American Whitewater's Year-End Review of River Stewardship Projects

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Cresta Flows Again! North Fork Feather, California

Our Hybrid.Care program has supported American Whitewater and its River Stewardship Program for the past three years, helping to preserve and protection whitewater rivers throughout the United States.

“Here is a year-end review of American Whitewater’s river stewardship projects. Support from KEEN was instrumental in these efforts.”

Mark Singleton, Executive Director of American Whitewater

Review of 2009

Flows Return to the Chelan Gorge and North Fork Rogue

It took a decade of effort but paddlers finally had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of our labors on two spectacular rivers in the Pacific Northwest this past summer. For the first time ever paddlers had the chance to enjoy great weather and summer boating on the Chelan Gorge (WA) and the North Fork Rogue (OR). Dependable flows through the summer made rivers like these targets for early hydropower development but now paddlers have the opportunity to enjoy these rivers over a few weekends each summer.

North Fork: Read More…
Chelan: Read More…

Hemlock Dam Removed, Savage Rapids Dam Removed
The trend of removing outdated dams that have major environmental impacts relative to the historic benefits they once provided continues. This fall saw the removal of two dams, Hemlock on the Wind River’s Trout Creek (WA) and Savage Rapids on the Rogue River (OR). With these removals came the restoration of two sections of river paddlers had never seen before. While opportunities for fish restoration led to the initial discussion to remove these dams, paddlers emerged as leading voices for the recreational benefits of restoring these rivers and our efforts in this regard were featured in a New York Times article earlier this year.

Read More…

Sultan River Settlement Signed
Paddlers first requested provisions to address whitewater recreation on the Sultan River in 1980. Trying to sneak past the watershed patrol was a common occurrence during rare spills in the 80’s and 90’s. In 2001 we initiated our first conversations with the utility controlling flows on this river and were told that whitewater recreation would not be a part of a future license. It took 8 years of sometimes challenging discussions and negotiations but in fall of 2009 we signed a settlement agreement that recognizes whitewater recreation as a legitimate activity on the Sultan River and calls for restoring key elements of a natural flow regime including high flow events that will restore habitat and provide whitewater recreation opportunities.

86 New Wild and Scenic Rivers
The omnibus public lands bill that included 86 new wild and scenic rivers was truly a community effort involving dozens if not hundreds of organizations across the country. We all know that paddlers are among our nation’s most passionate river advocates and American Whitewater played a key roll in rallying our community to tell the personal stories and share the powerful imagery of wild rivers that deserved long term protection. Our board, staff, and our army of stellar volunteers took on leadership roles in many of these campaigns across the country.

Read More…

Saluda River Flows and Access Settled
American Whitewater has been protecting and restoring rivers using the federal dam relicensing process for over a decade. This year we signed another large scale relicensing settlement agreement in the Southeast, this one on the Saluda River in South Carolina. Similar agreements on the Tuckasegee, Nantahala, and Catawba will all be implemented soon, and the Cheoah is already thrilling paddlers. The Saluda will complement these other efforts by improving flows and access on a treasured deep south whitewater river. Special thanks to Charlene Coleman for her tireless work on this project on our behalf.

Ausable River Access Granted
Based on nearly a decade of work, next year paddlers will be able to enjoy the Ausable Chasm in New York. The river was blocked by an unscrupulous dam owner for decades, but now the gates must open May through October each year. Have fun out there! Lear more at:

Sullivan Creek Dam Removal Agreement Reached
What should be done when a dam no longer serves a purpose? American Whitewater collaborated with local and national stakeholders to decide that one dam in the Northern Rockies, Millpond Dam on Sullivan Creek, should be removed. An initial legal challenge followed by monthly meetings have resulted in a win-win solution that will see the restoration of Sullivan Creek into a thriving stream for bull trout and creek boaters alike. Check out what we think the restored creek will look like at:

Returning Flows to the North Fork Feather River
After three years of negotiation flows were restored to Cresta reach of the North Fork Feather River. This new flow schedule will be more protective of frogs and other aquatic species by mimicking the natural flows of the river. These flows will also provide for whitewater recreation from May through June. Restoring more natural flows in rivers is one of American Whitewater’s top river priorities of 2009 (see AW Journal January/ February 2009). Getting this new flow schedule approved and in place is an important milestone in achieving this goal, not only for the Feather River but rivers across California and across the Country.

Dynamic Flows in the Upper Colorado defended
American Whitewater has defended the Upper Colorado, from Gore Canyon to Glenwood Springs, from large scale water develoment and transmountain diversions, by negotiating cooperative releases of water to provide boating opportunities across a full range of flows. By leveraging science-based data on high flows and the importance of dynamic rivers to private and commercial paddlers, AW has provided our partners along Colorado’s western Slope with the right tools to join in negotiating releases in the Colorado from future projects that will remove over 70% of the rivers natural flows. Defending flows in the Upper Colorado requires other efforts to protect treasured whitewater rivers like the Blue, Byers Canyon, and South Boulder Creek.

Flow Studies Open Up New Runs On the Yuba
In 2009 American Whitewater completed the first year of flow studies for the Yuba /Bear relicensing in Northern California. Covering a land area that is 33% larger than the State of Rhode Island, containing over seventeen different whitewater runs, this is by far the largest and most complicated project that American Whitewater has ever worked on. In this first year we collected study data on eleven river reaches, where 41 paddlers filled out online surveys. We also uncovered some new gems such Yuba Gap section of the South Fork Yuba or the Arctic Mine run on Canyon Creek. Many paddlers ranked these new runs as among the best in the State.