American Whitewater Programs
American Whitewater is a key player in protecting treasured free-flowing rivers through growing the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Locally, we led a successful effort to designate the Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers, which are just an hour from downtown Seattle. We also developed a legislative proposal to protect the rivers of the Wild Olympics, and are active leaders in campaigns to protect rivers on the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie, and Okanogan – Wenatchee National Forests.
American Whitewater has restored flows to dry rivers below dams across the country, and is a pioneer in bringing political and scientific legitimacy to restoring flows that both improve riparian habitat and connect people to rivers. Rivers that were once dewatered, such as the Chelan and Sultan, now flow all year and experience more dynamic flow regimes. We have also partnered with fellow river advocates to remove dams that have outlived their useful life, restoring fish habitat and recreational opportunities. In addition to our recent success on the White Salmon with removal of Condit Dam, we were leaders in the agreement to restore Sullivan Creek through removing a non-functional hydropower project on the Colville National Forest.
American Whitewater knows that those who have a personal connection to rivers are the most powerful and effective river conservation advocates. We connect the public to rivers through promoting whitewater safety and improving public access to waterways. Through our advocacy, over two-dozen new river access points have recently been improved or developed locally. We are strong advocates for river safety and promote educational efforts on the importance of wearing personal floatation devices while on the water.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Some of our most important work involves restoring dynamic flows to rivers that are regulated by dams. Flows on the Sultan River, which is a tributary of the Skykomish, were once severely reduced by the Jackson Hydroelectric Project. When the project was due for a new license to operate, American Whitewater was the only non-governmental organization that participated in all stages of the six-year relicensing process, including the final settlement agreement. We worked collaboratively with the utility, resource agencies, and the tribe to develop a restored flow regime to benefit fish, recreation, and the overall health of the Sultan River.
Despite recent dam removals throughout the Pacific Northwest, one of the biggest threats to free-flowing rivers is a push for new hydropower development. While most of our region’s electricity is produced by hydropower, and the environmental benefits of low-emissions power generation are undeniable, a need exists to diversify our renewable energy sources. American Whitewater advocates for efficiency improvements at existing facilities before new dams that harm free-flowing rivers are constructed. Over half a dozen new hydropower projects are proposed on rivers of the Cascades, and most of these are treasured streams on public lands. Our goal is to protect the free flowing and pristine nature of these rivers, and keep development off of them.