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American Whitewater Board Meeting - 2008

While I was on the road in 2007, I was contacted by a group of paddlers who wanted to nominate me for the AW board. I told them I would be happy to join if elected, but also flew out to California this May to attend a board meeting and decide whether it is something I'm interested in being a part of and a commitment that I can meet if elected. Here is a report from the meeting.

Next up was Tom O'Keefe - Northwest Stewardship Director. My favorite part of his report was the work that he did collaborating with the Hydropower Reform Coalition to remove the Marmot Dam on the Sandy River just outside of Portland. This stretch is almost right in Portland, and had been severly impacted by Marmot Dam. The river has both a class III/IV stretch and a class II stretch, making it a great resource for paddlers there.

Here's Tom O'Keefe in front of Marmot Dam.

Some folks may have seen the cool time lapse VIDEO on the removal of the coffer dam and release of the river back to its original state. A stretch of river that people thought would take many years to recover was actually back to almost its original state in about 2 weeks, with little sign that the dam had ever been there.

There's a great before and after pic from American Rivers HERE.

The result? This beatiful gorge is free flowing again, thanks in large part to Tom's involvement on behalf of AW!

Looking into the Sandy Gorge.

Tom enjoying the goods!

Next up was Dave Steindorf, telling about what AW has going on in California. The main thing that caught my eye here was his report on what's been going on with the North Fork of the Feather releases. If you've been following this issue, you know that AW worked hard for a long time to secure releases on several sections here in a recent FERC settlement. You also probably know that some of the releases were called off for fear that they might hurt frog populations in the river corridor. Basically the fear was that the releases would wash away frog eggs, causing the population to drop. The problem that AW pointed out was that there had been no scientific study to that effect. So Dave spearheaded finding the appropriate scientists to conduct one. The end result is that the best solution turns out to be an imitation of the natural flow schedule for the river - which is good for frogs AND good for boaters - allowing us releases to get on these great stretches of river. I was really stoked to see AW spearheading an effort to do real scientific environmental study work on a river that we were trying to get flows on. It shows me that AW goes a lot deeper than just looking out for the needs of boaters at the cost of the greater good for the river.

Here's what the flows looked like before and after the dams were put in.

Here's what the flows will look like under the solution reached after the AW study on the frog populations - it looks a lot like before the dam was even there!

The result? Releases on good whitewater in a beautiful setting!

We also heard from the new AW Colorado stewardship guy - Nathan Fey. He hasn't been at work out there for very long, but one cool thing he's already worked out is access to Wildcat Canyon - the Cheesman section on the South Platte. This is an excellent class V/V+ section that runs through a beautiful pink granite canyon on dam releases - making it an important whitewater resource later in summer when most of Colorado's snowmely has dried up. There is a fishing and hunting club that owns land at the putin, and they really had a problem with paddlers floating through their fishing water to get to the canyon downstream. The problem had devolved into physical confrontations in the past, and an old roommate of mine was even arrested trying to access the river there. Nathan has worked out a great solution with the Sportsman's Paradise folks, where paddlers can call ahead one day and arrange for a ride through the property without interrupting the fishing. What an amazing peacemaking effort between two groups that had come to blows in the past!

A couple of video grabs of me on Cheesman taken by Kevin Colburn about 10 years ago.

Click to read the next report - The rest of the AW meeting and the board/staff paddle on Chamberlain Falls!