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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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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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Comments Can Help Shape Summersville Lake Management (WV)

01/19/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

A new Draft Master Plan for Summersville Lake, which provides releases on the Gauley River, is open for public comment until February 16, 2021. The Draft Plan covers the significant public land surrounding the reservoir, including Battle Run Campground, several trails, numerous rock climbing areas, and boat ramps. Unfortunately the Plan does not cover water releases, which the Agency states are covered by a seperate plan. Paddlers that use these lands are encouraged to review and comment on the Draft Plan. 

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

01/19/2021 - 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 has been scheduled in the House and we anticiapte a Senate hearing will be scheudled shortly. We encourage members of the paddling community to weigh in through a written comment or by testifying at the hearing.

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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.

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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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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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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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Help Protect Crested Butte Area Rivers and Creeks under Wild and Scenic Act

02/26/2019 - by Kestrel Kunz

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. 

Support Colorado River Access on Colorado Gives Day!

11/29/2018 - by Kestrel Kunz

Colorado Gives Day is on December 4 this year and is fast approaching! Go here to schedule your online donation to support American Whitewater's Colorado River Access Program. All donations made to American Whitewater on Colorado Gives Day (December 4) will be put towards our River Access Program in Colorado. American Whitewater works to improve river access and public safety throughout the state by working with landowners and managers, paddlers, law enforcement, and lawmakers to understand Colorado's river access laws and the ongoing threats to public safety. Thank you for your support!


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

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!