River Stewardship is an integrated approach to the mission and program work of American Whitewater. Our stewardship program is made possible through on-going membership support. In our national stewardship project work we have some major buckets that our work falls into. One of the simplest ways to break these buckets down is to think of them as categories outlined in; Protect, Restore and Enjoy. Our community knows firsthand that you can’t love what you don’t know. It’s our common love of whitewater that makes us such passionate defenders of rivers. Here is an outline of historic and current project work that provides an illustration of how we function and the impacts of our collective efforts.
Protect American Whitewater has been a key player in protecting our treasured free-flowing rivers through growing the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. From our early advocacy in support of protecting the Selway River in Idaho, to our recent invitation to testify before Congress on the value of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie in Washington State, we are a consistent voice for those who experience first-hand the beauty and joy of free-flowing rivers.
Restore American Whitewater has restored flows to dry rivers below dams across the country, and is a pioneer in bringing political and scientific legitimacy to restoring flows in a way that both improves riparian habitat and connects people to rivers. Rivers like the Feather in California, Chelan in Washington, Fox in Wisconsin, and Cheoah in North Carolina were once dry, but are living rivers again thanks to our leadership. We’ve also worked with fellow river advocates to remove dams that have outlived their useful life, restoring fish habitat and recreation opportunities to rivers throughout the country, including Washington’s White Salmon River (Condit Dam), North Carolina’s Tuckasegee River (Dillsboro Dam), and Montana’s Clark Fork River (Milltown Dam). We are currently engaged in advocating for recreational flows on the New River Dries (WV), something that could bring tremendous value to an economically depressed area with new recreational opportunities for adventure based tourism.
Enjoy American Whitewater knows that those who have a personal connection to rivers are the most powerful and effective river conservation advocates. We connect the public with rivers through promoting whitewater safety and improving public access to waterways. We also maintain the National Whitewater Inventory – a comprehensive database of over 7,000 whitewater runs, representing the nation’s most extensive atlas of whitewater rivers.
This compelling mix of stewardship project outcomes allowed American Whitewater to foster strong additional corporate and foundation support. We are able to solicit three additional dollars for every membership dollar we received. That three to one match allows us to stretch your membership investment. Where else can you make a one dollar investment and immediately stretch it to four dollars in support of river conservation? This match, combined with a lean organizational model, allows American Whitewater to leave a footprint much larger than our actual shoe size.
AW's stewardship program is managed by a National Stewardship Director who coordinates efforts between regional coordinators, volunteers, board members, and other staff members including our regional directors in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, California and the Northeast. Our Stewardship Team is in place to lead, train and support community-based activism representing the interests of boaters and the rivers we care for. Our River Stewardship Team remains focused on our mission, “To protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers
and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.” Staying true to our mission, we will continue to integrate our most valuable asset, AW member volunteers, into the issues at hand.
VT Supreme Court Protects Whitewater Boating on the Green River
The Vermont Supreme Court decided today that whitewater boaters have the right to paddle on the Green River. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision by the Environmental Division of the Superior Court that required the hydropower project on the Green River in Morrisville to provide three annual scheduled releases. This is a precedent setting decision because it establishes that whitewater boating is a designated and existing use protected under the Clean Water Act, that scheduled releases are necessary to protect that use, and that Vermont ANR failed to meet its burden to show that providing scheduled release would result in a lowering of water quality.
Comments Needed to Support Upper Yough Releases (MD)
The 12-year state permit that governs the releases from Deep Creek Lake into the Upper Youghiogheny is up for renewal, and decision-makers would benefit from hearing from paddlers. Three public meetings and significant discussions have led to broad agreement on some minor changes that are important to the paddling community, and other important issues remain unresolved. Your comment letters could help ensure the Upper Yough is managed in a responsible manner for years to come.
Ashley National Forest (UT) Information Needed
The Ashley National Forest is in the process of updating its land management plan-something that hasn't happened since 1986. This creates an opportunity to advocate for better protection of streams and rivers across the 1.4 million-acre National Forest, which spans from the Uinta Mountains to Flaming Gorge. Right now, American Whitewater needs your help updating the National Whitewater Inventory to include better information on the rivers within the Ashley National Forest. We ask that paddlers familiar with this area add photos and descriptions to the NWI, check out our recent comments, and consider sending a comment letter to the Forest.
Owyhee Canyonlands Legislation Introduced (OR)
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.
EPA Proposing to Weaken State’s Ability to Protect Clean Water and Recreation
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing new regulations that would weaken the ability of states to protect clean water at hydropower dams and other federally-licensed energy projects. Under the Clean Water Act, states must certify that these projects comply with state water quality standards before they can receive a 30-50 year federal license. For American Whitewater, these changes would hamstring our ability to restore flows to dewatered river sections, ensure access for boating, and secure scheduled boating releases like the ones we enjoy on so many rivers across the country, such as the Beaver and Moose in New York, the Gauley in West Virginia, the Tallulah in Georgia, and the North Fork Feather in California. To take action on this issue, go here and let the EPA know that you do not agree with this rule change and that taking away state's rights to protect their water quality is unacceptable. Comments are due October 21, 2019.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden Calls for More Wild and Scenic Rivers
Oregon is home to some of our nation's most amazing and scenic rivers. From the Illinois to the Umpqua, the Owyhee to the Santiam, we have an impressive diversity of majestic waterways that provide an abundance of opportunities for whitewater recreation. Oregon is blessed with 110,994 miles of major rivers and streams but only 2173 miles are protected as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Many additional miles for river protection remain and Senator Ron Wyden is aiming to seize this opportunity! This past week, Senator Wyden announced a nomination process to designate new Wild and Scenic Rivers in Oregon. Make your voice heard and take action to nominate your favorite rivers today.
Recreation Not Red Tape Act: a bill to benefit outdoor recreation
For the past several years American Whitewater has worked with our partners on the Recreation Not Red Tape Act (H.R. 3458/S.1967). This is among the most important piece of positive policy we expect to see this Congress in terms of improving outdoor recreation and our access to rivers on public land. Senator Wyden originally approached us on the idea of a bill to benefit outdoor recreation to encourage sustainable use and enjoyment of public lands and waters. Learn more and take action to join us in supporting this legislation.
Upper Yough Hearing To Focus On New Dam Permit
The 2011 state permit that requires and governs the dam releases on the Upper Yough is up for renewal. Unlike most hydropower dams, the Deep Creek Project is not regulated by a Federal license, however the state permit fills a similar role as a Federal license would. The permit renewal creates opportunities to modify the terms of the permit in ways that could benefit or impact whitewater paddling, river ecology, and other values. A hearing is scheduled for October 15th, 2019 at Garrett College that will focus on potential changes in the new permit.
AW Launches Adirondacks River Restoration Campaign
American Whitewater is launching the Adirondacks River Restoration Campaign to restore and improve river flows for aquatic ecosystems and to improve recreation opportunities across the region. Over the next 10 years, more than 50 hydroelectric dams in New York are scheduled to get new 30 to 50-year federal licenses, creating a once in a generation opportunity to improve river conditions. In the Black River Basin alone, there are more than 20 hydropower dams on the Black, Beaver, and Moose rivers that will begin the relicensing process in the next year, and American Whitewater will need to participate with other partners in order to mitigate project impacts and achieve river restoration goals. Through these efforts, we will restore flows to dewatered river reaches, improve existing flows, enhance public access, and benefit communities throughout the region.
Congress to Take Up Wild and Scenic River Bills Covering Over 1000 River Miles
This week, the House Natural Resource Committee's Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands will hold a hearing on bills that would designate over 1000 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. American Whitewater has brought the voice of the whitewater paddling community to the discussions that led to these legislative proposals with a goal of protecting rivers and the whitewater paddling experience.
Oregon Waterway Access Bill Set to Become Law
This week, Oregon House Bill 2835 re-passed the Oregon House on a 52-7 vote. Having earlier cleared the Senate, the bill now awaits a signature from the Governor to be signed into law. For decades, opportunities to protect and improve the ability of the public to access and legally use waterways for recreation have seen minimal progress, while efforts to severely limit access have been a consistent threat. Oregon House Bill 2835 is a pivotal piece of legislation in Oregon, and the first proactive waterway access bill in recent history to have made it through the state legislature.
Final Slate River Floating Management Plan Released (CO)
Crested Butte, CO - Increased user conflict on the Slate River has led to a Floating Management Plan that proposes a "voluntary no-float period" between March 15 and July 15 this season. Since our last news post in November, the Slate River Floating Management Plan has been updated and revised for the 2019 season. An open house will be held at The Depot in Crested Butte on Thursday, May 16 and it is critical that paddlers from the local community attend and engage in the conversation. (Photo courtesy of the Crested Butte Land Trust).
Effort to Protect the Rogue Continues (OR)
At the end of last Congress, the House and Senate negotiated a public lands package that ultimately resulted in 256 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers for Oregon when the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act was signed into law on March 12th, 2019. While rivers like the Molalla and several tributaries of the Rogue were designated Wild and Scenic, the lands surrounding the immediate river corridor were left unprotected. With a commitment to finish the job, and building on the successful effort to move these initiatives out of committee with bipartisan support last Congress, Senator Wyden was joined by Senator Merkley in introducing the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act (S. 1262) on May 1st, 2019. The bill is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 14th, 2019.
Senator Murray & Representative Kilmer Reintroduce Wild Olympics Bill (WA)
Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) reintroduced the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (S. 1382 and H.R. 2642) to permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries, a total of 464 river miles, as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Designed through extensive community input to protect ancient forests, clean water and salmon streams as well as enhance outdoor recreation, the legislation would set aside the first new wilderness on Olympic National Forest in nearly three decades and the first-ever protected wild and scenic rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.
Positive Outlook for Lower Dolores Flows This Spring!
The Dolores Water Conservation District recently put out their updated spill prediction based on the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center's May 1st inflow forecast. In addition to a positive forecast indicating a likely 3-4 week spill of boatable flows beginning before Memorial Day, low and middle elevation snowpack has raised McPhee water levels at approximately a foot per day. This lower elevation snow and May storm cycle have also helped in keeping fields wet and pushing back the start of irrigation season. One more benefit of the healthy low elevation snowpack was the flows downstream of McPhee reached boatable levels for over a week. Many regional boaters were out enjoying these natural flows and levels even reached 2,000 cfs for a period!
Land and Water Conservation Fund Secures Access to Upper Colorado River
A bill to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was introduced last month by Colorado Senator Cory Gardener and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and cosponsored by Colorado Senator Michael Bennett. If passed the bill would provide $900M annually for projects protecting natural, cultural and historic resources. Existing funding from the LWCF recently enabled the transfer of two important river access points on the Upper Colorado River. The State Bridge and Two Bridges parcels were owned by Eagle County and had been improved - boat ramps, parking, restroom/changing facilities - by the Eagle County Open Space program with coordination and management support from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This land transfer will protect public access at these locations in perpetuity.
Dolores River (CO) 2019 Spill Forecast Update
Dolores Water Conservation District put out their most recent predictions on April 23rd. More can be found on their website. We are expecting an updated forecast on May 6th and will be meeting with them on May 9th to begin discussions on how the recreational boating releases can align with other ecological goals. American Whitewater has developed a wide range of guidelines on how a spill can meet both recreation goals and goals to improve aquatic species and riparian health.
New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham Vetoes Gila Diversion Funding
In her campaign, newly elected Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham laid out a plan to end work on the Gila River Diversion Project. This past Friday she took great strides towards that promise by vetoing $1.698M in New Mexico Unit funding requested by the Interstate Stream Commission for Gila diversion planning and design.
NEW WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS SIGNED INTO LAW WITH PUBLIC LANDS PACKAGE!
With the President's signature today, 621 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers have been established through the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (Public Law 116-9). With strong bipartisan support, this legislation passed the House by a vote of 363-62 on February 26th. It passed the Senate by a vote of 92-8 on February 12th. Please reach out to your lawmakers in both the House and Senate to thank them for following through on this commitment, and we make it super easy through our easy action templated forms. A personalized touch will make sure your representatives read your thank you and the forms only take a moment to update with an individualized comment about why protecting wild rivers and the recreation opportunities they provide is important to you.
Help Protect Crested Butte Area Rivers and Creeks under Wild and Scenic Act
The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) are conducting a Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Evaluation as part of the current Forest Plan Revision process. While the Forest Service is mandated to conduct an Eligibility Study as part of the Plan Revision process, this opportunity only happens every 15-20 years and we need to ensure that the Study is comprehensive and robust. We need YOU to share your love and knowledge of these rivers with the Forest Service! We've put together an easy-to-use tool for you to submit comments here. Please consider personalizing your comments and take the time to review the Forest Service's Story Map of the Eligibility Evaluation.
River Stewardship Toolkit
A cornerstone of our outreach and education program designed to empower our volunteers is our Stewardship Toolkit, an on-line resource built on a decade of AW institutional knowledge in conservation, access, and safety issues. Each link below is a chapter containing a wealth of information. These topics are constantly being updated and we invite additional contributions.
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
Endangered Species Act
Land Management Practices
Writing or Visiting Congress
Making a FOIA Request
6) River Access
Navigability Law Primer
State Navigability Law
State Liability Law
Paddling in National Parks
Private Land Closures
Barbed Wire / Obstructions
Protecting a Streamgage
8) River Safety