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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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New Virginia River Access Fee Program Delayed Until 2022

02/11/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The media is reporting that the new fee program affecting river access areas owned and managed by Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources river access areas has been delayed one year, from starting in July of 2021, to instead starting in July of 2022. The delay is to allow for additional input and reconsideration of how the program should be implemented, apparently specifically to reduce impacts on outfitters. A committee will review the new law and make recommendations on possible improvements. American Whitewater encourages Virginia paddlers to get involved through their state legislators, through club participation in the committee, and through any public comment opportunity.

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Help Protect Colorado’s Western Slope Rivers this Valentine’s Day

02/09/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

American Whitewater is asking the paddling community to step up this Valentine’s Day to help protect rivers like the Taylor, Oh-Be-Joyful, and San Miguel rivers in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) in Colorado. This Valentine’s Day and for the whole month of February we are collecting LOVE LETTERS from you to your favorite river in the Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests. We want to hear directly from you about why you love these rivers and why they are worth protecting. We have made this easy-to-use form to submit your letter to us! 

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Representative Simpson Proposes a Bold New Vision for the Snake River (WA/OR/ID)

02/07/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

After three years of careful study and conversations, Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID-2) has released an Energy and Salmon Concept that includes a proposal to breach the four Lower Snake River Dams while making significant regional investments in salmon conservation, recreation, transportation, agriculture, and energy. American Whitewater supports the efforts of Representative Simpson to launch this converastion; we welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue on a proposal that would have a signficant impact on our work throughout the Columbia River basin for years to come. 

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Railway in Arkansas and Eagle River Corridors to Receive More Scrutiny (CO)

02/05/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

Last week, we urged you to send your comments to the federal Surface Transportation Board asking them to deny Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway's (CMPR) request to be exempted from important regulatory proceedings regarding their proposed lease and operation of the Tennessee Pass rail line. The rail line traverses the Arkansas and Eagle Rivers in Colorado and has been inactive for almost 25 years. Today, rather than approving their exemption, the Surface Transporation Board (STB) has postponed a decision on the exemption, in part due to the comments submitted by American Whitewater and our members. On January 22, American Whitewater formally petitioned the STB to stay (or postpone) the effective date of the exemption in order to conduct a more thorough review of CMPR's proposed lease and operations on the Tennessee Pass Line and we additionally requested a complete and thorough environmental review of the project. While our full request has not been approved by the STB, their move to postpone their decision on the exemption until further review of all comments and objections is worth celebrating! 

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Grand Canyon 2022 Main Lottery Update (AZ)

02/05/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

In December, we shared an update on how the Grand Canyon has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Grand Canyon closed on March 24, 2019 and all permitted river trips were canceled through June 14, 2019. Up to 1600 self-guided trip participants had their trips canceled by the NPS and were given the option to reschedule for the same launch date in 2022. To make up for the lost trip opportunities due to the pandemic, American Whitewater's affiliate club, the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA), advocated for additional self-guided permits in the 2021, 2022, and 2023 season. At GCPBA's request, the National Park Service approved the addition of small (8-person or fewer) trips every other day in March and October for 2021, 2022, and 2023. The additional March 2021 dates were made available in a follow-up lottery that rain on October 27, 2020. Fast forward to February 2021 and it is again that time of year. The annual Grand Canyon main lottery began on February 2 and will run through February 26. In regular Grand Canyon permitting fashion, the current permit application is for launch dates in the 2022 calendar year. However due to the COVID-19 impacts explained above, the 2022 launch dates have some modifications. Read on to learn more! 

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Salt River Season Suspended (AZ)

02/05/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

The Salt River lottery for the 2021 river season has been suspended due to COVID-19 mitigation measures put in place by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The Tonto National Forest has a close relationship with the WMAT and the Forest Service is supporting their decision to close their recreation areas to the public. Similar to other Tribes, the WMAT has been hard hit by COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate compared to other populations in the U.S. American Whitewater sends our condolences to those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and we ask that paddlers respect the current river suspension. If White Mountain Apache Tribal Lands reopen to the public then an announcement will be made initiating a first come first serve permit process for the Salt River Canyon. This will be announced on Recreation.gov, through the Salt River listserv, and on American Whitewater’s website.  

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East Fork Virgin River Proposed Dam Halted for More Analysis (UT)

02/01/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater learned of a dam and diversion proposed in the East Fork of the Virgin River watershed late last year and was among several organizations that filed comments questioning the analysis behind the proposal. It was announced last week that approval of the dam approval would be delayed so a more robust analysis can be conducted. This is good news for the Wild and Scenic East Fork of the Virgin River as it flows through Zion National Park downstream of the proposed dam.  

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New Requirement to Carry a Boater Education Card Proposed for Washington State

01/29/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Legislation has been introduced in the Washington State legislature that would require operators of all boats and vessels that are human-propelled (e.g. kayaks, canoes, rafts, stand up paddle boards) to possess a boater education card providing evidence of completing a boating safety education program. A hearing was recently held in the House and while a hearing was scheduled for the Senate, the bill was pulled from the agenda at the start of the hearing. We encourage members of the paddling community to weigh in with their representatives and will continue to update this post to provide current status on the legislation.

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Urgent: Help Protect Browns Canyon and the Arkansas and Eagle River Valleys

01/21/2021 - by Hattie Johnson

It’s hard to imagine what it would be like if up to 10 trains full of heavy crude oil and hazardous chemicals were rumbling by while paddling the Arkansas or Eagle Rivers. It would, without question, change the experience in negative ways, including opening up the opportunity for the major disturbances associated with any kind of derailment and spill of hazardous materials into the river.  We need your help today to protect these incredible places. This past New Year’s Eve, Colorado Midland and Pacific Railway filed a notice of exemption for lease and operations of the Tennessee Pass line that runs through the Eagle and Arkansas Valleys to Parkdale. You have two options to make your voice heard. We have created a sign on letter to be submitted along with American Whitewater’s’s technical comments. However, if you’ve got the time to go the extra mile, we’ve included detailed directions below to submit your own filing directly to the Surface Transportation Board. Please follow these directions carefully and copy hattie@americanwhitewater.org if you decide to file your own comments. Comments are due by January 22 - please take action today! 

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Dam Repairs to Affect Flows in New River Gorge and Dries (WV)

01/21/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The Bluestone Dam blocks the New River not far upstream of the popular New River Gorge and New River Dries, and is currently undergoing significant repairs. These repairs will keep 9 of the 16 gates out of service until 2027, allowing for total releases of around only 12,000cfs. This management will dampen high flows, resulting in longer and more moderate flows than naturally occur in the river. Intriguingly, these releases will regularly overwhelm the 10,000cfs maximum diversion of the Hawks Nest Hydroelectric Project, and result in more frequent and predictable spill releases into the New River Dries.

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New Fee Program Comes to Some Virginia Access Areas

01/15/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Last year the Virginia Legislature passed a new law into effect that requires the public to pay a fee to use river access areas that are managed by the Department of Wildlife Resources. The new fees kicked in January 1, 2021, and the program is outlined in news articles as well as on the Department's website. If you do not have a fishing license, the fees are $23 for an annual pass or $4 per day for a day-pass. The legislation seems to have passed with little discussion or public outreach, and caught many paddlers off guard. American Whitewater conducted a mapping analysis of the effects of this new fee program, and found that it applies new fees to at least 67 public access areas located on whitewater runs. Paddlers are encouraged to let their state legislators know they feel about the newly legislated fee system. 

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Private Timberlands Bordering Classic Whitewater in Columbia Gorge For Sale

01/14/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

The pending sale of 101,000 acres of private timberland by SDS Lumber Company in Washington and Oregon represents an urgent, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conserve this vast landscape for wildlife, climate, recreation, and local communities. These lands include portions of the watersheds of the White Salmon, Little White Salmon, Klickitat, and Hood Rivers. American Whitewater is engaged with leaders in the local paddling community, conservation groups, and land trusts to prevent conversion and fragmentation of this landscape that could occur with a sale. Our preferred outcome is conservation of the most ecologically sensitive lands in the river corridor, uplands retained as working forest in a manner that provides economic and recreational benefits for the community benefits, formalization of river access sites that are open to the public, and recognition that these lands are within the Yakama Nation’s ceded area that presents opportunities for restorative justice.

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Plan to Improve North Fork Nooksack River (WA) Finalized

01/14/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

For the past several years American Whitewater has worked with the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance Program, American Rivers, Whatcom Land Trust, the Nooksack Tribe, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Washington Department of Transportation to address serious safety issues associated with the primary take-out for the North Fork Nooksack River at milepost 27. While the run starts on National Forest Service lands, paddlers are left to find their own take-out along a river reach that flows through lands that are predominately owned by private landowners. We are pleased to report that we have developed a plan and are in the process of securing funding for a formal access in the vicinity of Maple Creek at milepost 27 that will provide parking and river acess off the highway.

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States, Tribes, and Dam Owner Announce Agreement for Klamath River Dam Removal

12/10/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom joined with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, leaders of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, and Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp in announcing an agreement to provide additional resources and support to advance the most ambitious salmon restoration effort in history. The project, when completed, will address declines in fish populations, improve river health, and renew Tribal communities and cultures. The restored river will also provide new opportunities for recreational boating.

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What Makes a Boating Access Work (or Not)?

12/08/2020 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Confluence Research and Consulting has released a report highlighting examples of 269 boat launches from a wide range of locations, geographic settings, amounts and kinds of use, and types of facilities. "The Good, the Bad and the Unusual: What Makes a Boating Access Work (or Not)?" is the first of its kind and the first iteration of a national river access database. The database, report and photo gallery were developed by Confluence Research and Consulting in partnership with a team the National Park Service, River Management Society, and American Whitewater.

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Weber River to Flow as Early as 2021 (UT)

12/08/2020 - by Kevin Colburn

The Federal government now has all the information it needs to issue a new 30 to 50 year license for the Weber River Hydroelectric Project. If they issue the license soon, recreational releases could begin in the early summer of 2021. Delays could push back releases to 2022, but either way, releases appear to be on the way. American Whitewater has spent several years negotiating modest flow restoration for this dewatered Class III-IV reach of the Weber River.

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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.


Stewardship director

Will Parini

Weybridge, Vt, Vt

Full Profile

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.

Introduction


Regulated Rivers


Protecting Rivers : Using State and Federal Regulations


Collaborations, Coalitions and Negotiations


Paddler's Footprint


River Access Program


Boater Registration


River Safety

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