries, please take just a few minutes and fill out this survey.