The Tennessee Valley Authority has announced its offer to release water on the Upper Ocoee River for 20 days of recreation this year. The offer will likely be accepted by the Ocoee River Outfitters, and, according to American Whitewater, the decision "represents a milestone in the history of river recreation and its role as a contributor to regional economic development."
"The TVA's recommended outfitter fee -- $4 per customer -- represents a significant reduction in fees for trips on the Upper Ocoee," noted Larry Mashburn, owner of the Ocoee Adventure Center and representative for outfitters and local business owners. "It will enable us to look to a bright future for rafting on this section."
This decision marks a successful cap to American Whitewater's seven-year struggle to secure releases on the Upper Ocoee. The association's effort culminated in a large-scale outreach at the October 2002 Teva National Freestyle Kayaking Championships, held during the last planned releases on the Upper Ocoee River.
As a result of that outreach, concerned citizens signed more than 1,000 letters that were sent to the TVA requesting releases, and comprehensive regional media coverage and a national outcry in the paddlesports and outdoor industry consumer and trade press was launched. Subsequently, the Ocoee Outfitters Association stepped up its lobbying efforts and as a result, Congressman Zach Wamp waded in (sorry, SNEWS couldn't resist) and took a strong leadership role in the effort to support the reinstitution of river releases.
SNEWS View: Twenty releases is a step in the right direction, but a far cry from the 74 free annual releases on the Upper Ocoee River that American Whitewater has called for. AW tells us that the association will be working within the 'Kitchen Cabinet' (a new collaborative between the TVA, Paddlers, Outfitters, the U.S. Forest Service, and local and regional governments), as well as a member of the Public Review Group for TVA's 'Reservoir Operations Study,' to meet that goal in 2004. To find out more, fire off an email to Risa Shimoda at firstname.lastname@example.org