Blocked on Its Ohio Bailout, FirstEnergy Tries a Regulatory End Run

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享John Funk for the Cleveland Plain Dealer:FirstEnergy now wants Ohio regulators to forget about the “power purchase agreements” they approved to save the company’s old power plants — but at the same time allow the company to keep the monthly customer surcharges that the PPAs were designed to produce.In a move that appears to be a strategy to avoid federal review of the PPAs that U.S. regulators demanded last week, FirstEnergy filed a modified version of its rate plan late Monday with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.As now proposed, FirstEnergy’s plan would eliminate the power purchase agreements between FirstEnergy’s regulated local power delivery companies — Ohio Edison, the Illuminating Co. and Toledo Edison —  and its unregulated FirstEnergy Solutions, which owns the power plants.Yet the plan would keep the new charges the purchase agreements would have forced customers to pay. In other words, customers still would see their monthly bills increase under this revised plan.In short, there would be nothing for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review in this modified plan. And therefore there would be nothing to impede the PUCO from quickly approving the modified plan.Full article: FirstEnergy abandons its ‘power purchase agreements,’ but not its plan for customers to pay more Blocked on Its Ohio Bailout, FirstEnergy Tries a Regulatory End Runlast_img read more

On the Blogs: The BLM Is Selling Publically Owned Coal for a Song

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Clark Williams-Derry for you’ve been following the news, you probably know that coal is down in the dumps. And as a growing body of academic research and real-world practice shows, owning the rights to coal reserves can give coal companies the ability to profit from price increases, without obligating them to incur losses if mine development looks unprofitable. As it turns out, the right to earn a profit without risking a loss can be worth quite a bit. There’s an entire field of financial economics known as “real options theory,” devoted to estimating the value of speculative projects such as coal mines. We’ve run the numbers, and estimate that even in today’s dismal export market, owning the right to profit from future price increases in export markets could be worth more than $9 per ton.Even in today’s down market, coal leases are worth much more than the federal government has sold them for. Just as importantly, the high prices and wild price swings in export markets can make exports more valuable than domestic sales.Which is all the more reason for BLM to look at the economics of coal exports when deciding the price it will accept for federal coal.Full item: Coal Exports and the Hidden Value of Federal Coal On the Blogs: The BLM Is Selling Publically Owned Coal for a Songlast_img read more

Editorial: EPA’s Phony Promises to a Fading Industry

first_imgEditorial: EPA’s Phony Promises to a Fading Industry FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享New York Times: While environmental rules have played some role in the closing of coal-fired plants, the main driver is cheaper and abundant natural gas. Coal’s use in power generation has been declining since 2007, and by 2016 coal-fired plants produced only 30 percent of the nation’s total generation, compared with 50 percent in 2003.The trend will continue; an estimated 46-plus coal-fired units will close at 25 electricity plants in 16 states over the next five years, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. In its outlook for 2017, the institute skewered Mr. Trump’s campaign vows, saying, “Promises to create more coal jobs will not be kept — indeed the industry will continue to cut payrolls.”About 60,000 coal industry jobs have been lost since 2011, and three of the four major mining companies have gone bankrupt, according to a new study by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. Even so, Mr. Trump remains obstinate in his “war on coal” statements and steadfast to his bloated campaign promises to laid-off miners, despite expert opinion, expressed in the study, that lifting vital environmental controls “will not materially improve” the coal industry’s prospects.It is shocking that an administration led and staffed by supposedly shrewd business executives deliberately overlooks the blossoming of profitable and cleaner energy products simply because of Mr. Trump’s hollow showmanship before his campaign base.Until now, the E.P.A. and the environmental safeguards Congress has ordered it to enforce have been crucial to the development of new technologies. To have Mr. Pruitt sully that history with false promises to a fading industry is irresponsible.More: Using the E.P.A. to Prop Up Big Coallast_img read more

Ohio’s Last Planned Coal Plant Is Scrapped

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Ohio Public Radio:After years in limbo, a plan to build a new [600 megawatt] coal-fired plant in the state has been scrapped. That leaves no proposals for new coal plants in Ohio. Environmental groups see this as a critical turning point.Since the early 2000s, the Lima Energy plant has been on again and off again. But now the company behind the project is officially bowing out.Neil Waggoner with the Beyond Coal campaign says it’s clear coal is near its end.Waggoner: “We see there are no coal plants under consideration to be built. The current coal plants that are already in the state are struggling to be economic and are in a number of cases, seeking customer-funded bailouts.”Utilities have pleaded with lawmakers to help subsidize their financially struggling coal plants, saying it’s an important resource that helps diversify the grid.More: Plans To Build Coal-Fired Power Plant In Ohio Get Scrapped Ohio’s Last Planned Coal Plant Is Scrappedlast_img read more

PREPA’s history taints its drive to privatize

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Intercept:If you happen to take tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry, the economics of phasing out fossil fuels in Puerto Rico look fairly straightforward. There aren’t any fossil fuel reserves on the island to be mined, meaning that all traditional fuels need to be shipped there. Currently, Puerto Rico gets about 90 percent of its fuel from costly imported oil, having spent $27.7 billion on it between 2002 and 2017 — in some years, as much as 61 percent of its yearly operating budget. Renewable energy can be produced locally, and the island is particularly well-equipped to produce high-quality wind and solar power. One report estimates that Puerto Rico could get 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2028.PREPA’s acquisition of fossil fuels has also been wrought with corruption. A recent study from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis finds that PREPA’s Fuel Office arranged through a series of doctored lab tests to pay premium prices for low-quality fuel for as long as the last three decades. The report’s authors argue, as well, that this kind of chronic mismanagement when it comes to contracting is unaddressed in the bill authorizing PREPA’s privatization, passed through the island’s legislature and signed by the governor in June.The proposed privatization would, in fact, see PREPA strike more deals with private contractors, not less, as they bid to take over different pieces of the island’s energy grid. Bishop, who oversaw yesterday’s hearing, this spring suggested turning Puerto Rico into an “energy hub” for the Caribbean, a base from which U.S.-based fossil fuel companies could ship imported natural gas out to the region. He said as well that he had been in conversations with oil and gas companies about the idea.“They want to keep Puerto Rico energy dependent as an energy market for fuels, instead of promoting energy self-sufficiency for the island. I think that’s the main struggle,” Arturo Massol told me of Congress’s designs for the island. “It’s not so much if it’s public or private. It’s a matter of being energy self-sufficient or fossil fuel-dependent.”Massol is the director of an organization called Casa Pueblo, based out of its titular pink house in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. They were an early adopter of solar power on the island, first installing panels onto their headquarters in the late 1990s. After Maria, those same panels meant that Casa Pueblo was one of the only places in the area with power — an “energy oasis,” as Massol calls it.“The conversation has completely shifted” on solar after the storm, he said. In an effort to spread decentralized renewables around the island, Casa Pueblo is trying to proliferate energy oases and has hosted several workshops on how to install your own solar arrays. Massol said they “fill up in 24 hours every time we do it. … People see solar power now as a way to modernize and move forward. They know the quality of life can improve through it.”The group has installed solar systems at two hardware stores, one barber shop and several corner stores that activists hope will serve as a power oasis where people can charge their phones and store medications during a storm if needed.Seeing that excitement and the transformed conservation around energy in Puerto Rico has made him still more leery of how decisions about its future are being made. “The country has to define the role of PREPA. PREPA shouldn’t be deciding what Puerto Rico’s energy landscape is going to look like,” he added, explaining the importance of making it easier to generate power at the point of production, rather than running it through costly transmission lines that are vulnerable to heavy weather. “The idea is not to disappear all the power plants that are already built. But we need to invest in what is missing, and what is missing is clean energy power generation in Puerto Rico.”Energy sourcing is just one of many challenges facing PREPA, the island’s monopoly public power provider. The utility has suffered from years of disinvestment that became apparent after Hurricane Maria battered the island and its electricity infrastructure, which still hasn’t been fully repaired. PREPA currently sits in about $9 billion in debt, part of the at least $74 billion that the island is now saddled with and that the Washington-appointed fiscal control board is tasked with reigning in. The utility has shuffled through three separate directors in the last several weeks, with five out of six board members resigning at one point after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló urged them to rein in short-lived director Rafael Diaz-Granados’s $750,000 salary following public outcry.In keeping with other privatization efforts in sectors like education and transportation, federal authorities and politicians on the island have, since before Maria hit, been keen to privatize PREPA, ostensibly to correct for persistent mismanagement and the slow pace of recovery. Yet while there’s a virtual consensus on the island that PREPA is in need of serious reforms, many doubt that selling it off — especially to fossil fuel interests — will improve matters.It’s not as if PREPA is completely public as is. About 30 percent of its power generation capacity comes from two privately owned plants, and PREPA management have awarded generous contracts out to private contractors post-Maria — most infamously a $300 million deal with the novice Montana-based firm Whitefish Energy.“PREPA’s past history of contracting scandals kind of taints the credibility of what they say they’re trying to do with this privatization,” report co-author and IEEFA Energy Analyst Cathy Kunkel told me. “A very large amount of money has been extracted through these contracts, stolen really.  If you are going to do a privatization that is basically just a series of more contracts — and do that without reforming in a serious way the contracting processes and the failures that have already happened — why is that going to result in anything that’s any better for the consumers?”More: House Republicans Deeply Confused About Why Puerto Rico Might Benefit From Win and Solar Power PREPA’s history taints its drive to privatizelast_img read more

Leading Australian asset manager to adopt carbon reduction targets

first_imgLeading Australian asset manager to adopt carbon reduction targets FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Australian:Australia’s biggest energy network will face an unprecedented emissions reduction target as its owner — industry super-annuation giant IFM Investors — launches an ambitious project to cut carbon across its vast asset holdings.Emissions reductions targets of up to 100 per cent by 2030 will be slapped on a broad range of infrastructure assets across the nation, including the Ausgrid electricity network, Melbourne and Brisbane airports, and NSW ports.The $140 billion IFM Investors, chaired by former ACTU head Greg Combet and co-owned by 27 of the biggest industry super funds, including AustralianSuper, Hostplus and Cbus, also controls or has large stakes in assets such as the Port of Brisbane, Southern Cross Station in Melbourne and Northern Territory Airports.IFM Investors will announce today a move to strip 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from the assets by 2030 — equal to removing almost 70,000 cars from the road. Following the collapse of the Coalition’s national energy guarantee last year, IFM Investors will apply an emissions reduction target of between 8 and 25 per cent on infrastructure projects by 2024, and of 38 to 100 per cent by 2030.Ausgrid, which was half-privatised by the NSW Liberal government for $16bn in 2016, is the largest energy network in the country, supplying more than 1.6 million homes and businesses across Sydney, the NSW central coast and the Hunter region. It will now attempt to reduce its emissions by 8 per cent over the next five years, and by 17 per cent by 2030. To achieve this, IFM will invest in a range of solar energy projects, launch efficiency upgrades on its buildings, install thousands of energy-efficient lights and use low-emission vehicles. NT Airports, meanwhile, is hoping to achieve a 100 per cent emissions reduction by 2030.Ausgrid, which owns the NSW energy distribution network, triggers the majority of its emissions through electrical line losses by transmitting power over long distances. While these particular costs would be too “prohibitive” to clamp down on, IFM said it would tackle inefficient streetlights, which account for 11 per cent of emissions, and convert more than 250,000 to energy-efficient bulbs. The company will also install more than 11,500 rooftop solar panels across its work sites. Excluding the emissions for line losses, the program will cut Ausgrid’s emissions by 44 per cent by the end of 2024.More: Super giant to impose 100pc carbon reduction targetslast_img read more

Dominion files construction plan for 2.6GW, $7.8 billion Virginia offshore wind project

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Virginia Business:Richmond-based Dominion Energy Inc. announced Friday it has filed the required construction and operations plan (COP) with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to build the utility’s proposed $7.8 billion, 2,640-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project.“This is an important step in the process toward bringing commercial-scale offshore wind to the commonwealth and shows Dominion Energy is committed to delivering the clean, renewable and reliable energy our customers expect from us,” Joshua Bennett, Dominion Energy’s vice president of offshore wind, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management as the CVOW commercial project moves through the permitting process.”Under the CVOW project, Dominion will erect 180 to 190 wind turbines, each 800 feet tall, 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach by 2026. When complete, the project will be capable providing enough to power 660,000 homes during peak winds. Construction is expected to begin in 2024.Dominion announced on Dec. 16 that construction has begun on its oceangoing vessel, the Charybdis, which will ferry construction materials and workers for the project, as well as assisting with installing and raising the wind farm’s turbines.The COP includes construction, operations and conceptual decommissioning information and plans for the wind farm to be installed within the 112,800-acre commercial lease area off the coast of Virginia Beach, which Dominion Energy acquired rights to in 2013.In October, Dominion announced that its two turbine, 12-megawatt, $300 million CVOW pilot project successfully completed reliability testing. The entire CVOW commercial project is tracking to start being constructed in 2024 and completed in 2026. At its completion, it will provide enough energy for up to 660,000 homes.[Sydney Lake]More: Dominion files construction, operations plan for $7.8B offshore wind farm Dominion files construction plan for 2.6GW, $7.8 billion Virginia offshore wind projectlast_img read more

Daily Dirt: Hydro Flask, Cabela’s, AT Board Game, and more!

first_imgHydro Flask Named to Inc. Magazine 500 Fastest Growing Private CompaniesHydro Flask — the award-winning leader in high-performance, insulated stainless steel flasks — has joined Inc. Magazine’s elite group of 500 fastest-growing private companies in the country. The Bend, Oregon-based company, which was established in 2009, has grown to 31 employees and has increased its annual revenue by 1,891% in the last 3 years. By making number 244 on the Inc. 500 list, Hydro Flask joins recipients such as Microsoft, Timberland, Vizio, Intuit, Chobani, Oracle, and’s and Icebreaker Team Up on Camo Apparel LineCabela’s, leader in hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, has teamed up with Icebreaker — the New Zealand pioneer in merino wool apparel — to create a co-branded apparel line for men and women to be sold exclusively in Cabela’s U.S. retail stores and online at this fall. Icebreaker’s merino wool is renowned by outdoor industry experts for a functional design that stands up to rigorous wear, regardless of weather conditions and exertion levels. Merino wool is legendary for providing the highest insulation qualities, offering breathability to prevent overheating and clamminess, and retaining body heat when wet. Unlike synthetics, Icebreaker merino is naturally odor-resistant. The Cabela’s + Icebreaker collection consists of base-, first- and mid-layers and accessories for men and women that combine Icebreaker’s superior lightweight, soft, superfine merino fabrics with Cabela’s legendary garment construction. The companies released a two-minute video showcasing the collection and the benefits of Icebreaker merino.New Game Promotes Best Practices on the Appalachian TrailLearning best practices for hiking the Appalachian Trail—a 2,181-mile trek from Maine to Georgia—can begin in your own living room. Mark Hanf of Marshall, N.C., and his team of developers at Outdoor Edutainment, LLC, created a board game called Thru-Hike: The Appalachian Trail Game ( A Kickstarter campaign to put the game into production launched July 17, 2014 and was fully funded within 48 hours. The campaign runs through August 22, 2014 and gives contributors the opportunity to take advantage of several reward levels ranging from $20 for a basic edition of the game to a $5,000 Hot Springs Hiking Adventure with AT world record holder Jennifer Pharr Davis. All of the reward levels in the Kickstarter campaign are detailed here.HydroFlaskBottleGrouplast_img read more

Expanding A Country Heart

first_imgNorth Carolina Singer-Songwriter Caleb Caudle Widens Sound on New AlbumCaleb Caudle might seem like a newer face on the Americana scene, but the North Carolina-based singer-songwriter, who’s now gaining some well-deserved widespread recognition, already has a deep discography. Caudle, who cut his teeth playing punk rock before becoming a hard-traveling solo troubadour, has seven albums to his credit, but noticeable critical fawning didn’t come until 2016’s Carolina Ghost. That record was an overtly country effort with vintage imagery and some well-worn heartbreak themes coloring Caudle’s honest, biographical lyrics. The follow-up, Crushed Coins, which was released in late February on the independent Cornelius Chapel Records, showcases broader ambitions.Sonically, Caudle, who recently moved back home to Winston-Salem after a stint in New Orleans, still fits comfortably in the alt-twang camp. The swinging “Madelyn” is full of fiddle-driven highway reflection, and in the earnest “Love That’s Wild,” Caudle’s Southern drawl is accented by emotive pedal steel, as he sings about romantic salvation: “I was a wreck til’ you came along/Stumbling home at the break of dawn/Now we fall asleep with all the lights on.” But while writing his new record he went on a jazz bender, particularly investing his ears in Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way. He also enlisted a tight cast of backing musicians and producer Jon Ashley, who’s worked with Band of Horses, Hiss Golden Messenger, and the War on Drugs, and as a result, the record finds Caudle taking tasteful steps into indie experimentation.“I was a wreck til’ you came along/Stumbling home at the break of dawn/Now we fall asleep with all the lights on.”Opener “Lost Without You,” another tune sincerely praising the love of a good woman, drifts patiently through a dreamy folk landscape with cosmic guitar fills and ethereal backing vocals that hover above the song’s acoustic base. “Empty Arms” is more energetic—a pulsing dose of gospel-rock laced with Mellotron accents and necessarily scuffed with a fuzzy, freewheeling electric solo from ace guitarist Megan McCormick, who impressively works her fretboard throughout the album.Whether he’s sticking to the roots playbook or finding ways to branch out, Caudle’s voice always remains sturdy and clear (think Lyle Lovett or Jackson Browne). It’s his best asset when he’s tackling tear-jerking subjects. In the dusty dirge “Six Feet from the Flowers,” the main character poignantly laments the loss of a spouse. Barely in his 30s, Caudle may be feeling musically restless, but his lyrics have a classic heart, filled with wisdom well beyond his years. Caleb Caudle will perform at the Evening Muse in Charlotte, N.C. (March 8) and at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Ga. (March 10).last_img read more

Rivers We Love

first_img6 ICONIC WATERWAYS—and the people fighting to protect themIn 2018, we commemorate 50 years of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. It’s a good time to celebrate the rivers that sustain us all—especially six iconic rivers in our Blue Ridge backyard.Chattooga River (Featured)North Carolina – Georgia – South CarolinaPractically equidistant from the major metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Ga., and Greenville, S.C., the Chattooga River has long provided a recreational oasis for Southeasterners looking to escape the grind. It’s one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the region, winding unimpeded by dams for 56.9 miles from the base of Whitesides Mountain in western North Carolina to Tugaloo Lake at the confluence of the Tallulah River.Once home to the Cherokee, Chattooga, or Tsatugi, has been interpreted as, “he drank by sips,” or, “he has crossed the stream and come out upon the other side,” according to New Georgia Encyclopedia. But take a look back through the Chattooga’s history and it feels like it was the river, not man, that entered turbulent times and came out on the other side safely.Logged almost entirely during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the nearly 190,000-acre Chattooga watershed is today one of the most critical refugia for at-risk species migrating due to climate change. The U.S. Forest Service manages 70% of the watershed, with over 120,000 acres residing in three different national forests—the Nantahala in North Carolina, the Chattahoochee in Georgia, and the Sumter in South Carolina.Throughout the early to mid 20th century, eight dams were proposed on the Chattooga but they never came to fruition, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Chattooga Conservancy. In 1971, a Congress-appointed task force released its “Wild and Scenic Report” on the Chattooga, recommending the river for Wild and Scenic designation. Three years later in 1974, the Chattooga officially became one of the first Wild and Scenic rivers in the country.“I used to be a river guide before I got into the conservation business,” says Chattooga Conservancy Executive Director Nicole Hayler. “A lot of people come and go through the river guiding community and guide all over the world in places like New Zealand and Nepal, all over the place, and so many come back to the Chattooga and say it’s their favorite river. I can’t put my finger on it as to why it’s so alluring. It just is. It really takes you back into the feeling of being in a wilderness.”Experience the Chattooga Section IV of the Chattooga is a classic whitewater run in the Southeast. Kayakers should have solid class IV paddling skills to run the river comfortably, but for those who are new to the world of whitewater, there are plenty of outfitters like the Nantahala Outdoor Center that offer rafting trips (starting at $110 per head). Anglers can fish for stocked trout at Burrells Ford bridge or head north towards Ellicott Rock to try landing some wild brown trout.Scout for speciesThe Chattooga crayfish is specific to the Chattooga watershed. It’s about 3.5 inches in length with dull green claws and a light amber body. Plethodontid salamanders, or lungless salamanders, are also commonly found in the watershed. Because these salamanders breathe through their skin and depend on a damp environment to survive, the Chattooga watershed, considered a temperate rainforest, makes for the ideal habitat.Know the threatsSouthside Project timber sale in the Cashiers-Highlands area, which is the site for the headwaters of the Chattooga; city of Clayton raw sewage contamination in Stekoa Creek, a majorly polluted tributary to the Chattooga.Lend a handBecome a member of the Chattooga Conservancy or volunteer for a river cleanup. The organization hosts monthly cleanups through September.The French Broad RiverkeeperFrench Broad RiverNorth CarolinaThough the Cherokee name for the French Broad, Tah-kee-os-tee, means “racing waters,” there was a time when western North Carolina’s beloved broad was considered “too thick to drink but too thin to plow.” Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industrialization slowly overtook the banks of the French Broad, so that by the 1950s, the river was considered more of a toxic dumping ground and less as a natural resource.After the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, all of that began to change. Today, over one million people rely on the 4,000-square-mile watershed for their drinking water, and that doesn’t include the explosive population in Knoxville, which draws its drinking water from the Tennessee River, formed by none other than the French Broad and Holston Rivers.Despite point source pollution like unlined coal ash ponds on Duke Energy property and the recent fuel storage tank leak that resulted in 1,000 gallons of petroleum oozing into the French Broad, the river’s health is better than it’s ever been. The river is now home to more than 100 species of fish. Over 50% of the watershed is forested, with much of that buffer protected by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway.The revitalization of the French Broad has simultaneously restored the region’s economy, too. Communities like Marshall and Hot Springs, not to mention the city of Asheville, are sustainably capitalizing on the river as an eco-tourism attraction. Riverfront space, once the cheapest lots in town, is now prime real estate. Breweries, outfitters, and other outdoor industry business are purposefully relocating to have better access to the river.“It’s important to remember how we got to this point,” says French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “It wasn’t an accident that thousands of people now float the river on a Saturday. It was the passage of the Clean Water Act and the implementation of that law that brought the river back from the brink of extinction, but it doesn’t mean there’s a guarantee it’ll stay clean in the future. We have to continue that hard work to keep the French Broad pristine.”Experience the French BroadThe most accessible way to see the French Broad is to flow the section of river from Hominy Creek to the Salvage Station in Asheville. You can get away with a craft as minimal as a Walmart inner tube if that’s all you have. Whitewater boaters with class III skills should paddle section nine of the French Broad, which flows naturally for much of the year. Flatwater paddlers will enjoy the French Broad River Trail, a 140-mile blueway that offers multiple access points, campgrounds, and paddling services for overnighters of varying lengths.Scout for speciesThe Appalachian elktoe is an endangered species of mussel that resides on the Mills and Little Rivers in the upper reaches of the French Broad watershed. The eastern spiny softshell turtle is considered a North Carolina species of concern and likes to burrow in the soft bottoms of the French Broad.Know the threatsRapid and thoughtless development; point source pollution from leaky coal ash ponds; radioactivity from Duke Energy coal plantsLend a handParticipate in the Riverkeeper Beer Series, an eight-part river cleanup and special beer release summer series; Blue Ridge Outdoors and MountainTrue Litter Floatilla on September 20thWatauga River | Photo: Dylan McKinneyWatauga RiverNorth Carolina – TennesseeGiven that the Watauga River basin is one of the smallest in the state of North Carolina (only 205 square miles total), the river has an almost larger-than-life reputation as being one of the best fishing and paddling destinations in the country. Trout fishing, in particular, has been a huge boon to the local economy. A 2017 study released by Responsive Management and Southwick Associates for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission found that trout fishing on rivers like the Watauga (which has 171 miles of state-designated trout waters) contributed $383 million to western North Carolina’s economy.Contained entirely within North Carolina’s High Country, over two-thirds of the Watauga watershed is forested and includes portions of Grandfather Mountain State Park, Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Elk Knob Game Land. Historically, the river was mostly harnessed for power. Four dams provided hydroelectric power for the numerous saw and gristmills that once ran the lengths of the Watauga’s banks.Today, it’s farmers, not mills, which depend on the river. About 10% of the Watauga watershed is covered in row-crop farms, Christmas tree farms, and livestock operations, all of which have caused sedimentation and erosion issues as of late. Yet it was a single tannery that operated near Valle Crucis in the 20th century which, anecdotally at least, seems to have caused the most lasting damage to the native species of the Watauga.More than the agricultural impacts and even the gasoline seepage that has happened multiple times in the past year alone, Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill is worried about steep-slope development. Because of the mountainous topography of Avery and Watauga counties, Hill says it’s imperative that developers do more in the way of riparian zone protection, which will, in turn, protect habitat for trout and shiners and salamanders, which need cool clean water to survive.“Even though the water quality now is excellent, we’ve really seen the local population jump in the last five to 10 years,” says Hill. “People are realizing Boone and the High Country, in general, is a wonderful place to be, but we need to do more to address that explosive development. Being as isolated and well-protected as it is, the Watauga has been able to remain clean, clear, and cold while other rivers have become impaired, and we need to work to keep it that way.”Experience the WataugaAnglers can cast a line for brook, brown and rainbow trout at the 321 river access point or at Valle Crucis Community Park. Further downstream, there’s plenty of smallmouth bass fishing to be had, too. Class IV+ paddlers would be remiss to not kayak the Watauga when it’s running. This boulder-strewn river can be a fun, creeky run one day and a high-volume wave train the next.Scout for speciesThe banded sculpin is a winter spawner that resides in the Watauga river bottom’s rocks and slabs. The aptly named tangerine darter is a flashy, brilliant shade of orange and is the largest darter in the state, reaching upwards of seven inches in length.Know the threatsHabitat loss due to steep slope development; agricultural runoff; diminished riparian zones; aquatic nuisance species such as gill lice and whirling diseaseLend a handBecome a member at River | Photo: Jack LooneyClinch RiverVirginia – TennesseeLocated in the heart of Virginia’s coal country, the Clinch River arguably supports more threatened and endangered aquatic species than any other river in North America. It begins in Tazewell County and flows freely for nearly 200 miles until it reaches Norris Lake in Tennessee. The combined Clinch-Powell five-county watershed has historically been responsible for 40% of Virginia’s coal production, with the remaining 60% conducted in two adjacent counties.Acid mine drainage and heavy sediment continue to contaminate the river. Combined with the negative effects of agriculture, the other primary economic activity in the region accounting for one-third of the area’s land use, this incredible hotbed for diversity is one of the most at-risk rivers in our country.But, there is hope. The Clinch River Valley Initiative and The Nature Conservancy’s Clinch Valley Program have joined forces to defend the Clinch, and are recently underway with the creation of the Clinch River State Park. When complete, the state park will provide 600 acres of canoeing, hiking, and camping for Southwest Virginia, simultaneously creating a protective barrier for a river that is home to more than 40 species of freshwater mussels, 20 of which are federally listed endangered species.According to Chmura Analytics, this state park could generate $3.58 million annually and create 31 local jobs in the first five years of existence. For a region like Southwest Virginia that is struggling to redefine itself in the wake of the coal industry’s decline, the Clinch River is a much-needed lifeline.“Southwest Virginia, like the rest of the Central Appalachian coalfields, faces profound economic and social challenges,” says The Nature Conservancy Clinch Valley Program Director Brad Kreps. “Right now, we are going through a significant transition as the coal mining industry declines and the region seeks ways to diversify, strengthen, and renew local economies. Assets like a new Clinch River State Park will help Southwest Virginia attract visitors interested in recreation but also new businesses that place a high value on access to nature and quality of life.”Experience the ClinchDepending on water levels, the Clinch is mostly a flatwater experience, which makes it a wonderful river to float on a hot summer day. Clinch River Adventures in the river town of St. Paul, Va., offers shuttle services and rentals (from $12). Fly fishermen can float down past Norris Dam in Tennessee, where the Clinch River has 13 miles of tailwaters stocked with rainbow and brown trout.Scout for speciesFeared that it had gone extinct in 1969, the yellowfin madtom is still swimming in the warm waters of the Clinch River. Even more rare than the madtom are the 20 endangered species of mussels like the rough rabbitsfoot, fluted kidneyshell, and cumberlandian combshell. For many of these mussels, the Clinch River population is the last holdout.Know the threatsResidual contamination from abandoned mined lands; mountaintop removal and valley fills; agriculture-related sedimentation and erosion; stormwater runoffLend a handVisit Southwest Virginia and support the river with your dollar; donate to The Nature Conservancy or the Clinch River Valley Initiative.James River | Photo: Sarah Hauser / Virginia Tourism CorporationJames RiverVirginia It would not be an overstatement to say that the history of our nation literally unfolded along the banks of the James River. From the settlement of Jamestown to the Civil War “battle of the ironclads,” “America’s Founding River” has witnessed some of the most pivotal points in our fledgling country’s saga. Long before Captain John Smith pulled his boat to shore, Powhatan and Monacan Indians had been utilizing the James as a source for sustenance, travel, trade, and defense. The river largely continued to fulfill those roles as Europeans made their way up the watershed.From its beginnings at the confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers, the James flows for 340 miles to the Chesapeake Bay. That makes it Virginia’s largest river, covering one-fourth of the entire state and sustaining one-third of the state’s population, many of whom depend on the river directly for drinking water.Because the river flows through major urban centers like Richmond and Hampton Roads, the river has not escaped the threats of industrialization and pollution. Just three years after the Clean Water Act was passed, the harmful pesticide Keypone was discovered in the James in dangerous quantities. The river quickly rose to the top as one of the most polluted rivers in the nation, and a subsequent 13-year ban on commercial fishing killed the area’s fishing industry.The James River Association (JRA) was founded in 1976 as a result of the Keypone dumping and has been working to restore the river’s health ever since. To date, the James is cleaner than it has been at any point in the past 100 years, but there remain concerns over the river’s proximity to coal ash ponds at three major facilities in the watershed. According to JRA, there are 1,100 toxic storage sites, up to 5 billion gallons of coal ash, and millions of gallons of crude oil traveling along the James each week.Fortunately for the James, because it is such a large and vital river, it has a lot of people who care about conserving it. Less than 40 years ago, no one would have ever imagined that bald eagles or Atlantic sturgeon would call the James home again, but today, both of these species are thriving, even in downtown Richmond.“Today especially, a lot of these people depend on the river. It’s their livelihood,” says James Riverkeeper Jamie Brunkow. “If we don’t have a healthy river, that’s affecting their ability to get drinking water and downstream, it’s affecting industry and tourism. The river is that critical nexus to keep everything connected.”Experience the JamesBegin in Botetourt County and float through the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Upper James River Water Trail. The pristine beauty (and ample smallmouth bass fishing) here is absolutely unparalleled. Whitewater kayakers will appreciate the unique urban setting of the class III+ Lower James. If you’re not a paddler, you can still bike along its shores through the James River Park System or ride in a raft with an outfitter like RVA Paddlesports (starting from $60 per person). Though technically a tributary of the James, the Chickahominy is worth a trip all to itself. There’s a water trail in the works here (put in at Grapevine Bridge), which allows paddlers to float 100 miles of tupelo and cypress-lined blackwater back to the James.Scout for speciesThe massive Atlantic sturgeon call the James home just downstream of Richmond. These prehistoric looking creatures can be up to 14 feet in length and weigh 800 pounds. The James is also home to the James spinymussel, an endangered species of freshwater mussel that sprouts short spines on each valve.Know the threatsAgricultural runoff; urban development; wastewater discharge; coal ash.Lend a handParticipate in JRA River Hero Home pledge system; become a member of JRA; volunteer for water testing programsCheat River SalamanderCheat RiverWest Virginia No one knows exactly where the name of the Cheat originated. The Delaware Indians’ name for the river was Ach-sin-ha-nac, which loosely meant “stony river.” Later, settlers claimed the proliferation of cheatgrass along the river’s banks gave it its name. Regardless of its origins, many felt the river was appropriately named, albeit doomed, especially after the flood of 1985, which devastated many of the watershed’s dying coal towns like Rowlesburg, Albright, and Parsons, killing dozens and “cheating” many out of life as they knew it.Things didn’t improve after that. In 1994, an illegally sealed underground coal mine blew out and poured contaminated mine water into Muddy Creek, a major tributary to the Cheat. A year later, another blowout occurred. The river ran orange for 16 miles downstream, killing everything in its flow. The pH of Cheat Lake dropped to 4.5. American Rivers listed the Cheat as one of the top 10 most endangered rivers in the country, and the river’s burgeoning rafting industry collapsed.But, you know the saying—it always gets worse before it gets better. The mine blowouts galvanized an impassioned community of river stewards and stakeholders, who then formed the Friends of the Cheat (FOC). In the last 20 years, FOC has been at the forefront of implementing 15 acid mine drainage remediation sites on the river. That work is far from over, but the mainstem of the Cheat River has been restored, so much so that sensitive species like walleye are well and thriving in the Canyon.“What makes the Cheat especially important to a state like West Virginia is the hope,” says FOC Executive Director Amanda Pitzer. “It’s the reality that in someone’s lifetime, this river was dead and people came together and made a difference and changed it. We hope that other people see the work that FOC has done and not just accept that things are broken or that rivers are polluted because things can get better.”Experience the CheatThe Cheat’s rafting industry is also well and thriving and the Canyon, along with some of the river’s major tributaries like the Big Sandy, provide some of the best class IV boating in the Mid-Atlantic. Cheat River Outfitters in Albright, W.Va., offers rafting trips down the big-wave Canyon starting at $85 per person. Shavers Fork, another tributary to the Cheat, is a little-known trout fishing gem while the mainstem of the Cheat has flourishing numbers of smallmouth bass and pike. Though it doesn’t follow the banks of the Cheat, the northernmost 28 miles of the Allegheny Trail is a little-traveled backcountry hiking trail that offers views of the river from above.Scout for speciesYou can thank the flat-spired three-tooth snail for preserving the Cheat Canyon. This little snail only lives in the Cheat Canyon and resides in the cracks and crevices of this boulder-choked river. The Cheat Mountain Salamander is also unique to the Cheat, specifically its headwaters, and is a small four-inch dark brown amphibian with shiny gold coloring along its back.Know the threatsDefunding of programs like the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program that support acid mine drainage remediation; fracking proposals on major tributaries to the Cheat; gas pipelines; climate change impacts to water flowLend a handBoat with your wallet and support local establishments; become a member of FOC (; come to Cheat Fest in the springlast_img read more