From American Whitewater: The Cheoah River is located in the extreme southwestern corner of NC, near Robbinsville. For seventy years the nine-mile section between the Santeetlah Dam and Lake Calderwood was dewatered. American Whitewater along with the Western North Carolina Paddlers advocated for releases for over 6 years. Whitewater releases on the Cheoah began in the fall of 2005 and each year since there are at least 18 releases for paddlers to enjoy for the next 40 years.
But, the hydropower industry wants to go back to their good old days, where they could dam a river, take out all of the water and not give a second thought to the impact it might have on fish, wildlife or people. They’re serious in their mission, and have released a draft bill in Congress that would gut environmental and public interest protections in the Federal Power Act. These are the very tools that American Whitewater and our partners have used to put water back in rivers that were once completely devastated by the impacts of hydropower, like the Cheoah (NC), Tallulah (GA), Deerfield (MA), Yuba/Bear (CA), Chelan (WA), Bear River (ID), and so many more. The draft bill relating to “Hydropower Regulatory Modernization” is, by far, the most dangerous piece of hydropower legislation we’ve seen in over a decade.
If the proposed hydropower industry bill passes, it would mean a lot more new dams and a lot less water in rivers that currently have hydropower. Chances are high that it could mean no more whitewater. No more river access. No more fish passage. No more dam removal at deadbeat private dams. The proposed bill would make the conservation and recreation gains that we’ve achieved a thing of the past by:
+ Stripping federal and state agencies of their ability to protect clean water and public lands, and provide fish passage, and instead placing it in the hands of an unaccountable, unelected authority in Washington D.C. American Whitewater and our partners rely on state and federal agencies with water quality and fish and wildlife and land management expertise to protect the public interest in hydropower relicensing.
+ Reducing local and regional control over resource protections and priorities.
+ Severely restricting data collection and the use of updated sound science in the decision making process.
+ Minimizing or eliminating hydropower developers’ responsibility to comply with state and federal resource protection laws like the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act. We do not believe that hydropower developers should receive special treatment.
The hydropower industry claims that the bill will help to enhance environmental conditions and recreation. We know though that it is impossible to recreate on a river that either has no water in it or is buried under a reservoir, and the best way to “enhance” a river is to leave it freely flowing. They also claim that state and federal agencies have made the licensing process inefficient and expensive. In our 25+ years of experience in this arena, it’s the hydropower companies that have made the process cumbersome.
Take action! Contact your Senators and Representatives to stop this bill. Share your personal experience enjoying rivers where hydropower projects provide recreational flows. Ask that they oppose any bill that would undermine the public’s ability to balance hydropower interests with non-power values like recreation, fish and wildlife. You can also help spread the word on social media with #NoNewDams and #hydropower, or by writing a letter to the editor.