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Upper Chattooga User Capacity Analysis


American Whitewater appealed the 2004 forest plan for the Sumter National Forest (SNF) that renewed the boating ban on the Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River. In April of 2005 the Washington Office of the USFS agreed with AW that there was no basis for a ban on boating or any limits to any users of the forest. The Washington Office gave the Sumter National Forest 2 years to carry out a User Capacity Analysis and reach a new decision on the management of all uses in the Chattooga Corridor. It took the SNF 18 months to determine a plan for carrying out the User Capacity Analysis. Their plan carried a price tag of over 1 million dollars, and contained study flaws that would needlessly delay the process and needlessly collect too little data to form the basis for any future decisions. AW filed comments on the plan, which were not addressed in any way.

The two year window passed as of April of 2007. Several studies and analyses were conducted, including a 2007 paddling study that allowed only 10 individuals to paddle only part of the Chattooga Headwaters on only 2 days as part of an expert panel. All flawed studies were produced as final documents and no substantive changes were made based on public comment. The studies were ultimately combined into an environmental assessment that was both scientifically inaccurate and fraught with bias. No valid user capacity analysis was ever conducted. American Whitewater and our partners filed detailed comments on the EA and all study components, none of which were addressed. All told, thousands of paddlers filed public comments in support of nationally consistent management of the Chattooga River. The USFS reached a new decision in August of 2009 and withdrew that decision and all its analysis in December of 2009.

In early 2011 the USFS “re-initiated” their NEPA process and in the summer of 2011 they produced yet another Environmental Assessment addressing the issue. It was merely a re-packaging of their anti-paddling views and contained the same flaws as previous versions. The paddling community once again filed comments in August of 2011.

User Trials

On January 5th and 6th of 2007 a small group of paddlers made the first legal descent of the Chattooga River in over 30 years, as part of the User Capacity Analysis. Learn more about this historic descent here and for a first hand account read Don Kinser's Trip Report