Hail the New Year. So says river conservation organization American Whitewater, which toasts both its supporters and a long list of accomplishments it achieved in 2015. Following is a quick rundown of its successes…

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“This year we secured durable protections for wild rivers, made progress in a couple of long running sticky access issues, and protected flows important for recreation,” says AW president Mark Singleton, adding that Charity Navigator recently awarded AW its sixth consecutive 4-star rating. “None of this would be possible without generous support from our community. We have a very lean administrative model, and donations in the form of tax-deductible contributions make all the difference. We’ve had a very successful year and are grateful for everyone’s support and membership.”

Snapshot of AW accomplishments from 2015:

Browns Canyon National Monument Success (CO)
On February 19th, 2015 President Obama used his authority under the US Antiquities Act to protect over 20,000 acres of public lands surrounding Colorado’s Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River. American Whitewater has actively worked to protect Browns Canyon since we hosted the Colorado Roundtable in Buena Vista back in 2006, and we are celebrating the result of all the partnerships and work that has gone into this campaign. [READ MORE]

Browns Canyon, Colo. Photo courtesy RaftTheBest.com

Browns Canyon, Colo. Photo courtesy RaftTheBest.com

Whitewater Opportunities Begin on Sultan (WA)
On Saturday April 25th, Snohomish PUD provided the first scheduled whitewater recreational opportunity on the Upper Sultan River, marking the first time this has happened since the 2007 flow study. These periodic high flows benefit salmon and the overall health of the river. This Class IV gorge is a great piece of whitewater in a spectacular setting.

California Recreational Releases for 2015
During dry years like the ones we’ve experienced during the persistent drought in California, American Whitewater believes water should be put to multiple uses down our flowing rivers. Most of the agreements that we have negotiated on hydroelectric projects over the past 15 years have conditions that provide for recreational flows even in critically dry years. Paddlers can feel comfortable that water is being put to good multi-use and fortunate that they still have a number of boating opportunities throughout the season.

New Parking Area Greets Upper Yough Paddlers (MD)
May 2, 2015, was the first Saturday Upper Yough release of the year, and hundreds of whitewater paddlers converged on the small town of Friendsville, MD. After $25,000 in paddler-donated seed money and $160,000 in grants raised by the town, the new parking area is complete and awaiting final approval.

A photo posted by ChrisBurkard (@chrisburkard) on

Merced In Yosemite-Officially Open At Last
On Friday, April 24, 2015, the National Park Service officially reopened the Merced River in Yosemite National Park to paddlers! Even though the new Wild and Scenic River Plan was finalized a year ago, the actual rules and regulations for the Park were finally updated. This event marked the culmination of seven years of sustained engagement by American Whitewater with the National Park Service and other stakeholders. [READ MORE]

Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2015 Introduced (WA)
In June, the Wild Olympics Coalition, which includes American Whitewater, cheered the introduction of the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer. The Act permanently protects more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries, a total of 464 river miles, as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Upper Colorado Wild and Scenic Alternative Plan Gets Federal Approval
Excellent news came in July on the Upper Colorado as the Forest Service and BLM released the Record of Decision on our long-worked for Wild and Scenic Alternative stakeholder plan. Since 2007, the Upper Colorado Wild & Scenic Stakeholder Group has been working on a plan to protect and enhance a remarkable stretch of the Colorado River’s mainstem between Kremmling and Glenwood Springs. It’s a truly important stretch of the Colorado for a variety of users, especially paddlers, and it’s our goal to balance permanent protection of the river and flexibility for water users.

Virginia Paddling Rights Clarified-Respect for Landowners Vital
Virginia officials have confirmed that they consider Johns Creek and several other whitewater streams navigable and public unless proven otherwise. This is a common sense approach that respects the rights of citizens that own property adjacent to rivers, as well those who wish to rightfully enjoy those public rivers and streams. Legal challenges are possible though, and we encourage caution, discretion, and respect within the paddling community as this exciting development plays out.

Squeeze Rapid in Iron Point Canyon on the Owyhee River in Oregon. Photo by Thomas O'Keefe

Squeeze Rapid in Iron Point Canyon on the Owyhee River in Oregon. Photo by Thomas O’Keefe

Protecting Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands
The remote and wild landscape of the Owhyee Canyonlands of Southeastern Oregon is complete with deep red-rock canyons, wild rivers and plenty of opportunities for backcountry recreation. The region is also a stronghold to over 200 species, and has fascinating geology, unique ecology and deep history. American Whitewater is part of a coalition working to permanently protect 2.5 million acres of the Owhyee. [READ MORE]

Dolores River Flows Awarded Permanent Protection (CO)
In September the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted unanimously to seek an Instream Flow water right on the Dolores River, protecting up to 900 cfs of water during spring peak flows, as well as essential winter base flows of 100 cfs. Paddlers celebrated the State’s Instream Flow rights, which will preserve the environment while benefiting whitewater boating along nearly 40 miles of the lower Dolores.

Southeast Advanced Release Schedule Set for 2016
Tis the season when American Whitewater works with power companies and other groups to schedule the coming year’s dam releases in the Southeast. In addition to hundreds of releases on Class I-III rivers like the Nantahala, Tuckasegee, and Catawba, we put together an outstanding integrated schedule of Class IV and V opportunities.

Deerfield River (MA) Flow Studies to Explore New & Improved Boating Opportunities
In response to requests by American Whitewater, several affiliates, and other stakeholders, FERC directed Brookfield Renewable to study the impact of its hydropower operations on whitewater boating on the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts. Boating groups and our supporters are seeking to determine optimal whitewater boating flows from the Fife Brook Dam and whether changes in hydropower operations would enhance boating opportunities, access and navigation.

Legislative Update – LWCF & Hydropower Bill
In December, American Whitewater supporters stepped up, took action, and made a difference on two important issues that have a big impact on river conservation and recreation: hydropower legislation and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. [Read a C&K op-ed on the bill HR-8]

–For more info, visit wwww.americanwhitewater.org