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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, are responsive to climate change, 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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Take Action: Provide Comment to Restore the Snake River

07/06/2022 - by Thomas O'Keefe

American Whitewater supports breaching the four lower Snake River Dams and believes the environmental and social justice costs of these dams outweigh the services and benefits they provide. In addition to benefits for salmon and steelhead, breaching these dams would open up a new segment of free-flowing river in a region where current demand for river-based recreation exceeds capacity. We also believe the removal of these dams is a more effective solution to address struggling salmon runs than limits that have been placed on recreational boaters. Governor Inslee and Senator Murray are currently soliciting public comment through July 11th on the Lower Snake River Dams: Benefit Replacement Draft Report.

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Unprecedented Win for Water Quality in Colorado!

06/24/2022 - by Kestrel Kunz

On June 14, Colorado’s Water Quality Control Commission voted 7-1 to protect 520 miles on 25 streams across Southwest Colorado, adopting the first proposal of its kind. American Whitewater and our partners have been hard at work over the past three years to prove that these high quality rivers and creeks deserve protection. Our proposal included beloved paddling segments like the headwaters of the Taylor River, Escalante Creek, Lime Creek, and many others that were acknowledged for their exceptional ecological and recreational attributes. Under the Clean Water Act, Outstanding Waters provide the highest level of water quality protections in Colorado. The designation acknowledges the high water quality that currently exists and ensures it is protected at that level for the future.

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AW Participates in EPA Roundtable on the Importance of Clean Water

06/09/2022 - by Kevin Colburn

On Tuesday, June 7, Kevin Colburn, American Whitewater’s National Stewardship Director, participated in a roundtable hosted jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Cahaba Brewing Co. on the importance of clean water protections in the Southeast. He joined stakeholders from a broad spectrum of land and water users who live or work in eleven Southeastern states, including a director of a water and sewer utility; general contracting and construction management executive; mitigation banker; faith leader; environmental justice advocates; farmers, including a Gullah-Geechee farmer; elected officials; representatives from conservation and environmental organizations; and clean water scientists.

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Sign Petition to Protect Water Quality in Colorado’s Rivers!

05/18/2022 - by Kestrel Kunz

Sign here to protect water quality in Colorado’s exceptional rivers and creeks! American Whitewater and our partners are working to protect water quality in 26 creeks and rivers in Colorado. The designation of Outstanding Waters provides the highest level of water quality protections in Colorado. In order to qualify for Outstanding Waters designation, rivers must have existing high water quality, have exceptional ecological or recreational significance, and constitute a need for additional protection. These rivers include the Upper Taylor River, Escalante Creek, Lime Creek, Wolf Creek, and Roubideau Creek. We are also looking for members of the paddling community to provide written or oral testimony to the Water Quality Control Commission at the June 13 and 14 hearing. Please email Kestrel directly at kestrel@americanwhitewater.org to sign up to give testimony. 

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Great Falls Catawba Releases Delayed Until Next Spring (SC)

05/10/2022 - by Kevin Colburn

The start of flow releases on the Great Falls of the Catawba have unfortunately been delayed from this August to next spring. The pace and scale of work being done on the hydropower project and related lands to support releases is extraordinary, and while disappointed we are confident that the delay is merited. American Whitewater will continue to work with Duke Power and the community of Great Falls to be ready for releases next March. Starting in March releases will occur every week or two through October, at nearly 3000 cfs in each channel. 

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Weber Releases Get Green Light For This Summer! (UT)

05/09/2022 - by Kevin Colburn

On Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave the green light for recreational releases to begin on Utah’s Weber River this summer! The move came when the agency approved the Whitewater Boating Plan, which was a critical step prior to the flow restoration called for in the new license for the Weber Hydroelectric Project. American Whitewater recently requested that FERC expedite approval of the plan so the public could enjoy the Weber River this year and we are delighted that they did so! With the plan now accepted, American Whitewater will quickly work with the power company to analyze flow forecasts and schedule the four negotiated Saturday releases between late May and mid-July. American Whitewater has spent the past seven years negotiating these releases. We hope paddlers enjoy them this year and in the future!

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Clackamas River Open for River Runners (OR)

05/01/2022 - by Thomas O'Keefe

We are pleased to report that the Clackamas River corridor is now open and available to the public. Oregon Highway 224 above Estacada was re-opened Sunday May 1st after a closure that was implemented in September 2020 following the Riverside Fire and lasted 20 months. While we are pleased that the river corridor has been re-opened, we believe the amount of tree removal was excessive, the length of the closure was longer than necessary, and the Forest Service did not appropriately engage the public. American Whitewater is actively coordinating with other user groups and will continue to explore potential administrative and legislative actions to provide greater accountability and transparency for how closures are implemented and communicated to the public. 

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Middle Fork Feather & Four Other California Rivers Reopened

04/02/2022 - by Scott Harding

Great news out of California!

The Middle Fork Feather River's Devils Canyon run is open again after we succeeded in convincing the Plumas National Forest to end its two-year boating ban on that spectacular multi-day run, just in time for its prime spring season! Our members and supporters helped signficantly by sending in nearly 1,000 comments to the Forest Service.

We have also been working with the Eldorado National Forest to reopen access to rivers that had been closed since last summer's Caldor Fire, and we're happy to report that they just reopened access to 54 miles of whitewater on four different rivers.

All told, American Whitewater helped restore access to 88 miles of whitewater this week, covering nine runs on five different rivers!

MF Feather River photo by Carli Beisel.

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Electron Dam Operator Signs Agreement to Protect Puyallup River (WA)

03/25/2022 - by Thomas O'Keefe

A coalition of conservation groups has reached an agreement with the operators of the Electron hydroelectric project on the Puyallup River to preserve safeguards for threatened Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. The groups had sued over the facility’s illegal killing of these imperiled fish. The agreement will keep the project from operating until and unless operators can address the project’s unacceptable impacts to federally protected native fish threatened with extinction.

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2022 North Fork Feather (CA) Releases and Opportunities

03/18/2022 - by Theresa Lorejo-Simsiman

American Whitewater is happy to confirm boating opportunities for the North Fork Feather River on the Rock Creek and Cresta Reach for 2022. These flows are a part of license operations and were included in the hydropower license order that American Whitewater helped negotiate with Pacific Gas & Electric. 

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Klamath River Dam Removal Takes Important Step Forward (OR/CA)

02/28/2022 - by Thomas O'Keefe

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the proposed removal of four Klamath River dams, recommending that the dams be removed. FERC confirmed that dam removal will bring permanent and significant benefits to multiple resources, including fisheries, water quality, and recreation. This represents an important step for the project to move forward in 2023. The public is now invited to comment by April 18th [extended to April 25th] on the DEIS which describes the impacts and benefits of the project. 

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California Rivers Through Native Eyes

02/10/2022 - by Theresa Lorejo- Simsiman

Reciprocity is the touchstone of the stewardship work we do here at American Whitewater.  We never paddle solo when we enter a process to negotiate new hydropower licenses, defend river access, or speak out against detrimental dam proposals. We actively seek collaboration with individuals and groups mutually sharing our time, expertise, and resources for the protection of the watersheds we hold dear. Often these key partners include Native Communities who bring to the table the traditional knowledge of the lands and waters they have stewarded for time immemorial. To date however, there is scant Native information to be found in our National Whitewater Inventory of over 5,500 rivers. In the spirit of reciprocity, American Whitewater is offering our river database as a platform to share the Indigenous narratives of the rivers we enjoy. In California, we have partnered with the Redbud Resource Group to research, interview and chronicle stories of Native Communities. Redbud is a Native led 501c3 non-profit focused on improving education and public health outcomes for Native communities. For our first California River Through Native Eyes, we start with the North Fork Feather River from the Rock Creek Reach down through the Poe, homeland of the Konkow Valley Tribe of Maidu. You can read their story online and in our most recent Winter 2022 American Whitewater Journal. 

Photo of Doctor Charlie Gramps Provided by Matthew (Gramps) Williford Sr.

 

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Making Policy Progress in Colorado

01/12/2022 - by Kestrel Kunz

The Colorado based stewardship team had the pleasure of working with a team of graduate students from the University of Colorado’s Masters of the Environment program in 2021. We set them up with the task of investigating the feasibility of a state run wild and scenic river protection program in Colorado. The team, Sarah Hamming, Sarah Heller, and Jack Sheehan, dove deep in literature to learn about the history and workings of the WSRA, other state programs and other mechanisms for protecting water in Colorado. Thanks to the far reaching stakeholder outreach of the students, the concepts have already been the topic of discussion in river conservation circles and will hopefully spark bold changes for the valuable waters of our headwaters state. 

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Recreation Not Red Tape: All the Details

12/07/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

First introduced in March 2016, Senator Wyden's Recreation Not Red Tape Act had a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this past week. We are pretty excited that the Committee has an interest in outdoor recreation and scheduled a hearing covering 9 bills focused on outdoor recreation. We were part of launching that interest among Committee Members when our Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director Thomas O’Keefe was invited to testify before the Committee in March 2019. We are carefully evaluating all of the bills and have worked with Outdoor Alliance to provide testimony to the Committee. Of the bills before the Committee we have had the most direct input on is the Recreation Not Red Tape Act. We have worked on this bill, first introduced in March 2016, for several years and provided extensive input on the development of Title III which is the most exciting. Title I includes reforms to the process for issuing outfitter-guide permits. We know that allocation of outfitter-guide permits is always an important topic for our members and we have worked hard to ensure proposed reforms do not come at the expense of members of the paddling community who prefer to organize their own trips. 

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Sale of SDS Lumber Company Complete (WA)

11/19/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

This week three entities with strong Northwest ties and deep expertise in timberlands, forest conservation, and mill operations have acquired portions of SDS Lumber Company and SDS Co, LLC. The sale was finalized on November 17. The unique consortium, comprised of Seattle-based Silver Creek Capital’s fund Twin Creeks Timber, LLC, The Conservation Fund, and Carson, Washington-based WKO, Inc., designed and put forth a purchase solution for the SDS Lumber Company and SDS Co, LLC that continues sustainable timber harvesting and mill operations while providing a path for the forestlands to be permanently conserved in the future for wildlife, recreation, and community benefits. Included in the transaction are over 96,080 acres of timberlands with environmental and community importance near the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon and the lumber and plywood mills and associated assets in Bingen, Wash.

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Skagit River Recreation Flow Survey (WA)

11/12/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Seattle City Light is in the process of securing a new license to operate the Skagit Hydroelectric Project before the current licensee expires in 2025. As part of that process a number of studies are underway that include an assessment of the impacts of hydropower operations on recreation. To collect information from the public, Seattle City Light is conducting an online recreation flow survey for three river segments on the Skagit River. American Whitewater, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and North Cascades National Park participated in the development of this study plan. The purpose of this recreation flow survey is to gather information about recreation flow preferences for three river segments on the Skagit River along a 25.2-mile length from the Goodell Creek Boat Launch inside the Ross Lake National Recreation Area to Howard Miller Steelhead Park near Rockport.

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Comments Needed By Nov. 26 to Secure Protections for West Slope Rivers (CO)

11/09/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

In August, we announced the release of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison Draft Forest Plan. This plan will guide the management of over 3.2 million acres and thousands of river miles, including high-quality paddling streams like the Upper East and the Taylor rivers. The current plan is over 38 years old and is severely outdated. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to effect change on our public lands and we need the paddling community to ACT NOW by submitting comments to the Forest Service. Make sure that you personalize your comments by sharing a photo or a personal experience about a river(s) on the Forests. 

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Opportunity to Provide Input on Washington State Recreation Planning

11/05/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

Every 5 years Washington State updates their State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). All states must have such a plan that is required to receive federal recreation dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The process is currently underway to update Washington State's SCORP for 2023-2027 and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office is soliciting input through a survey. In addition they are providing an opportunity to upload a photo and narrative description of a special place. Input from the whitewater paddling community will demonstrate our community's interest in river access and conservation and help American Whitewater to be more effective in advocating for our community's interests in statewide recreation planning.

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Gila Wild and Scenic River Bill Reintroduced and Gaining Speed (NM) 

11/03/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

Today, Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján reintroduced the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act. The Act, officially reintroduced on November 2, is poised to protect over 440 miles of free-flowing rivers and streams in the Gila and San Francisco watersheds in New Mexico. The success of this campaign wouldn’t be possible without the support of our local partners that have championed this effort and our dedicated members. Over the past couple years, thousands of paddlers and river lovers have voiced their support for protection of the Gila watershed by writing directly to our legislators, signing petitions, and sharing personal stories of the Gila. Your voices have been heard and securing permanent protection for the Gila and its tributaries is nearing the finish line. While the reintroduction of this bill comes as a great win, there is still lots of work to ensure that the legislation is passed through Congress. We will be working to get this across the finish line - for good. Please take a moment to thank the Senators for their hard work and dedicated to protect the Gila River! 

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It’s Finally Time to Protect Colorado’s West Slope Rivers!

08/16/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

Today, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest Unit announced the much-anticipated release of the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Draft Plan materials were released on Friday, August 13, initiating a 90-day review period. The GMUG National Forest is home to gems like Oh-Be-Joyful Creek, the Taylor River, Norwood Canyon on the San Miguel, and numerous others. Many of these rivers are free-flowing and offer outstanding values, including paddling, breathtaking scenery, fish habitat, and profound history and culture. This point in the plan revision process is the most important time for the river community to engage and speak up to protect our beloved West Slope rivers in Colorado!


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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