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Whitewater Wars Tells how the Ocoee and Gauley Were Saved

06/10/2021 - by Charlie Walbridge

From 1980 to 1985 David Brown lead successful battles to secure recreational water releases on both the Ocoee and Gauley Rivers. These great victories are the subject of his new book "Whitewater Wars." Dave was hired by outfitters on both rivers, and his efforts took him from the edge of the river to the halls of congress. On the Gauley a small cadre of private paddlers - Pete Skinner, Mac Thornton, Pope Barrow, Steve Taylor, and Charlie Walbridge - played important roles and later became the nucleus of an American Whitewater board that guided the organization towards it's current position as a national leader in river access and conservation. Dave ran the first Gauleyfest to help build support for protecting the river, and was excited to get 500 attendees! After the Gauley was declared a National Recreation Area the festival was passed over to AW. And the rest is history! It's a great read!

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Final Bear River (ID) Release Moved to September

04/27/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The final 2021 release on the Black Canyon of the Bear River has been rescheduled to September 11 and 12, 2021. This shift was made possible because the dam owner will be conducting maintenance work this summer and fall that will increase base flows in the river, which decreases ecological concerns with late season paddling releases. The same rescheduling occured last year as well. Our partners in managing the Bear River graciously supported this change, which was requested by American Whitewater and was popular with regional paddlers last year. 

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Comments Needed on River Protection in the Arctic

04/06/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

A new proposed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) management plan for 55.7 million acres in Northern Alaska would fail to protect any of the 11 rivers their analysis finds to be eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. If you have paddled any of the affected rivers in this area we strongly encourage you to review the planning documents and submit comments in support of protection of Wild and Scenic River values in the Central Yukon Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. Deadline is June 9, 2021.

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Opportunity to Speak up for Water Quality on the Pigeon River (NC/TN)

04/05/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Blue Ridge Paper operates a paper mill on the banks of the Pigeon River in Canton, NC, that for generations has provided valued local jobs but also had negative impacts on the water quality of the river. Over the past few decades water quality has improved significantly, fishing has improved, and paddling use has skyrocketed. With this said, the river's water quality has a lot of room for improvement while supporting the mill's continued operation, and new permit requirements are a good way to get that work underway. The State however has proposed a new permit that relaxes certain requirements of the old permit, and fails to address new challenges. The state will host a public hearing on April 14, and accept comments through April 30. Paddlers are encouraged to get involved and learn more.

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Whitewater Flows Secured in New Weber River Dam License! (UT)

03/24/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

A new 40-year license for a dam on Utah's Weber River includes four Saturday paddling releases each year prior to July 15, as well as flow information, accesss, and fish passage enhancements. This outcome is the result of American Whitewater staff and volunteers collaborating with the power company and other stakeholders over the past several years. The releases will provide relatively rare paddling opportunities near Ogden, Utah, in a region where dams and diversions have limited or eliminated many paddling opportunities. The new license requires a recreation plan be developed and other measures that will delay the initiation of releases until 2022. Big thanks to all our partners on the Weber, our lead volunteer Charlie Vincent, and the numerous volunteers who helped us collect data and solve legal and other challenges over the years! See you on the Weber next year! 

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The Nolichucky Needs You Again (NC/TN)

03/12/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The Nolichucky area has several new Senators and Representatives that have never heard from the public about designating the Nolichucky as a Wild and Scenic River. They need to hear from you to learn about the river and your feelings on designation. At the same time, the new Congress is setting state and national level priorities and the Nolichucky does not yet have a bill to designate it as a Wild and Scenic River. The next two years mark an incredible opportunity to designate the Noli as the region’s next Wild and Scenic River, but first a designation bill needs to be introduced, and soon. Personal letters and calls are key to getting a bill introduced. 

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Spring Tallulah Releases Cancelled, More Releases Sought (GA)

03/02/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Tallulah Gorge State Park has cancelled whitewater paddling opportunities this spring on the Tallulah River due to Covid-19 concerns. In response, American Whitewater and several partners are asking Georgia State Parks for two actions. First, we are asking that the closure be lifted so that paddling can be allowed this fall, if not this spring, with some standard Covid protocols in place. Second, with several partner organizations we are proposing that a long overdue shift be made in how aesthetic flows are released by the dam owner to provide for significantly more paddling opportunities each year, starting this fall.  

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2021 Southeast Advanced Release Schedule Set!

02/26/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

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. We are happy to share the 2021 schedule!

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New Virginia River Access Fee Program Delayed Until 2022

02/11/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The media is reporting that the new fee program affecting river access areas owned and managed by Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources river access areas has been delayed one year, from starting in July of 2021, to instead starting in July of 2022. The delay is to allow for additional input and reconsideration of how the program should be implemented, apparently specifically to reduce impacts on outfitters. A committee will review the new law and make recommendations on possible improvements. American Whitewater encourages Virginia paddlers to get involved through their state legislators, through club participation in the committee, and through any public comment opportunity.

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National Forest Protects 360 Miles of Streams in Montana

02/05/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

In a big win for rivers, the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest released their new Forest Plan this month. The Forest includes the classic Multi-day section of the Smith River, the headwaters of the Blackfoot River, and the rugged and beautiful Rocky Mountain Front region of Montana. The new Forest Plan offers interim protection for 360 miles of incredible rivers by finding them eligible for Wild and Scenic designation – triple the river miles protected under the old plan. A full 250 of the protected river miles are on whitewater rivers. American Whitewater and the paddling community has offered support for this decision since at least 2014, and the Forest Service has done a great job.

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East Fork Virgin River Proposed Dam Halted for More Analysis (UT)

02/01/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater learned of a dam and diversion proposed in the East Fork of the Virgin River watershed late last year and was among several organizations that filed comments questioning the analysis behind the proposal. It was announced last week that approval of the dam approval would be delayed so a more robust analysis can be conducted. This is good news for the Wild and Scenic East Fork of the Virgin River as it flows through Zion National Park downstream of the proposed dam.  

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American Whitewater Releases New River Access Planning Guide

01/26/2021 - by Evan Stafford

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.

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Dam Repairs to Affect Flows in New River Gorge and Dries (WV)

01/21/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The Bluestone Dam blocks the New River not far upstream of the popular New River Gorge and New River Dries, and is currently undergoing significant repairs. These repairs will keep 9 of the 16 gates out of service until 2027, allowing for total releases of around only 12,000cfs. This management will dampen high flows, resulting in longer and more moderate flows than naturally occur in the river. Intriguingly, these releases will regularly overwhelm the 10,000cfs maximum diversion of the Hawks Nest Hydroelectric Project, and result in more frequent and predictable spill releases into the New River Dries.

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Comments Can Help Shape Summersville Lake Management (WV)

01/19/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

A new Draft Master Plan for Summersville Lake, which provides releases on the Gauley River, is open for public comment until February 16, 2021. The Draft Plan covers the significant public land surrounding the reservoir, including Battle Run Campground, several trails, numerous rock climbing areas, and boat ramps. Unfortunately the Plan does not cover water releases, which the Agency states are covered by a seperate plan. Paddlers that use these lands are encouraged to review and comment on the Draft Plan. 

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New Fee Program Comes to Some Virginia Access Areas

01/15/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Last year the Virginia Legislature passed a new law into effect that requires the public to pay a fee to use river access areas that are managed by the Department of Wildlife Resources. The new fees kicked in January 1, 2021, and the program is outlined in news articles as well as on the Department's website. If you do not have a fishing license, the fees are $23 for an annual pass or $4 per day for a day-pass. The legislation seems to have passed with little discussion or public outreach, and caught many paddlers off guard. American Whitewater conducted a mapping analysis of the effects of this new fee program, and found that it applies new fees to at least 67 public access areas located on whitewater runs. Paddlers are encouraged to let their state legislators know they feel about the newly legislated fee system. 

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Weber River to Flow as Early as 2021 (UT)

12/08/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

The Federal government now has all the information it needs to issue a new 30 to 50 year license for the Weber River Hydroelectric Project. If they issue the license soon, recreational releases could begin in the early summer of 2021. Delays could push back releases to 2022, but either way, releases appear to be on the way. American Whitewater has spent several years negotiating modest flow restoration for this dewatered Class III-IV reach of the Weber River.

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Changes to Upper Yough Permit Yield April Saturday Releases (MD)

11/09/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

The State of Maryland issued a new permit for the Deep Creek Hydroelectric Project earlier this fall that offered the river and its visitors some incremental enhancements to the flow release program. The State hosted several public meetings during 2020 and considered public comments to help shape the new permit, which typically lasts for roughly a decade. The most important change for paddlers is that moving forward, recreational releases in April will be on Saturdays rather than Fridays. Big thanks to paddlers who attended meetings and submitted comments, and to the State of Maryland for keeping the Upper Yough awesome.

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New USGS Gage Installed on Wild and Scenic Wilson Creek! (NC)

09/28/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater is pleased to announce the installation of a new online U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gage on Wilson Creek, one of North Carolina's five federally-designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. The new stream gage is the result of a partnership between American Whitewater, Duke Energy and the USGS, and is expected to provide significant public safety and recreational benefits. American Whitewater would like to thank Duke Energy and the USGS, on behalf of the paddling community, for this great investment in the safe enjoyment of Wild and Scenic Wilson Creek. 

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AW Objects to Brookfield Refusal to Reschedule Cheoah Releases (NC)

09/17/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

The owner of Santeetlah Dam, Brookfield, has refused requests to reschedule eight spring releases on the Cheoah River that were cancelled because of Covid-19. Today, American Whitewater filed a request asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to require Brookfield make up at least half of the cancelled releases later this year. The request comes after Brookfield delayed a meeting to reschedule releases for three months and then flatly refused to provide any make-up releases. Similar releases on nearby dams operated by other owners were rescheduled willingly and without issue, and offered the public valuable late summer and early fall paddling opportunities.

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Improved Flow Releases Begin on Sullivan Creek (WA)

09/03/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

Releases from Sullivan Lake will begin ramping Sullivan Creek flows up to boatable levels immediately following Labor Day next week, and will maintain elevated flows for much of the fall. Historic fall drawdown releases were modified to be earlier in the fall, colder, at lower flows, and to have a slower ramp-up through a 2010 Settlement Agreement that American Whitewater worked on extensively. These changes make the draw-down releases better for fish, better for paddling, and more valuable to downstream water users and the local utility and rate-payers. The removal of Mill Pond Dam required the negotiated flow schedule be delayed for several years following approval. With the dam now removed, the new flows will begin.


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