Kayakers assist the WV-DNR on a Recovery
On February 9th, 2020 kayaker Jamie Gray was killed on the Middle Fork of the Tygart river in West Virginia. The next day the state DNR closed the river while they searched a large undercut rock where she was last seen. When that effort was unsuccessful, DNR officer Chris Evans coordinated with local kayakers to do a thorough downstream search. They found her body on the Main Tygart a mile downstream, just above S-Turn Rapid. A full description of the search and the recovery can be found in the American Whitewater Accident Database: https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Accident/detail/accidentid/76310
Good Article on Flush Drowning from Outside Magazine
An interesting article in Outside Magazine, based on a research paper done with information stored in the American Whitewater Accident Database. Certainly cold water plays a big role in a flush drowning death, especially when the swimmer has inadequate thermal protection. In addition to cold water shock, a few drops of cold water down the throat can cause laringospasm, which narrows the trachea and can make breathing very difficult. But in my opinion, the relentless, fast moving character of Western rivers is the main reason that flush drownings are more common there. With the exception of the Cheoah and flood-stage runs, few Southeastern rivers can compare to an average Western Class IV. Here's the link: https://www.outsideonline.com/2411473/flush-drowning-whitewater-deaths-study?fbclid=IwAR2-blIEjgNu7tFBgXxT4ozlyfNw0Yc6yt41pao9daWRdmGvloxpqyb3ovQ
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Cheoah River Survey Responses Needed (NC) (Update - Results)
American Whitewater was a lead negotiator of the releases on the Cheoah River back in the early 2000's and we now collaboratively review and schedule the releases each year. Paddler attendance at releases in 2019 was significantly lower than in prior years, and we'd like to better understand and share with our partners why that was the case. If you paddled the Cheoah River in the past 2-3 years please take this quick 3-5 minute survey to help ensure we are doing everything we can do to make the Cheoah an awesome resource.
Upper Yough Hearing To Focus On New Dam Permit
The 2011 state permit that requires and governs the dam releases on the Upper Yough is up for renewal. Unlike most hydropower dams, the Deep Creek Project is not regulated by a Federal license, however the state permit fills a similar role as a Federal license would. The permit renewal creates opportunities to modify the terms of the permit in ways that could benefit or impact whitewater paddling, river ecology, and other values. A hearing is scheduled for October 15th, 2019 at Garrett College that will focus on potential changes in the new permit.
Draft Flathead River Management Plan Released for Comment (MT)
The Forest Service has released a Proposed Action which is essentially a partial draft management plan the forks of the Wild and Scenic Flathead River. The Proposed Action is available for public review and comment through September 13, 2019. The Forest Service proposed a number of management actions that would be triggered by encounter limits being reached, including new permit systems. We encourage Flathead River paddlers to give the agency some feedback on the encounter thresholds they propose, the proposed management actions, and the Proposed Action as a whole.
Russell Fork Release Study Open For Comment (VA/KY)
The Army Corps of Engineers has shared their Environmental Assessment that considered four potential changes to the fall whitewater release program aimed at enhancing whitewater paddling opportunities. The Corps is planning on providing two additional Friday releases this fall as a result of the analysis. The EA is refreshingly succinct, and we encourage paddlers to give it a read and submit a comment if you are inspired to do so.
Harpers Ferry Access Study Reveals Need for New Approaches (MD/WV)
The final Weverton Rail Crossing Feasibility Study was released this week, which considered two options for improving the crossing of CSX railroad tracks to provide safer public access to the Potomac River and the C&O Canal National Historical Park, and for use of the Appalachian Trail. The Report reveals insurmountable problems with the two proposed access solutions, but also highlights other possible paths forward.
AW Stewardship Assistant Job Announcement
American Whitewater is hiring! The Stewardship Assistant will be responsible for supporting American Whitewater's Regional Stewardship Directors in project-related analysis, research, and writing as well as communicating and advocating for our work to resource agencies, funders, elected officials, and our membership. The Stewardship Assistant position is an hourly 20hr/week contract position with potential for growth. Hourly contract pay is competitive and based on experience, without benefits or office space provided. The Stewardship Assistant location is flexible, and reports to the National Stewardship Director.
Russell Fork Releases Expanded (KY/VA)
The fall release schedule for the Russell Fork River was recently announced, and it includes two new Friday releases that will offer 3-day weekends of releases. While announced without explanation, the added released are presumably a result of a public process convened by the Army Corp of Engineers last spring to explore the possibility of an expanded release schedule. American Whitewater and many regional paddlers advocated for additional recreational releases throughout the public process. We conducted and shared a survey that indicated significant support for Friday releases. The new releases are listed as "tentative and subject to change," and hopefully if they go well additional releases will be scheduled in future years. Enjoy these new paddling opportunities!
Upper Yough Access Depends on Everyone
Many thanks those who have contributed to AW's Sang Run Access Fund on line. We raised over $1200 to pay for the porta potty and gravel. Thanks to you, we've maintained this site for the State of Maryland for over 20 years! Let's also give a special shout out to Don Millard, who has cut the grass in both Friendsville and Sang Run for many years to keep our access costs low. If not for him you might see a parking fee of $5 a head at both ends! Jeff Macklin Photo
Support Improved Potomac River Access at Harpers Ferry (WV/VA/DC)
A local planning agency has championed a study of the Weverton access site just downstream of Harpers Ferry. This site is an important Potomac river put-in/takeout site for Shenandoah and Potomac River paddlers who have few access options in the area. At issue is an informal crossing of the two-track CSX railroad used by almost 27,000 paddlers, Appalachian Trail hikers, and visitors to the C&O Canal National Historical Park last year. The study outlines two options to formalize this access site and improve the safety of crossing the railroad tracks. Either option would be a big improvement, as would a standard road crossing, and paddlers are encouraged to submit a supportive comment by the June 15 deadline.
Final Slate River Floating Management Plan Released (CO)
Crested Butte, CO - Increased user conflict on the Slate River has led to a Floating Management Plan that proposes a "voluntary no-float period" between March 15 and July 15 this season. Since our last news post in November, the Slate River Floating Management Plan has been updated and revised for the 2019 season. An open house will be held at The Depot in Crested Butte on Thursday, May 16 and it is critical that paddlers from the local community attend and engage in the conversation. (Photo courtesy of the Crested Butte Land Trust).