Packrafters on the Dolores River, Colorado. Photo courtesy American Whitewater

Packrafters on the Dolores River, Colorado, where paddlers won new support for protecting this classic Western desert river this year (see more in No. 3 below). Photo courtesy American Whitewater

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…Forget your partridges in pear trees, turtle doves and little drummers drumming. For river conservation organization American Rivers, it was a year of 12 victories. Read on for the group’s successes (and use some of that Christmas money from Aunt Judy to become a member…)

“As we look back on 2016, it’s been a great year for American Whitewater,” says AW director Mark Singleton. “We won some landmark river access and stewardship victories, and these wins inspire us as we gear up for 2017. The issues we fight for–river access, healthy rivers, good public land management–are not partisan issues. Instead, they are priorities that everyone can embrace. In a time of political division, supporting American Whitewater’s regional grassroots approach is exactly what’s needed to protect our rivers.”

With that, here are the 12 Days of Christmas, American Whitewater-style.

  1. Secured new public access to the Winnipesaukee River (NH)

Northeast boaters can celebrate that another beloved whitewater gem has been protected. Paddlers on the Winnipeseaukee River are now assured that the put-in on the Lower Winni in Northfield, NH will be forever protected thanks to the donation of a parcel from Gloria Blais in memory of her husband Roger. Gloria donated the land to the Town of Northfield for the purpose of assuring that future generations of boaters will have access to the river. Protecting river access to the Winni is part of an ongoing effort by AW in the northeast region to protect river access.

  1. Defeated a proposed dam on Ernie’s Gorge of the North Fork Snoqualmie River (WA)

In an important victory for Ernie’s Gorge and rivers of the Pacific Northwest, Black Canyon Hydro LLC withdrew its application for the Black Canyon Hydropower Project, (FERC P-14110). This project would have dewatered the North Fork Snoqualmie River severely impacting native rainbow and cutthroat trout, posed a risk to the City of Snoqualmie’s water supply, and irreversibly harmed a world-class kayak run.

  1. Won new support for protecting the Dolores and Colorado Rivers (CO)

After another lengthy round of meetings this past September,  between American Whitewater and our conservation partners, and members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), a monumental shift in Wild & Scenic River considerations has been won in the State. The CWCB reversed its long-standing policy of opposing federal Wild & Scenic River protections and voted unanimously to support the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild and Scenic Suitability determination for key segments of the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers, and important tributaries to the Gunnison River.

  1. Protected the right to paddle rivers in South Carolina

Paddlers have successfully helped to defend the public right to float rivers and streams in South Carolina. In a decision last July, a South Carolina court rejected an attempt to privatize a section of the South Fork of the Saluda River known as Blythe Shoals.  The Court ruled that the entire river – rapids and all – is navigable and shall remain open to recreational paddling.  This is great news for South Carolina river enthusiasts!

  1. Defeated a proposed dam on the Bear River (ID)

In June the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioned (FERC) issued a final order denying a license for the Twin Lakes Canal Company’s proposal to build a 109-foot-tall hydroelectric dam on the Bear River in southeast Idaho. American Whitewater and our partners have worked diligently for over 14 years to protect the Oneida Narrows section of the Bear River, and we’re celebrating this final decision, which will keep this section of river freely flowing!

  1. Created boat passage through a dam on the Green River (UT)

In May American Whitewater announced the successful completion of the Green River Dam rehabilitation project. This was a big win for the Green River and we thank our partners at the NRCS for their role.

  1. Designated Soak Creek as the first state Scenic River in 15 years in Tennessee

Soak Creek was named Tennessee’s newest Scenic River-the first to earn the designation in 15 years. A tributary of the Piney River, this free-flowing creek serves as critical habitat for the iconic species of the Cumberland Plateau and provides a wide range of outdoor opportunities for all ages as it winds through a scenic gorge and along the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park. The designation helps to formalize the work local landowners, nonprofit groups and state agencies have done to ensure the public has access to this pristine natural treasure for generations to come

  1. Secured new legislation ordering river access to be considered at bridge projects (WA)

On Friday, March 25, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed our bridge access bill (Substitute Senate Bill 6363) into law. The bill requires that the Department of Transportation evaluate public access for state highway projects that include building or re-constructing a bridge across a navigable waterway.

  1. Designated the threatened Chetco and Molalla rivers as state Scenic Waterways (OR)

In January Governor Kate Brown designated Oregon’s first new State Scenic Waterways since 1988. Portions of the Chetco and Molalla rivers, highly valued by the whitewater boating community, were chosen as rivers that meet the Scenic Waterways Act criteria for outstanding scenic, fish, wildlife, geological, botanical, cultural, and outdoor recreation opportunities.

  1. Furthered Wild and Scenic protections for streams in Montana and several other states

The Flathead National Forest is a treasure trove of whitewater paddling thanks to the three forks of the Wild and Scenic Flathead River, the Swan River, and many robust tributaries. In May the Forest released their new inventory of streams they intend to protect as eligible for future Wild and Scenic designation.  The inventory includes 22 outstanding streams, 10 of which are new eligible streams totalling 125 river miles. These streams were recommended for protection by American Whitewater, our partners in Montanans for Healthy Rivers, and citizens from across the state and country.

  1. Negotiated new flows on the North Fork Feather River (CA)

The North Fork of the Feather River was boatable from March through December in 2016! Flows were increased because of a revised flow schedule and the wet year in California. Almost twenty years ago, American Whitewater made it our goal to restore the North Fork Feather River and this new flow regime is a testament to our success.

  1. Opened two new river access sites on the Clackamas River (OR)

In July we recognized Luke Spencer and Pete Giordano, who spent countless hours in meetings and site visits to make new improved access to the Clackamas River a reality. Those who paddled the Clackamas River this spring, Portland’s backyard run, will have noticed something new great things: enhanced access points with parking, signage, toilet, and convenient launch facilities.

AW’s river stewardship projects are funded through membership. (Give the gift of membership and join or renew online or by calling 1-866-262-8429. Already a member? Consider making a special tax deductible end of year donation to American Whitewater.

“With your support, we will continue working to achieve our collective goal of conserving, restoring and enjoying access to whitewater rivers,” says Singleton. “From the staff at American Whitewater, we wish you a happy holiday season!”