The Nantahala is one of the most popular whitewater rivers in the nation and the world. Forgiving class II/III rapids, fine water quality and scenery, reliable dam releases almost every day, the security of a nearby road, and a large number of rafting and kayaking outfitters all contribute to its attractiveness for beginner and intermediate paddlers. Just upstream however lies a Class IV/V reach known as the Cascades and a Class III/IV reach called the Upper Nantahala that have been mostly dewatered for many decades.
The Nantahala relicensing has the potential to secure the recreational opportunities on the class II/III Lower reach, as well as to provide several releases each year on the Class III-V Upper reaches.
From 2001 through 2003 American Whitewater participated in an innovative negotiation process to decide the future operations of the dams. AW staff attended full-day meetings at least once a month for 3 years, and spent countless hours analyzing and assisting with studies, and developing proposals. We focused our efforts on whitewater paddling mitigation, the design of a environmental enhancement fund, and the removal of Dillsboro Dam on the Tuckasegee. We worked closely with other stakeholders including our volunteers, the Carolina Canoe Club, local outfitters, Duke Power, and state and federal agencies throughout the process.
Based on three years of work and negotiations, AW signed a settlement agreement in 2003 calling for sweeping environmental and recreational enhancements in the Nantahala, Tuckasegee, and Little Tennessee watersheds. Since this time the relicensing has been held up at FERC, presumably relating to delays in removing Dillsboro Dam on the Tuckasegee River.
The controversial removal of Dillsboro Dam on the Tuckasegee River resulted in significant delays in FERC's license issuance. American Whitewater was a vocal advocate for the removal of Dillsboro Dam and for prompt licensing of the related hydropower projects. The dam was removed in 2009, and FERC issued the new license for the Nantahala Hydroelectric Project on February 8, 2012.
Whitewater releases began on the Upper Nantahala in September of 2012, and have proven very popular. New access areas were constructed in 2013 and 2014.
Advanced Southeast Releases Set for 2017!
01/04/2017 - by Kevin Colburn
It is looking like another great year to be a paddler in the Southeast! Over the past two decades American Whitewater has worked with affiliate clubs and partners to negotiate an awesome array of scheduled releases on river reaches previously dewatered by hydropower dams. Enjoy these incredible opportunities, and be safe out there!
Upper Nantahala and Cascades Releases (NC) – September 29-30, 2012
09/19/2012 - by Mark Singleton
The Upper Nantahala River and Cascades releases mandated from FERC Relicensing of the Nantahala River will begin September 29-30, 2012. Endless Rivers Adventures and the Nantahala Outdoor Center will provide free shuttles to boat launch areas on the bypass sections. All paddlers and spectators are asked to use these shuttles as key access points will be closed to parking to provide for put-in and take-out locations on the river sections.
Upper Nantahala Releases to Begin This Fall!
06/12/2012 - by Kevin Colburn
The first ever scheduled recreational releases on the upper Nantahala River will occur on Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30, 2012, near Wesser, North Carolina. The releases were negotiated by AW and a diverse group of local and regional stakeholders between 2001 and 2003 to mitigate the recreational impacts of flow reductions associated with operation of the powerhouse.
New Nantahala Hydropower License Issued!
02/08/2012 - by Kevin Colburn
Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a new 30-year license for the Nantahala Hydroelectric Project in Western North Carolina. The new license confirms many elements of a 2003 collaborative settlement agreement developed by Duke Energy, American Whitewater, state and federal resource agencies, and many other stakeholders. Included in the new license are flow releases that treat over 250,000 people each year to whitewater paddling on the Nantahala River.
nantahala tuckasegee update (NC)
10/18/2010 - by Kevin Colburn
We are pleased to announce that Duke Energy recently received their new state water quality certificates for their dams on the Tuckasegee and Nantahala rivers. These certificates were the final remaining documents that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission needs to issue new federal licenses for the dams. The dams are expected to be licensed before the end of 2010.
The contacts below include staff and volunteers working on this project. Make sure you are logged in if you wish to join the group.
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Carolina Canoe Club