American Whitewater staff and volunteers have been seeking a collaborative effort to reduce the recreational impacts of the Smith Creek Hydroelectric Project on Idaho's classic Smith Creek since the summer of 2012.
The Smith Creek Project diverts roughly 0-380cfs around a long, steep, highly desirable whitewater run that is featured on the cover of the (now quite old) Idaho guidebook. When inflows exceed 380cfs water spills over the dam, and when spills are in the range of 200-400cfs (inflows of 580-780) paddlers find a range of boatable flows in the bypassed river reach. The effect of the project has been a reduction in the number, stability, predictability, and Julian date of boatable flows. These effects are exacerbated by a lack of online flow information: even when suitable flows occur few paddlers are aware of them or able to predict them with sufficient time to get to the river. Paddlers wanting to paddle Smith Creek regularly drive many hours only to find the river too high or too low to paddle. These effects are common at other diversion projects and are commonly mitigated through the provision of real-time or predictive flow information and scheduled or inflow-triggered releases. We have been discussing two opportunities to improve recreational usage through flow information improvements, as well as the potential for controlled recreational spill releases.
Any good faith efforts by the project owner to help paddlers enjoy Smith Creek will be fully voluntary at this time. We are hopeful that we can partner with the project owner to do some good, and mutually acceptable things for Smith Creek and its enjoyment.
The contacts below include staff and volunteers working on this project. Make sure you are logged in if you wish to join the group.