The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has released their Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) for the future of the Ocoee River. The news is generally good. They support the continuation of the historic flow schedule on both the Middle and Upper Ocoee River, minus 5 September weekdays on the Middle. The DEA finds that the releases benefit the local economy and at least one rare plant living on rocks in the riverbed. File a comment or join TVA at a meeting next Monday if you would like to share your thoughts.
Paddlers might have noticed that flow releases on the Cheoah River were getting a bit skinny over the past couple years, until the juicy release this September. At the urging of American Whitewater, the dam owner had USGS come out and recalibrate the gage this July, and the results confirmed the dam owner had been under-releasing by approximately 100-150cfs. In our annual planning meeting last week, they committed to adjusting their releases to comply with their federal license, and actually began the new release protocols in September.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has recently announced the commencement of relicensing proceedings for the Tomahawk and Grandfather Falls Hydroelectric Projects in Wisconsin. We are pleased to report that FERC has identified whitewater recreation as one of the issues requiring study and analysis and has proposed a whitewater flow study. Paddlers have the opportunity to attend next week's public meeting and file written comments.
In an important affirmation of the value of whitewater recreation at federally-licensed hydropower projects, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled that licensee's have a responsibility to provide recreational opportunities in accordance with area needs. The fact that risk may be involved in such activities as whitewater boating does not obviate a licensee’s responsibility to provide these opportunities.
Over the past few months Gresham Municipal Utilities has been gearing up to relicense their hydroelectric projects on the Red River. As paddlers know operation of the Weed Dam impacts flows on the Red River. American Whitewater can provide technical assistance on the project but we are seeking a local volunteer or group of volunteers willing to invest some time in this process over the next few years.