American Whitewater Stewardship Highlights from 2019!

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So the new year has come. What better time to look back and reel in the accomplishments of one of the country’s top river conservation organizations. Behold the highlights — both national and regionally — of American Whitewater’s busy year…

2019 Stewardship Highlights

NATIONAL

  1. In a joint project with the River Management Society and Federal land management agencies, American Whitewater published the River Access Planning Guide. The River Access Planning Guide will be a resource for planners, river managers, and users as they design new river access sites, improve existing access, or integrate river access into larger infrastructure projects.
  2. American Whitewater spearheaded efforts to oppose proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that attempt to weaken the Clean Water Act by limiting the ability of states to protect water quality at federally-licensed hydropower and pipeline projects.
  3. In March, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act was signed into law, designating 621 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and 1.3 million acres of Wilderness. This legislation was the culmination of decades of stewardship work by American Whitewater, specifically focused on the Oregon Wildlands, Mountains to Sound Greenway (WA), Methow Headwaters (WA), Emery County (UT), Wood-Pawcatuck watershed (RI/CT), Nashua River watershed (NH/MA), California Desert Protection, and permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

CALIFORNIA

  1. American Whitewater coordinated local and regional support for the Northwest California Wilderness Recreation and Working Forests Act. This bill passed out of the Natural Resource Committee and brings us one step closer to designating 379 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers in Northern California.
  2. American Whitewater, in collaboration with Outdoor Alliance California, completed and submitted comments on the draft management plans for the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests. We asked the Forest Supervisors to consider adding 228 river miles to the inventory of eligible Wild & Scenic Rivers found within their forests including world class sections on Dinkey Creek, Tule River, and the Middle Fork San Joaquin River.
  3. After 20 long and patient years of work on the relicensing of the Poe Hydroelectric Project, American Whitewater coordinated and witnessed the first recreational flow release on the North Fork Feather River through Poe Canyon. This test release was a huge success and will help determine how future recreational flows on the Poe Reach are managed.

NORTHERN ROCKIES

  1. American Whitewater advocated for new protections for rivers flowing through National Forests in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana with great outcomes on the horizon.
  2. Our decade-long coalition effort to designate a large suite of new Wild and Scenic rivers in Montana appears close to becoming a reality.
  3. We are excited to release a new film on the removal of Millpond Dam on Sullivan Creek in December of this year.

SOUTHERN ROCKIES

  1. We hit the road for our first-ever legislative training tour. American Whitewater staff engaged with over 90 members, elected officials, friends of the organization, and sponsors on how to utilize their voice to advocate for river protections.
  2. We completed recreational needs assessments for the Rio Grande, Conejos, and St. Vrain Stream Management Plans. The data is being used to not only capture the existing recreation use on these rivers, but also determine how changing hydrology could affect that use. This will assist stakeholders in identifying recreational and environmental enhancement projects in management plans.
  3. Working closely with our partners at Outdoor Alliance, we crafted a community-driven proposal that prioritizes human-powered recreation and conservation in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. We submitted our proposal to the Forest Service and are working with them to see that our hard work is integrated into the current plan revision process.

NORTHEAST

  1. We won a landmark Vermont Supreme Court decision protecting whitewater boating on the Green River following its appeal of state efforts to prohibit scheduled boating releases. The Court found that the state is required to protect whitewater boating opportunities below the hydropower dam in Morrisville.
  2. American Whitewater launched the Adirondacks River Restoration Campaign to focus public attention on the upcoming hydropower relicensing of more than 20 dams on the Black, Beaver, and Moose rivers.
  3. We advanced legislation in Massachusetts creating an Office of Outdoor Recreation.

SOUTHEAST

  1. American Whitewater Intern Katie Schmidt helped us this year to create a data-rich and compelling case for flow restoration on the Hiwassee Dries that we’ll be sharing with the dam owner by year end.
  2. To move the idea of Wild and Scenic designation for the Nolichucky River forward, American Whitewater hosted some great events, hired part-time campaign coordinator Halley Burleson, and met with lawmakers in Washington DC.
  3. Our work on the new Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest management plan continued in 2019 and we expect a draft plan any day that will have significant benefits for recreation and rivers.

MID-ATLANTIC

  1. Year round base flows and nine annual schedule pulse flows were restored to the New River Dries in 2019 thanks to several years of hard work by American Whitewater.
  2. American Whitewater has been diligently and successfully advocating for flow enhancements on the Russell Fork river, where we celebrated new three-day weekend releases this fall.
  3. American Whitewater has renewed our efforts to protect and enhance the Upper Yough releases, as the power company seeks a new state permit for their dam operations.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST

  1. Volunteer Priscilla Macy successfully led an effort to secure passage of a waterway access bill in Oregon. This new law requires that for future closures to waterway access on state lands, the decision must now undergo a public process – allowing the opportunity for paddlers, and groups like American Whitewater to provide input on proposed closures. The legislation also enhances public access to waterways by incorporating a feasibility assessment for waterway access as part of any new state bridge construction or reconstruction projects.
  2. We launched new legislative campaigns in Oregon with introduction of bills for Owyhee Canyonlands and Smith River Headwaters. With a goal of over 1,000 additional river miles, we have supported Senator Wyden’s effort and call for nominations of additional rivers that could be designated Wild and Scenic.
  3. The Wild Olympics legislation that we’ve championed passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee. This was the first time the bill, which would protect 19 rivers and their major tributaries, 464 river miles as Wild and Scenic, and more than 126,500 acres of Wilderness, has passed out of any Congressional committee.

To join (and help support AW’s mission), visit www.americanwhitewater.org