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AW's Stewardship Program

Our vision is that our nation’s remaining wild and free-flowing rivers stay that way, our developed rivers are restored to function and flourish, that the public has access to rivers for recreation, and that river enthusiasts are active and effective river advocates.

What We Seek To Achieve

Whitewater rivers face a range of threats from dams to water withdrawals to access closures. In pursuing our river stewardship goals, we aim to create the greatest possible benefits for whitewater rivers and enthusiasts. Our conservation and restoration work is infused with recreational knowledge and enthusiasm, and our recreation work is driven by a deep conservation ethic. We call this integrated approach to our mission river stewardship and pursue it in three tracks: Protect, Restore, and Enjoy.

The projects we select align with our mission and vision, have tangible and lasting beneficial outcomes, create good policy and have local support, and benefit the rivers our communities love for current and future generations.

PROTECT

To protect rivers, we celebrate public lands, champion Wild and Scenic and other designations, defend rivers from dams and diversions, and advocate for clean water. We treasure wild rivers and celebrate the wildness inherent in all rivers. We believe that free-flowing rivers should stay that way.

RESTORE

To restore rivers, we negotiate new and improved flows at dams and diversions, and work toward dam removals where appropriate. We’ve proven that rivers are resilient and restoration works: often, just add water.

ENJOY

To help the public enjoy rivers, we defend the right to paddle rivers, secure areas for public access to rivers, share information on rivers, host events, and encourage sustainable use and safety on the water through education. We’ve found that sustainable access to rivers benefits individuals, communities, and rivers.

AW In My Backyard

Stewardship News

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2021 Southeast Advanced Release Schedule Set!

11/24/2020 - 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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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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Whitewater Wars Tells how the Ocoee and Gauley Were Saved

10/15/2020 - 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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Colorado Parks & Wildlife to Require Hunting or Fishing License at River Access

07/08/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

In an unexpected and strategic move by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), a Colorado hunting or fishing license will now be required to access State Wildlife Areas and CPW-leased State Trust Lands (effective July 1, 2020). Many of these affected areas have historically been used for paddling, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and other non-consumptive recreation uses. CPW's press release stated that "This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties", and while we understand the need to increase revenue to support management of these areas, we have a few concerns with this strategy. On July 1, American Whitewater, Colorado Mountain Club, and multiple other organizations submitted a joint letter to CPW Commissioners requesting that they reconsider the new Rule and find a more practicable and sustainable method for collecting fees for these areas.

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Opportunity to Participate in Upper Gunnison Watershed Management Plan (CO)

07/08/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

The Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District in Gunnison, Colorado is coordinating a Watershed Management Planning effort "to help protect existing water uses and watershed health in the Upper Gunnison Basin in the face of pressure from increased water demands and permanent reductions in water supply." The current phase is focusing on Tomichi, Cochetopa, Cebolla, Taylor, and the Gunnison River above Blue Mesa. With local stewardship staff in Crested Butte, American Whitewater has joined the Watershed Management Planning Team to help represent recreational river users and quantify flow preferences and recreational opportunities on the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers. American Whitewater is very excited to be involved in this stakeholder driven process and we are asking paddlers to share their input on management priorities for the Upper Gunnison Basin. If you have experience paddling Cebolla, Taylor, or the Upper Gunnison Rivers, please fill out this quick survey! 

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HELP US STOP HYDRO DEVELOPMENT ON BIG CANYON (AZ)

07/07/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

In the ongoing saga of hydro dam developments proposed within striking distance of Grand Canyon National Park, American Whitewater is asking for help from the paddling community to stop a development that would impact the greater Grand Canyon area and its tributaries. Back in October 2019, we wrote an article outlining the proposal submitted by Phoenix-based hydroelectric company Pumped Hydro LLC to place two dams on the Little Colorado River, a tributary of the Colorado River's mighty Grand Canyon. This proposal was met with a large amount of pushback for the cultural impact on indigenous tribes, ecological impacts, and water use. To address these concerns, Pumped Hydro decided to file an alternative (yet equally problematic) proposal for a hydro development on Big Canyon, a tributary of the Little Colorado River. The Big Canyon project permit application has been accepted into the Federal Energy Regulation Commission's (FERC) registrar, initiating a public comment period on the project ending August 1 and we need members of the paddling community to step up and make their voices heard!

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We Need your Help to Protect Paddlers’ Access to New Mexico Rivers and Streams

07/07/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

Rivers once promoted by the New Mexico State Parks Division in their publication "New Mexico Whitewater - A Guide to River Trips" are now being blocked by private landowners with barricades, cables and No Trespassing signs. This includes upper Chama and Pecos river segments. Privatizers have filed additional applications that would close several other river segments in New Mexico, and their lawyers are threatening an "immense wave" of constitutional "litigation" in the event that "any action by the Court, the Legislature, the Department, or the Commission… restrict[s] landowners' rights to prevent the public from using their streambeds underlying public waters." American Whitewater has been working with our local partners in New Mexico to ensure that this new Rule is rescinded. We need your support to win this battle. If you're in a position to contribute, doing so will help us with legal expenses for our partners and outreach.

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Little CO River Dams Receive Preliminary Permits, New Proposal Submitted (AZ)

06/21/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

In October of 2019, we reported that Phoenix-based hydroelectric company, Pumped Hydro Storage, submitted applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for preliminary permits for two different hydroelectric projects in the Little Colorado River basin. At the end of May, both proposals received approval for their preliminary permits despite formal intervention from Native American tribes, American Whitewater, many of our members, and numerous environmental organizations. Thank you to those of you who provided your comments to FERC! These comments are on record and will help the continued fight against these dams. Next up, the same hydropower company has submitted another preliminary dam proposal on Big Canyon. American Whitewater is reviewing the Big Canyon application and is working on providing our supporters with guidance to submit your own comments.

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Relicensing of Montreal River Hydropower Projects Begins (WI)

05/30/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

In December 2019 Northern States Power submitted their Notice of Intent and Preliminary Application Document to relicense both the Saxon Falls and Superior Falls Hydroelectric Projects. These two projects regulate flows on the West Branch Montreal and Montreal Canyon. Both of these runs are enjoyed by paddlers from across the Midwest and offer opportunities that are unique to the region. American Whitewater will be filing formal comments and a study request within the next week requesting an evaluation of flow needs for whitewater boating and adequacy of accommodations for public access to the river. Paddlers in the region who know the river can help by filing personal comments.

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Senator Wyden Introduces Legislation to Invest in Public Lands

05/12/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

As the impacts of COVID-19 ripple through the economy, Members of Congress are seeking ideas for what economic recovery looks like. Several Congressional offices have reached out to American Whitewater to solicit ideas for projects and initiatives that would benefit public lands and outdoor recreation while putting people to work. Over the past two weeks we have been working with our colleagues at Outdoor Alliance to develop some specific proposals. We are thrilled to report that Senator Wyden from Oregon has taken some our ideas and stepped up in a big way to make investment in public lands and the outdoor recreation economy a personal priority.

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NM Senators Introduce Wild and Scenic River Legislation - Help us thank them!

05/12/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

We are celebrating a great win today after New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich announced the introduction of the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act. The Act, officially introduced on May 8, would protect over 440 miles of free-flowing rivers and streams in the Gila and San Francisco watersheds. If passed, the Gila and San Francisco Rivers and their tributaries would receive permanent protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act - the strongest protection a river can receive. While the Gila legislation gives flexibility to existing uses and landowners, the free-flowing nature and outstanding values of these rivers and streams would be protected now and for future generations to enjoy. The main stem Gila and San Francisco Rivers offer some of the most remote and wild paddling opportunities in New Mexico and have been explored and loved by paddlers for decades. Please help us thank the Senators for their commitment to protect these rivers by filling out this super easy form! 

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New Dam Proposed for Chehalis River (WA): Take Action and Comment

04/02/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

The Chehalis River has one of Washington state's longest continuous sections of Class III whitewater, yet it remains relatively unknown to many paddlers due to access issues involving restrictive policies of a private timber company. A new flood control dam proposal would eliminate 14 miles of this wild and free-flowing Class III whitewater (West Fork to Pe Ell), forever keeping paddlers from discovering this underused trove of quality whitewater in southwestern Washington. Paddlers and other river enthusiasts have an opportunity to provide input on the fate of the Chehalis River by submitting a comment on their Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Take this opportunity to comment and help protect this free-flowing river today! Take Action Today

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Great American Outdoors Act Introduced

03/10/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

It's been a wild ride this past week for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Restore Our Parks Act all initiated by a tweet from the President that began with these words: "I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks." We just got back from a week in DC working to make it happen and all indications are that we are on the cusp of getting legislation passed that directly benefits and provides resources for river access. The bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, introduced yesterday by 55 Senators, combines the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act and Restore Our Parks Act with some key changes and additional funding we requested. Use our easy action form to reach out your representatives today and help us make sure this incredible opportunity for funding river recreation and conservation does not pass us by! 

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Legislation With Over 1000 Miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers Passes House

02/12/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of public lands and waters legislation. This legislation, known as Protecting America's Wilderness Act (H.R. 2546), amends the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019 by combining several bills we have worked on and includes 1,048 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in Washington and California. The primary bills of interest to the whitewater paddling community that are included in this legislation are Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (originally H.R. 2250); Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (originally H.R. 2199); San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (originally H.R. 2215); and Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (originally H.R. 2642). The legislation also includes the Colorado Wilderness Act (H.R. 2546) and protections for the Dolores River Canyon. The bill will be sent to the Senate for consideration.

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Washington State Legislative Session Underway - Bills Affecting Paddlers

01/28/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Three bills in the Washington State legislature have direct impacts to the whitewater paddling community: HB 2443 would require all boaters in the state, regardless of age, to wear a PFD on the water; HB 2444 would in its original form require regular renewal of boater education cards for motor boaters but is being considered for modification to require paddlers to also obtain a boater education card to use a human-powered craft; and SB 5613 would create new authority to vacate a county right of way that abuts a waterway. We encourage the paddling community in Washington State to review these bills and provide input to the legislature.

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Tonto National Forest Draft Plan Open for Public Comment (AZ)

01/21/2020 - by Kestrel Kunz

The Tonto National Forest is revising their forest-wide Management Plan for the first time since 1985. On December 13, 2019 they officially released the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIS) for a 90-day comment period ending on March 12, 2020. 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 on public input to inform management direction, plan components, and new designated areas. Read on to hear about the public meetings that are happening this week!

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Defining the direction of Our Policy work in Colorado

01/07/2020 - by Ian Stafford

Colorado's rivers are national treasures, feeding rivers and communities all across the country. AW's Colorado team is proud to share our new report, Colorado Policy Pathways, that will help chart our approach to protecting and restoring these beloved rivers. At American Whitewater, we know that water policy is a key ingredient in driving smart solutions for the future of our rivers. Colorado Policy Pathways, outlines our approach to addressing the changes and challenges that Colorado's rivers face as the state's population grows and the outdoor economy booms.

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Southeast Advanced Release Dates for 2020

12/18/2019 - 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. In this post we are pleased to share the 2020 dates for the Class IV/V Cheoah, Nantahala Cascades & Upper, West Fork Tuck, and Tallulah rivers.

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American Whitewater Releases New River Access Planning Guide

12/05/2019 - 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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Owyhee Canyonlands Legislation Introduced (OR)

11/08/2019 - by Thomas O'Keefe

This week's introduction of the Malheur County Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (S. 2828) represents a historic move to protect over 1.1 million acres of public lands as wilderness in Malheur County centered around the Owyhee Canyonlands. The legislation also includes protection for an additional 14.7 miles of the Owyhee River as Wild and Scenic.


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