West River History

History of Whitewater Recreation on the West River

During the construction of the Ball Mountain Dam, the AMC was involved in discussions with the Army Corps and State of Vermont officials to obtain guaranteed whitewater releases once the Ball Mountain Dam became operational in 1961.  A meeting was held on site with the State Commissioner of Public Works, State Senator Janeway of Londonderry, Vermont, Brigadier General Seymour Potter of the ACOE and Roland Palmedo and Homer Dodge of the AMC.  In that meeting the authorities agreed to provide whitewater releases over the course of two weekends in the late Spring.  Releases were promised for each of these weekends’ days for eight hours each day.

The following is an excerpt from the whitewater boating history on the West River which was sent to Richard Carlson of ACOE on 10/17/03.

West River (Ball Mtn. Dam), VT

The earliest record we have is of an AMC trip over a May weekend in 1955. In 1956 there were trips over one weekend in May and one weekend in October. In 1957 the National Slalom was held on April 26 and 27.  In 1958 the same championships were held on the corresponding weekend and there were also trips on one weekend in May and one weekend in October.

Our records reflect that the Ball Mountain Dam did not become fully operational until 1961 and therefore Army Corps releases on the West did not start until 1962. Releases one weekend in April and one weekend in May and one weekend in September remained the standard.  For example, in 1989 there were releases on April 28 and 29; May 5 and 6, and September 29 and 30, all at 1500 cfs.  In August 1983 a Pan-American race took place.  1989 was the first year that there was no spring race on the West.  1990 was the first year that one of the two spring release weekends was eliminated.  In 1992 the fall release scheduled for September 26 and 27 was moved to October 17 and 18 “due to efforts to revitalize salmon migration” (quoting Bernie Toothaker, Julia’s predecessor as the release coordinator with the Army Corps).

Records from 1994 to the present show that although we have continued to request two scheduled Spring release weekends and one Fall weekend we have been provided one weekend in the spring (last weekend in April) and one weekend in the fall (3rd weekend in September) with flows of 1500 cfs. In 2003 the September release was cut to one day without explanation.

In 1989, meetings with members from FLOW and the AMC with the Army Corps resulted in the Army Corps agreeing to provide “time-shift” releases based upon availability of runoff during the months of October and November.  It was agree that announcement of these time-shift releases would be posted on an Army Corps web page and be available on a voice mail system.  Julia Khorana was also to be called with the information. This agreement was implemented, resulting in releases for one weekend in October of 1999 and again in 2000. Since then, there has been no attempt to time-shift releases at this time of the year, the web page has disappeared, and there has been no communication with boaters on this subject until our current series of meetings began.

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