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 conserve and restore America’s whitewater resources
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.
Earlier this year, two spillways at Oroville Dam on the Feather River in California became severely compromised, prompting the evacuation of approximately 188,000 people. The impact of the failure of these spillways continues to have a significant impact on the river and downstream communities. Those who live downstream of Oroville Dam–along with citizens across the country who live in the shadow of high-hazard hydropower dams–deserve to understand what happened, the full impacts, and what is being done about it. American Whitewater is joining with others to call for a Congressional hearing into these issues and ensure that the public has a voice in the process. Learn more about how you can help our efforts…
The spread of invasive aquatic plants and animals is an emerging threat on our rivers. To protect rivers from invasive species, and to avoid closures and limits, paddlers should make every effort to avoid transporting invasive species from one river to another. In this article we offer a friendly reminder to Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat and gear between rivers, and a cautionary tale from our nation's headwaters in Montana.
American Whitewater staff traveled to Green River, UT in late March to meet with private water users and state agencies, and to participate in the official opening of the new boat passage through the Green River Diversion (Tusher Dam). Completion of the boat passage has freed the Green River from its last in-stream obstruction between the Flaming Gorge Dam and the confluence with the Colorado River – over 400 floatable river miles through iconic canyons and historic landmarks. It has a been a long process, and our work isn’t over yet! As your boating representative, American Whitewater will continue to work closely with the dam operators and Utah’s Division of State Lands (FFSL) to ensure that the boat passage meets the needs of the public during its inaugural year.
A bill has been introduced in the Tennessee Legislature that aims to continue treasured recreational releases on the Ocoee River after current release agreements expire in March of 2019. The Ocoee River Recreation and Economic Development Fund Act would create a fund that would be used to pay the Tennessee Valley Authority for releases and to pay for other river management costs. Paddlers from TN can weigh in on the bill now, and all paddlers will have a chance to voice support or concerns with the TVA this spring or summer.
After over a year's work American Whitewater has released an upgraded version of their Whitewater Accident Database. It's the largest collection of its kind in the world, with over 1600 fatalities and close calls dating back to 1972. Each report has been checked for accuracy and AW Webmaster Ryan Groth greatly improved the search capacity. You can now locate accidents by a dozen different categories and characteristics. Here's how this project came about, how it evolved, why American Whitewater reports accidents and how you can help us keep this project going in the coming years.
We have put together a schedule of whitewater festivals and events for the 2017 paddling season in Colorado. Get your calendars out, because this season is going to be one to remember! In addition to the many whitewater festivals that American Whitewater partners with in Colorado, we are excited to announce that AW is hosting Gore Fest again this year! We hope to see you at Rancho Del Rio on August 25 - 27! Stay tuned for more details on race registration, entertainment, and volunteer opportunities.
March is the new June in Idaho, and early snowmelt has river flows booming. The dam that normally diverts almost all the water from the Black Canyon of the Bear River has begun to spill and boatable flows are likely for for the next couple weeks. Flows are likely to reach or exceed 1,500cfs which means a rare chance to experience the Bear at big Class V flows.
American Whitewater California staff Dave Steindorf will testify before a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives at 1:15pm on Wednesday, March 15th, on behalf of the Hydropower Reform Coalition. The hearing will explore the opportunities and challenges of expanding hydropower generation in the US. Dave has over 20 years of experience negotiating environmental and recreational improvements at existing hydropower dams on behalf of the paddling community. Click through to watch the hearing.
Idaho Power announced today that "flows of 10,000 cfs or greater in the Class V whitewater Milner Gorge Reach (Milner Mile) below Milner Dam on the Snake River are likely to be available during April 2017." In most years the hydropower project removes so much water from the Milner Gorge that whitewater paddling is not possible at any time. In high water years like this one though, the power company must release flows into the big, powerful Class V run known to paddlers as the Milner Mile.
Yesterday, President Trump issued an order to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review and replace a federal rule that protects our rivers from pollution. This action will start a multi-year public rulemaking process that will decide the safety and health of our nation’s waterways. Paddlers will have an important role to play in speaking up for the value of clean water and healthy rivers.
The Oregon State Marine Board proposal to establish a Non-Motorized Boating Program is moving through the state legislature and is set for a hearing on March 1st. We encourage our Oregon members to share their thoughts with their representatives in the state legislature.
Eagle, Colorado - The new Eagle River Park, “connecting the heart of Eagle to the soul of the river”, aims to improve river recreation opportunities for local Eagle residents, as well as visitors from around the nation. After a year of working on the design of the whitewater features, S20 design and the Town of Eagle released updates on the plan yesterday. The updates include a photo album of Existing Conditions at the Eagle River Park site, new descriptions of the four whitewater features, and a recap of the latest Steering Committee meeting, including the guiding principles for the park design.
PG&E announced on February 2, 2017 that it was withdrawing its application to relicense the DeSabla – Centerville Hydroelectric Project on Butte Creek and the West Branch Feather River. PG&E engaged in a fifteen year relicensing process, spent tens of millions, only to determine that the energy from this project has been replaced by solar power.
The Bureau of Land Management is currently accepting public comment on a proposal to protect the Methow Headwaters from an industrial-scale copper mine above the town of Mazama. The proposed mine would negatively impact the incredible opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Methow Valley. A strong show of public support will be required to secure protection for this river valley.
There is only one more day left to share what you value most in the Browns Canyon National Monument planning area! The Bureau of Land Management, U.S Forest Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are working together to develop a Coordinated Management Plan for Browns Canyon National Monument. In order to design a plan that most benefits citizens and visitors of Colorado, the agencies designed an Online Survey and Mapping Tool to understand how the public interacts with the Browns Canyon planning area and what aspects of the area are most important to the public.
On January 12, 2017, the BLM and Forest Service announced a 20-year halt to new mining activities in the watersheds of the North Fork Smith, Illinois, Pistol River and Hunter Creek in Oregon. American Whitewater celebrates this important milestone with the conservation and recreation partners that we've worked with, and thanks Representatives DeFazio and Huffman and Senators Wyden and Merkley for their dedication to protecting this place. And we thank YOU too for standing up for these wild rivers!
Colorado - American Whitewater has released a new study on whitewater recreation in the San Miguel River Basin. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) requested that Montrose County consult with American Whitewater on recreational needs and future impacts for the San Miguel River. Montrose County acquired conditional water rights to the San Miguel River in hopes of building multiple new reservoirs on BLM land. American Whitewater worked with Montrose County’s agents to assess the impact its conditional storage proposals would have on existing recreational opportunities.
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!
The Green River, from the Flaming Gorge Dam to its confluence with the Colorado River, is known for its beautiful and iconic multiday paddling trips enjoyed by boaters and anglers. For as long as any of us can remember, the only man-made obstruction to boaters and fish on this stretch has been the Green River Diversion Dam (i.e., Tusher Dam), located just over 6 miles upstream of the town of Green River, UT and more than 120 miles above its confluence with the Colorado River. Since it was first built in 1913, the Tusher Dam and the keeper hydraulic it created forced boaters to either portage around it or run the unsafe hazard, while negatively affecting fish migration patterns.
For the past five years the Oregon State Marine Board has been engaging with the non-motorized boating community to learn how the Marine Board can better meet the needs of the community. The state's Non-Motorized Boating Advisory Committee made a unanimous recommendation to institute a Non-Motorized Boating Program that includes elements to address access, safety, education and funding. As an outcome of this process the Marine Board is proposing legislation for the 2017 legislative session that includes a new fee for paddlesports. We are seeking paddler input on this proposal.
Northeast boaters can celebrate that another beloved whitewater gem has been protected. Paddlers on the Winnipeseaukee River are now assured that the put-in on the Lower Winni in Northfield, NH will be forever protected thanks to the donation of a parcel from Gloria Blais in memory of her husband Roger. Gloria donated the land to the Town of Northfield for the purpose of assuring that future generations of boaters will have access to the river. Protecting river access to the Winni is part of an ongoing effort by AW in the northeast region to protect river access.
Public Scoping Hearings have been scheduled this fall in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho and Montana to discuss the fate of Snake River Dams and their impact on salmon resources in the Snake River Watershed. We are encouraging the paddling community to engage in this public process which has implications for the overall health of the Snake River ecosystem and tributaries like the Lochsa, Selway, and Salmon River.
Snohomish County Public Works has published the long-awaited Environmental Assessment for repairs on the Index-Galena Road that historically provided access to the North Fork Skykomish River for whitewater boaters. Public input will be considered in agency decision making on whether repair of this important access road will move forward. The deadline for comments is October 31, 2016.
This week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioned (FERC) issued a final order denying a license for the Twin Lakes Canal Company’s proposal to build a 109-foot-tall hydroelectric dam on the Bear River in southeast Idaho. American Whitewater and our partners have worked diligently for over 14 years to protect the Oneida Narrows section of the Bear River, and we’re celebrating this final decision, which will keep this section of river freely flowing!
Negotiations on an Energy Bill are about to get underway and the hydropower industry wants a piece of the action. Under the guise of "modernizing" hydropower and "reducing costs," the hydropower industry is working feverishly to get a free pass on environmental regulations that help us restore flows to rivers. If they are successful, it will damage our work to restore flows and enhance whitewater recreation downstream of hydropower projects. Take action today to help us restore rivers and keep them flowing.
Dave Brown, the man behind Friends of the Ocoee and Citizens For Gauley River, has announced his intent to retire as executive director of America Outdoors, the national outfitters association. The team of lawyers and scientists he assembled in the early 1980's to keep the Upper Gauley from being dammed - Pete Skinner, Pope Barrow, Mac Thornton, and Steve Taylor - later became the core of a Board of Directors that revitalized American Whitewater. He also organized the first Gauley Festival, which would later be handed over to American Whitewater. Outfitters have been a vital part of the coalition seeking to protect whitewater rivers and Dave has been an outstanding leader in these fights. Click through for his refections on his remarkable career.
River outfitters and American Whitewater joined together decades ago to protect the Gauley River from hydro development. The success of these business enterprises were one of the key reasons that the river was protected as a National Recreation Area. But with success has come new challenges. Professional guides find the number of kayakers on the Upper Gauley overwhelming at times and kayakers also find the number of rafts intimidating. Regardless of any “right of way”, it’s everyone’s job to avoid crashes! Here’s what you can do to avoid collisions with commercial rafts.
The report on paddling access to the Ausable River has finally been issued: late, incomplete, biased, and erroneous. All of the data in the study support year round paddling access, and the data is generally accurate and defensible. The dam owner, New York State Electric and Gas, has maintained its position however that no access should be allowed to the beautiful Class IV river. It is now up to FERC, and AW and KCCNY will be filing comments this week requesting year round access.
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.
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