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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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Comments Needed on River Protection in the Arctic

04/06/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

A new proposed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) management plan for 55.7 million acres in Northern Alaska would fail to protect any of the 11 rivers their analysis finds to be eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. If you have paddled any of the affected rivers in this area we strongly encourage you to review the planning documents and submit comments in support of protection of Wild and Scenic River values in the Central Yukon Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. Deadline is June 9, 2021.

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Black Canyon Put-In Closed for 2021 Season (CO)

04/06/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz

The National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation announced this week that the East Portal Road which serves as the put-in for the Black Canyon section of the Gunnison River will be closed for maintenance for the duration of the 2021 season. While the road closure is an unfortunate obstacle for many this season, the needed maintenance of the road will lead to fewer unexpected road closures due to rockfall and will improve access to the Black Canyon for the long term. American Whitewater will track the status of the road closure and we will share an update as soon as access to the Black Canyon is reopened.  

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Moose, Beaver (NY) Dam Relicensings Set to Begin Again

04/06/2021 - by Robert Nasdor

Federal relicensing of 21 hydropower dams in the Adirondacks begins this month on the Moose, Beaver, and Black rivers, home to iconic whitewater boating runs treasured by paddlers throughout the northeast. For the next six years, AW will be at fighting to protect and expand paddling opportunities on these rivers. To support our efforts to restore rivers and our opportunities to enjoy them, AW launced the Adirondacks River Restoration Campaign. To get involved, SIGN UP HERE.

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Opportunity to Speak up for Water Quality on the Pigeon River (NC/TN)

04/05/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Blue Ridge Paper operates a paper mill on the banks of the Pigeon River in Canton, NC, that for generations has provided valued local jobs but also had negative impacts on the water quality of the river. Over the past few decades water quality has improved significantly, fishing has improved, and paddling use has skyrocketed. With this said, the river's water quality has a lot of room for improvement while supporting the mill's continued operation, and new permit requirements are a good way to get that work underway. The State however has proposed a new permit that relaxes certain requirements of the old permit, and fails to address new challenges. The state will host a public hearing on April 14, and accept comments through April 30. Paddlers are encouraged to get involved and learn more.

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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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Whitewater Flows Secured in New Weber River Dam License! (UT)

03/24/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

A new 40-year license for a dam on Utah's Weber River includes four Saturday paddling releases each year prior to July 15, as well as flow information, accesss, and fish passage enhancements. This outcome is the result of American Whitewater staff and volunteers collaborating with the power company and other stakeholders over the past several years. The releases will provide relatively rare paddling opportunities near Ogden, Utah, in a region where dams and diversions have limited or eliminated many paddling opportunities. The new license requires a recreation plan be developed and other measures that will delay the initiation of releases until 2022. Big thanks to all our partners on the Weber, our lead volunteer Charlie Vincent, and the numerous volunteers who helped us collect data and solve legal and other challenges over the years! See you on the Weber next year! 

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The Nolichucky Needs You Again (NC/TN)

03/12/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

The Nolichucky area has several new Senators and Representatives that have never heard from the public about designating the Nolichucky as a Wild and Scenic River. They need to hear from you to learn about the river and your feelings on designation. At the same time, the new Congress is setting state and national level priorities and the Nolichucky does not yet have a bill to designate it as a Wild and Scenic River. The next two years mark an incredible opportunity to designate the Noli as the region’s next Wild and Scenic River, but first a designation bill needs to be introduced, and soon. Personal letters and calls are key to getting a bill introduced. 

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North Fork Skykomish Road Repairs to Start (WA)

03/11/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe

After years of engineering and environmental analysis, and some legal challenges at the end, reconstruction of the Index-Galena road is about to get underway this spring. This road provides the primary access to the North Fork Skykomish, which was one of the most popular class IV runs in the Skykomish River drainage prior to major flooding in 2006.

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Spring Tallulah Releases Cancelled, More Releases Sought (GA)

03/02/2021 - by Kevin Colburn

Tallulah Gorge State Park has cancelled whitewater paddling opportunities this spring on the Tallulah River due to Covid-19 concerns. In response, American Whitewater and several partners are asking Georgia State Parks for two actions. First, we are asking that the closure be lifted so that paddling can be allowed this fall, if not this spring, with some standard Covid protocols in place. Second, with several partner organizations we are proposing that a long overdue shift be made in how aesthetic flows are released by the dam owner to provide for significantly more paddling opportunities each year, starting this fall.  

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Over 1,000 Miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers is Back in Congress

02/24/2021 - by Evan Stafford

Late last year you may remember our push to pass over a thousand miles of Wild and Scenic designations and millions of acres of protections for some of the most storied whitewater landscapes in the West, including the Grand Canyon (AZ), the Dolores (CO), the Olympic Peninsula (WA), and several whitewater rich watersheds in California (Trinity Alps, Central Coast, San Gabriels) under the banner of the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act (PAWA) and by attaching it to the end of year must-pass National Defense Authorization Act. Ultimately that play was unsuccessful, however now this legislation is back under the Protecting America’s Wilderness And Public Lands Act (PAW+) and it’s headed to the House floor for a vote this Wednesday February 24th. Your Congress person needs to hear that these river protections are important to you and as usual we make it super simple with our easy-action form. The details of the river protections included in this bill can be found in this prior article we wrote when this package was first introduced in Congress. 

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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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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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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.


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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