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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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Washington Legislature Proposes Boater Education Card

02/02/2023 - by Thomas O'Keefe

For the past several years the Washington State legislature has had an interest in improving paddlesports safety and reducing fatalities. It’s a good thing to have the legislature interested in boating safety and we are pleased that it has helped raise the profile of Washington State’s Boating Safety Program. While the interest in boating safety is appreciated, the specific legislative proposals introduced over the past few years have had issues and not advanced out of committee. Various ideas have included a Boater Education Card, vessel registration, and mandatory requirements to wear a Personal Floatation Device. With a new session underway, Senator Van De Wege and Senator Lovick are back with SB 5597, legislation that would establish a new boater education card and $10 fee for paddlesports.

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Great Falls Catawba Update - See You in March!

01/10/2023 - by Kevin Colburn

Following 20 years of work, American Whitewater and our partners are in the final push to have the Great Falls of the Catawba ready for flow restoration and paddling this March. We are confident releases will start in March and conditions will be prime to visit the river thereafter. In the interim we ask that paddlers please refrain from paddling the river to allow for important work to happen in and around the river. In this article we'll share an update on where things stand in this unique river restoration project. 

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Lolo National Forest (MT) to Begin Planning - Explore the Web Map

01/05/2023 - by Kevin Colburn

The Lolo National Forest, which encircles Missoula, Montana is gearing up to revise their forest plan starting this spring. The new plan will take a fresh look at which rivers merit protection as potential (eligible) Wild and Scenic Rivers and set recreational and other goals for the next 20 or so years. The process takes around 3 years, and there will be ample opportunities to get involved. Paddlers are encouraged to participate, and share their knowledge of rivers and streams. In this article we share a data-rich web map for paddlers to explore and some tips for how to get involved. 

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New Clean Water Act Rule Released, Rivers Benefit

01/04/2023 - by Kevin Colburn

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency released a new final rule governing which streams and wetlands will be covered by the Clean Water Act. If this sounds familiar, it is for good reason: this issue has been the subject of perennial debate and changes made by various administrations and courts for at least the past two decades. But, for today, for rivers, it is time to celebrate! The new rule, which will likely take effect in 60 days, will restore protections for many of America’s wetlands and streams that had lost protection under the previous version of the rule. Desert rivers are particularly big winners under the new rule, as protections for many of these rivers were lost under the prior rule and will now return. 

 

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Southeast 2023 Advanced Release Schedule Announced!

11/25/2022 - by Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater and our affiliate clubs have spent the past 25 years working to restore flows to incredible Southeastern rivers impacted by dams. A lot of our work has focused on releases and access on Class II and III rivers like the lower Nantahala, Tuckasegee, Hiwassee, and Catawba, but we also secured releases in some classic steeper reaches previously dewatered by hydroelectric diversions. Each year we meet with power companies and agencies to schedule future releases, review ongoing ecology studies, and discuss any issues with the release programs. We strive to create a schedule with minimal conflicts to maximize recreational value. Below are the 2023 dates for the Class IV/V Cheoah, Nantahala Cascades & Upper, West Fork Tuck, and Tallulah rivers. 

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American Whitewater Opposes Legislation to Undermine Clean Water Act

09/23/2022 - by Bob Nasdor

On September 21, Sen. Manchin (D-WV) released the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022, long-anticipated legislation seeking to speed up environmental review and approval of energy projects under the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. The proposed legislation would weaken Section 401 of the Clean Water Act undermining our ability to advocate for instream flows below hydropower dams.

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Local Coalition Celebrates Commission Ruling to Protect Colorado's Waters

09/09/2022 - by Kestrel Kunz

During this year’s World Water Week, a coalition including community members, anglers, recreation groups, and conservation organizations are celebrating the finalization of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission’s decision to designate over 520 miles on 25 streams across Southwest Colorado as Outstanding Waters. The coalition came together from across the state, dedicating three years to demonstrating that these streams have high water quality, exceptional recreational and ecological values, and that they warrant protection. The Commission’s designation of these waterways marks the adoption of the largest community proposal for Outstanding Waters in Colorado’s history.

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

08/27/2022 - by Thomas O'Keefe

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has just released a final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) which recommends the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. This is the final step of analysis, and a federal decision to authorize removal of the dams is expected later this year, with dam removal taking place in 2024. This would be the largest dam removal project in the world.

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Volunteers Work Hard on Upper Yough Accesses

08/26/2022 - by Charlie Walbridge

Although a broken dam curtailed Upper Yough water releases this year, it's been a great season for American Whitewater volunteers. On the left, Jesse Shimrock is AW's new Upper Yough Access Manager. A lifelong resident of Garrett County, he learned to paddle here as a teen. After years on the freestyle circuit he built a house in Sang Run and is ready to look after the interests of river runners. AW has maintained the site for decades thanks to an agreement with Maryland State Parks. Jesse has plans for upgrades and improvements; if you want to help, contact him on FB. And don't forget reliable Don Millard, on the right, who has mowed the grass in both Sang Run and Friendsville for many years! He does a great job and saves AW thousands of dollars each year!


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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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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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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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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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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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Proposed Hydropower Dams on Little CO River Stopped (AZ)

08/03/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

This week, I returned from a 19-day Grand Canyon trip to learn that two proposed hydropower projects on the Little Colorado River had been formally abandoned. On July 26, Pumped Hydro Storage LLC officially surrendered their two preliminary permits for the Salt Trail Canyon and Little Colorado River Pumped Storage Projects. These two projects received preliminary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2019 and if completed, would have inundated 4.5 miles of the Little Colorado and created 4 dams up to 240 feet high. American Whitewater and our members were among hundreds of commenters that opposed these hydropower projects, including multiple native tribes whose sacred lands would have been irrevocably destroyed. 

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Water Quality Rollback Stopped, Issues Unresolved (CO)

06/18/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

At 5pm tonight, Colorado’s Water Quality Control Commission voted not to rollback the antidegradation rule that has for decades helped to keep our rivers clean. However, they did uphold their ability to make arbitrary decisions on polluting Colorado’s waterways - like they did on the South Platte in 2020 - for the next ten years. The outcome followed a two-day hearing earlier this week, during which the antidegradation rule was discussed at length. While we still have a long road ahead, Coloradans were able to stop what would have been an atrocious rollback of protections for Colorado’s beloved streams. Thank you to those that stood up and took action to protect Colorado's water quality! 

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Take Action to Protect Water Quality in Colorado

04/28/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

Colorado’s waters are at stake. From our high mountain streams to the backyard of urban communities, water quality is threatened state-wide. The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has proposed a change to the antidegradation rule that would allow for more pollution into higher quality waters without review or justification. The proposed rule would go against the very premise of the Clean Water Act, which the Commission is tasked with implementing and overseeing in Colorado. Help us protect the antidegradation policy by signing on to this petition to the Water Quality Control Commission. 

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Train Operations in Eagle and Arkansas Corridors to Require Full Review (CO)

03/25/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

This morning, the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) made a much-anticipated decision on the revival of the Tennessee Pass Rail Line - a 160-mile rail line that follows the Eagle and Arkansas Rivers between Sage and Parkdale, Colorado. The STB formally rejected Colorado, Midland and Pacific Railway’s (CMPR) request to be exempt from oversight and regulation of their proposed operation on the line, which would be leased under an agreement with Union Pacific. This decision comes nearly three months after CMPR filed a notice of exemption on December 31, 2020, as people were bringing in the new year. 

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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! 


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!