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.
Help Stop New Development in the Dolores River Canyon (CO)
Tell the BOR not to develop in the Dolores River Canyon! Please use this link to personalize your letter with your own experiences and why the Dolores is important to you!
A new plan to replace the out of date a salinity control unit in the Dolores River Canyon near Bedrock, released recently by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), would severely alter the wilderness character of the river. The Paradox Valley Unit was authorized in the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act of 1974. The Salinity Control Act authorizes facilities in the Colorado River Basin to control the salinity of water delivered to users in the United States and the Republic of Mexico. The existing deep injection well has essentially filled the layer of limestone being used to reduce salinity. Increased frequency and magnitude in seismicity in the surrounding area has been the result. The comment deadline on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been extended to February 19 from February 4, 2020. While Alternative B1 displays the most obvious negative impacts to the Dolores River Canyon and its recreational and scenic Outstandingly Remarkable Values, it is clear that the other action alternatives do not meet the project's identified goals, nor do they adhere to other applicable laws or land management plans.
Update on Construction in Boulder Canyon (CO)
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is working on a project in Boulder Canyon to fix damages on Highway 119 that will also take measures to prevent future flooding. After the devastating 2013 storm, the highway was left vulnerable to deterioration and rock slides, as well as the potential for regular occurrences of flooding making it a dangerous route for travelers. The much-needed work includes rock blasting, riverbank armoring, rock scaling, and large boulder removal above the highway. Boulder creek is a popular destination for local and tourist boaters alike who enjoy the challenging whitewater available. Since this project involves changes to the riverbed that could possibly make certain sections of whitewater unrunnable or of less quality for paddling, the boating community has voiced concerns and a group of local advocates contacted American Whitewater in regard to seeking a cooperative solution. AW sprang into action and helped negotiate a meeting on the issue that took place on January 9, 2020. The major outcome from this meeting was that Gary Lacy, paddler and civil engineer/recreational planner, was officially contracted as the river-design specialist to ensure the river would be re-created in a manner that maintains the quality of paddling for boaters as it has in the past.
Colorado State Policy February Update
Colorado has less than 90 days left in its legislative session, and there is plenty of work to get done. Here is a brief write up on some of the legislation we are tracking that will impact Colorado's rivers. Along with giving an idea on legislation to keep an eye on, please consider joining our AW Capitol Visits that are taking place this session.
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!
New Mexico Stream Access Update
The new year has brought new obstacles in our efforts ensure public access to New Mexico's river and streams. On the last day of 2019, Joanna Prukop, the former NM Game Commission Chair, was informed by the Governor she would not be reappointed to her position. Former Chairwoman Prukop had added the stream access issue to last December's commission agenda. The Governor's office cited "policy and style" differences as the main influences of the Governors decision.
Forest Service continues move to strip protections of Lochsa Area streams
Just before the holidays this past December, the Forest Service released their Draft Forest Plan and accompanying analysis, which covers a whitewater and native-fish paradise in central Idaho. The Forest encompasses the Lochsa, Selway, Clearwater, and Potlatch watersheds, and also a portion of the Salmon River drainage. In the Draft Plan the Forest Service proposes to eliminate Wild and Scenic protections from most or all of the 89 streams they have found to be eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. The Forest Service cites political reasons for taking this step, and did not respond to American Whitewater's prior comments that stressed that such a move would be illegal and not in the public interest. You can help reverse this bad direction the Forest Service is heading in! Read on to see how.
AW Files Motion of Intervention - Slab Creek (CA)
American Whitewater's primary goal on the South Fork American River below Slab Creek is to ensure the enjoyment of the entire whitewater reach from Slab Creek Dam to the White Rock Powerhouse. However, after exhausting all the proper consultation channels with Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) to bring to bear protections, mitigations and enhancements negotiated and conditioned in the 2007 Settlement Agreement and the 2014 Hydropower License order, AW and our colleagues have filed a Motion of Intervention with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The motion centers around SMUD's Streamflow Parking and Access Plan that is incomplete and proposes to cut off access to a third of the whitewater resources on Slab Creek. Specifically, SMUD is denying access and enjoyment to the Class II/III section of Slab Creek by blocking take-out access at White Rock Powerhouse.
AW Journal - The Winter Issue Online Now!
The Winter issue of the AW Journal is available in our online "Library". This issue includes 'Top 10 River Stewardship Issues for 2020' along with much more. Read the issue online now or download your copy.
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.
Stewardship Highlights 2019 by Region
Our stewardship team got it done for whitewater rivers in 2019 and we wanted to share our top three project highlights, nationally and for every region we work in. Check out this article to see the breadth of our work across the country and find your region for an overview of some of our most important stewardship work local to you - Stewardship Highlights 2019: American Whitewater a Year in Review.
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.
JOIN AMERICAN WHITEWATER ON THE WILD AND SCENIC ROGUE RIVER (OR) IN 2020
For the past few years, the staff of America Whitewater has joined with a number of our members to participate in a four-day float trip on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. This trip has been a great opportunity to connect with members in ways that build a lasting understanding of the role of recreation in fostering a stewardship ethic. As one of the original eight Wild and Scenic Rivers in the country, the Rogue is an outstanding classroom for American Whitewater's river stewardship program. Trip dates are June 18-21, 2020.
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!