Wisconsin regulators approve Badger Hollow project, largest PV plant in Midwest

first_imgWisconsin regulators approve Badger Hollow project, largest PV plant in Midwest FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Milwaukee Daily Reporter:Wisconsin utility regulators on Thursday approved a series of solar-energy proposals that renewable-energy advocates contend will lead to a five-fold increase in solar generation in the state.Biggest of the projects is the Badger Hollow Solar Farm, which promises to bring 300 megawatts of generation to Iowa County and be the biggest solar project in the Midwest when completed. According to plans approved by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, power from the Badger Hollow farm will be sent through a “tie line” to a nearby substation and, from there, into electrical grid serving southwest Wisconsin.Also approved was the Two Creeks Solar Project, which will have 150 megawatts of generation installed in Manitowoc County. Both projects are expected to be finished by the middle of 2021.Under a third proposal accepted by regulators on Thursday, the Two Creeks project will eventually be sold in its entirety to two Wisconsin utilities – Wisconsin Public Service in Green Bay and Madison Gas & Electric in Madison. The same approval will let those same two companies acquire a 150-megawatt share of the Badger Hollow farm.The renewable-energy group RENEW Wisconsin estimates the state had 103 megawatts of solar generation by the end of 2018. The projects approved on Thursday would add 450 megawatts to that, enough to supply 1.3 percent of the power used annually in Wisconsin.More: Regulators OK projects promising to increase solar generation five foldlast_img read more

Renewables now more economic than coal in China, analysts say

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:China’s green light to build more coal-fired power plants probably won’t usher in a flurry of new construction as most policies and investments in the top energy user will tilt toward renewable sources.More than 10 regions will be freed of their overcapacity tag in 2022, clearing a hurdle for them to resume building coal-fired plants. But many of the nation’s largest power companies are under a state drive to develop more clean energy projects, according to Morningstar Inc., which expects growth in coal-fired capacity to lag other sources.“The profitability of coal-fired power plants is so low, there’s no incentive for them to build more,” said Morningstar analyst Jennifer Song. “China as a whole has set consumption targets for renewable energy sources. We can see those large power groups also have quotas to build more renewable projects.”Businesses and governments are tracking China’s efforts to transform its energy mix as its massive scale could shape global trends and spur a faster transition toward renewable energy. In its battle against pollution, China has spent more on renewable energy than any other country and led a campaign to burn gas instead of coal. Yet it’s still pumping money at home and abroad into coal-fired generation, and it’s forecast by the International Energy Agency to continue to consume about half the world’s coal through 2023.Data on Monday showed China’s investment during January-March in thermal power plants, which mostly consist of coal-fired generators, slumped 30 percent from a year earlier. In contrast, spending on hydropower and wind power projects rose 48 percent and 30 percent, respectively.“Most of the capital expenditure planned by coal-fired power companies will be in renewable energy,” said Song Qiuyi, a Shanghai-based analyst at Capital Securities Corp., adding the latest assessment from NEA won’t change the situation.More: New coal plants are just too expensive in China, analysis says Renewables now more economic than coal in China, analysts saylast_img read more

Wood Mackenzie: Global battery storage installations to hit 15GW annually by 2024

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:The global energy storage market quadrupled last year to 4 gigawatts of new installations and will surge to a 15-gigawatt annual market in 2024, even as system price declines slow down, according to Wood Mackenzie.The energy storage industry begins the new decade in the midst of a rapid transformation from a niche market to one at the center of the global energy transition. Most grid-scale projects built over the past decade were limited to shorter-duration applications, such as ancillary services for the grid, the “lowest-hanging fruit of the storage tree,” a new WoodMac research note says.But the market has seen a rash of major project announcements recently, driven in particular by the U.S., where developers are increasingly pairing large-scale solar arrays with batteries. NextEra Energy, North America’s leading renewables developer, is adding substantial storage capacity through both its regulated Florida utility and its independent generation arm.Meanwhile, Google’s blockbuster solar-plus-storage deal last month with NV Energy could blaze a trail for other companies looking to meet their real-time energy needs with renewables. Shortly afterward, Daimler announced a deal with Norwegian power firm Statkraft to cover its 24/7 electricity demand in Germany with renewables. “If this catches on among other climate-forward corporations, the upside could be huge [for storage],” said Daniel Finn-Foley, WoodMac’s head of energy storage, of the Google deal.Storage developers still face challenges in getting paid for all the various services a battery can offer the grid. But the industry is in the “enviable position of juggling growth game-changers from multiple directions,” Finn-Foley observed.[Karl-Erik Stromsta]More: WoodMac: Global energy storage installations to hit 15GW by 2024 Wood Mackenzie: Global battery storage installations to hit 15GW annually by 2024last_img read more

AEP CEO: Ratepayers will save $3 billion from utility’s investment in new Oklahoma wind projects

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):American Electric Power Co. Inc. (AEP) said May 27 it will proceed with a $2 billion investment in 1,485 MW of wind energy resources to be built in Oklahoma following state approval.Also on May 27, the Louisiana Public Service Commission has approved a proposal from AEP subsidiary Southwestern Electric Power Co. to acquire 810 MW from the wind resources, known as the North Central Energy Facilities. The utility, known as SWEPCO, in March reached a settlement with the Louisiana PSC over its plan to acquire a portion of the wind resources.AEP announced in July 2019 a plan for SWEPCO and its sister utility Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, or PSO, to purchase the three wind farms: the 999-MW Traverse Wind Energy Center, the 288-MW Maverick Wind Project and the 199-MW Sundance Wind Project – Invenergy. Invenergy LLC will build the facilities, and then sell them to AEP once they are complete. One of the facilities should be completed this year, and the other two in 2021.“Today’s decision by the Louisiana Public Service Commission enables us to move forward with the North Central wind projects at full scale and invest in low-cost wind energy to benefit our customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma,” AEP Chairman, President and CEO Nicholas Akins said in a news release.“As AEP continues to add new clean energy to our generation portfolio, this investment is expected to save our customers approximately $3 billion over the next 30 years while supporting economic development in our communities,” Akins said. “We will continue to seek approval to provide a share of this renewable energy to our SWEPCO customers in Texas, as we believe the projects offer significant benefits to customers across our SWEPCO footprint.”Under the terms of the settlement agreement approved in Louisiana, the PSC approved an option that could increase the state’s allocation to an estimated 464 MW from an original 268 MW if Texas regulators do not approve SWEPCO’s proposal there. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Public Service Commission has also signed off on an option to increase its allocation, SWEPCO noted in its own news release. Also as part of the Louisiana settlement agreement, SWEPCO said it plans to procure up to 200 MW of solar resources in the company’s service territory, with construction beginning in the next three years.[Zack Hale]More ($): AEP commits to $2B wind investment following settlement approval AEP CEO: Ratepayers will save $3 billion from utility’s investment in new Oklahoma wind projectslast_img read more

High Five: December Outdoor News of the Weird

first_img1. Cycling Showdown – Elizabethton, Tenn.Biking, parenting, police, public safety. Oh my! A mother in Elizabethton, Tenn., was threatened with arrest for allowing her 10-year-old daughter to ride her bike to school. The officer stated the road from the child’s house to the school was too dangerous to ride on and informed  Teresa Tyron she would be arrested for child neglect if she continued to allow it. Obviously, the case has anyone with an opinion and/or a bike (in other words, everyone) chiming in to criticize our police state, transportation funds, overprotective culture, and childhood obesity. The real question is this: Why are the roads between the girl’s house and the school—less than a mile—unsafe to ride a bike on?2. Life Imitating Art Imitating Life – Concord, N.C.Amos Wayne Richards, 64, was so inspired by the movie 127 Hours that he decided to retrace the fateful steps of Aron Ralston, except it only took 72 hours. Richards was hiking alone in Little Blue Canyon in the Utah desert when he fell and broke his ankle. Fortunately, Richards did not feel the need to cut off said ankle with a Swiss Army knife, as Ralston was forced to do with his hand in 2003. Richards was able to retrace his steps on hands and knees for four days before being rescued by Canyonlands National Park rangers and their helicopter. Richards was treated for his injuries and dehydration in Moab before returning to North Carolina to recover. No word on whether he will attempt to make a movie about his ordeal.3. Too Urban for Gardening – Memphis, Tenn.A Memphis math teacher is in court battling for custody of his…garden. Adam Guerrero was ordered to dismantle his garden under city ordinance and cited for creating a public nuisance for vegetable growing, beehive keeping, worm feeding, biofuel producing, compost making, student educating, and soap manufacturing in his backyard. Following a public outcry fueled by social media (what do you know? It works!), a judge backed off the harsh language and ordered Guerrero to tidy the garden up. The orders mainly consisted of mosquito control. On the plus side, the city is now looking for vacant land where Guerrero can begin a community garden.4. Teach a Man to Fish… – Richland, Pa.Limestone Springs Preserve faced a slippery situation when their inventory went out with the wash, literally. Flooding in eastern Pennsylvania caused the preserve’s quarry to overflow, sending their stock of rainbow trout into nearby rivers. Workers in wetsuits also flooded the rivers attempting to bait the freed fish and scoop them up with nets. Limestone estimates that $400,000 worth of trout (that’s a lotta fish!) made a break for it during the flooding, which also caused millions of dollars in damage around Pa. Unfortunately for the preserve, word of the jailbreak spread quickly. Fishermen from around the region flocked to the area in their own attempt to “rescue” the fish—right into the frying pan.5. Winging It – Fayetteville, W.Va.BASE jumping has come a long way since Pelky and Shubert jumped off El Capitan; with new technology, wingsuits, Ski BASE and the like it seems like the sky is the limit, literally. But one man likes to keep it old school. Floridian Christopher Brewer astonished onlookers by jumping off West Virginia’s New River Gorge Bridge without a functioning parachute. His parachute did not fully open, and Brewer hit the river at an estimated speed of 80 miles per hour. Crisis was averted, however, as this modern day, inverse Icarus suffered only a pelvic fracture and unspecified spinal and lung injuries following his 876-foot belly flop. Authorities say the wingsuit he was wearing may have helped slow his descent, but no word on if a cannonball or jackknife would have limited his injuries.last_img read more

Charlotte, N.C.

first_imgPopulation: 775,202Public lands: Lake Norman, McDowell Nature Center and Preserve, Latta Plantation Nature PreserveOutdoor Highlights: US National Whitewater Center, Freedom Park, Renaissance Park, Little Sugar Creek Greenway, McAlpine Creek Greenwaylast_img

Mountain Khakis Camber 107

first_imgMountain Khakis Camber 107 Review: That time I wore my Mountain Khakis to a strip club and realized how great these pants are.I don’t get a lot of opportunity to test gear under a black light. When was the last time you were camping, or mountain biking or skiing and someone whipped out a black light and a Pink Floyd poster? It doesn’t happen. But in the middle of a recent trip, I found myself in one of those clubs where women dance on stages. I was, um, asking for directions. I also happened to be wearing these Camber 107s, and they lit up like the night sky in Alaska. Beautiful, shiny flecks of light. Because they were dirty. Because I’d been wearing them for about a week straight, in all kinds of situations. Hiking. Shopping. Biking. More hiking. Playing in the leaves with the kids. More biking. Bar hopping. More biking. Supporting the arts. That’s the beauty of these pants, they’re built to handle the trail and the town.Mountain Khakis is known for making pants that last, and the Camber 107s look durable as hell, like a crusty pair of Carhartts that are supposed to be worn hard while performing tasks with hammers. Everything on them is triple stitched, and the heel cuffs are reinforced with “Mudflaps” so they don’t fray. Burly.You can beat these pants up, and I have. Over the last couple of months, I put them through the ringer, both in the field and around town. Based on their appearance, I expected them to withstand that beating, but I didn’t expect them to be so comfortable. They’re made of 97% cotton canvas and 3% spandex, which provides just enough stretch to the fabric to actually make them useful on the trail. The knees are also “pre-articulated,” so there’s plenty of movement at the joints for thinks like biking and climbing. They even look boss while hitting that bar near the trailhead. Or the strip club in the middle of town. Just wash them before you find yourself under black lights.Bonus: Each pair comes with a Bison Bottle Opener Keyring.Double Bonus: There’s a pocket on the right thigh that’s actually big enough to fit an iPhone 6+.Mountain Khaki Camber 107 Pants $69.95 mountainkhakis.comlast_img read more

48 Hours in Woodstock, Virginia

first_imgWoodstock, Virginia was the runner up in the small town category of our fifth annual Top Adventure Towns Contest, and a quick look at what this charming small town has to offer makes it easy to see why. Wether you’re looking for a mountain biking base camp or a scenic fly fishing getaway, Woodstock is an excellent place to begin. But don’t take our word for it. Head to Woodstock for yourself, and use this handy guide to experience 48 Hours there just like the locals.Woodstock Day 1Fly Fishing Shenandoah County, where Woodstock is situated, boasts over 31 miles of trout streams, all within the George Washington National Forest, and the bedrock ledges within the nearby North Fork of the Shenandoah River create ideal habitat for smallmouth bass to thrive. Here are a few recommendations for fly fishing in and around Woodstock, Virginia.North Fork Shenandoah RiverThe most sought after sportfish in the North Fork Shenandoah River is the smallmouth bass, and going after these fish with a fly rod can make for some serious fun. The North Fork is a relatively small, shallow river and is super accessible to wade angling and great for floating via canoe. Learn more about fishing the North Fork of the Shenadoah River here.Passage Creek in the Shenandoah ValleyThis delayed harvest trout stream is one of Virginia’s finest and fall is one of the best times to fish it. Bound by the Massanutten Mountains, this creek flows through the heart of the picturesque Shenandoah Valley in Fort Valley just east of Edinburg. It’s stocked with browns and rainbows and home to native mountain brookies as well.Lodging OptionsThe Inn at Narrow PassageLocated on five private acres along the Shenandoah River, the Inn at Narrow Passage offers 12 guest rooms, common areas, and access to nearby fly fishing.Camping in the Wolf Gap Recreation AreaWolf Gap Recreation Area was once the site of a 1930’s African American Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. Today this recreation area offers camping, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and quick access to the town of Woodstock.Good EatsLocated in the heart of Woodstock, Caramelized Restaurant is known for simple but unique southern food with flavor. If you happen to be in town early and you’re looking for a hearty breakfast to fuel your next big adventure, Carmelized is the place to go.Libations and NightlifeWoodstock BrewhouseIf you’re still up and at ’em after a full day of fishing and food head over to the Woodstock Brewhouse, which offers in-house craft beers every day of the week. The owners of Woodstock Brewhouse are local Shenandoah Valley residents. Having been home-brewers for years, the opportunity to make larger batches of favorite recipes to share with the people of Woodstock was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. The beers include a blonde ale, an American pale, an IPA, and a delicious marzenbeir lager, just to name a few. The brewers at the Woodstock Brewhouse make a conscious effort to source local ingredients, and take advantage of the bounty of the Shenandoah Valley.woodstockShenandoah County Wine TrailCraft beer is all the rage these days, but if you’re spending time in Woodstock and nearby Shenandoah County you should consider paying homage to the area’s thriving wine scene. Shenandoah County is home to 8 award-winning wineries. Learn more about the Shenandoah County Wine Trail here.Day 2 PlansMountain BikingShenandoah River State ParkSmooth trails, moderate climbs, and miles of ripping downhill make Shenandoah River State Park a favorite among intermediate mountain bikers. The scenery is amazing and camping is available nearby. Get more info here.Bryce Resort Mountain Bike ParkNo discussion of the mountain biking scene in this part of Virginia would be complete without mention of the Bryce Resort Mountain Bike Park. Built in partnership with Gravity Logic out of Whistler, British Columbia and Trek bicycles, this bike park features 8 lift-accessed trails ranging from beginner to advanced terrain. The bike park at Bryce Resort will remain open until snow blowing begins.StayCamping at Elizabeth Furnace Recreation AreaThis family-friendly campground is located on the banks of the above-mentioned Passage Creek, so it makes for the perfect fly fishing camp. Stay here and you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy hiking on the nearby Pig Iron and Charcoal trails.Eat Woodstock Garden Cafe is situated in  the middle of the Fort Valley Nursery in downtown Woodstock. In addition to great locally sourced farm to table fare you’ll find for live music and a nearby farmer’s market.  While all of the food at the Woodstock Garden Cafe is top-notch, they’re somewhat renowned for their breakfast menu, which features homemade biscuits and sausage gravy, a great breakfast burrito, and their famous breakfast bowls. This hearty entree comes with a home made biscuit topped with a number of different egg and meat combos and is the perfect fuel for a mountain biking filled day in Shenandoah County.Libations and NightlifeSwover Creek FarmsLynn and Dave St.Clair established Swover Creek Farms in 1998, diversifying their family farm to include hops. The farm has been in continuous production by the same family for over 100 years. In November of 2015 Swover Creek renovated a 2,000 sqft barn and installed a 3.5 barrel brew system, where they serve some of the freshest craft beer in all of Virginia. More 48 Hour Travel Guides:last_img read more

Mountain Mama Sits Down with Anna Levesque and Melina Coogan

first_imgTwo of Western North Carolina’s finest outdoorswomen, Anna Levesque who has dedicated her life to empowering women on and off the water and Melina Coogan who is a photographer and adventure writer, teamed up to organize travel logistics from Asheville to the DC for the Women’s March this coming Saturday. Women and men are gathering to stand together in solidarity, believing that the strength of our country comes from our vibrant and diverse communities.When one of us succeeds, we all rise. That was the spirit of the gathering at a café in Asheville to make signs for the Women’s March in DC, to listen to a presentation about civil disobedience and to receive information about the march.I had the opportunity to sit down with Anna and Melina and was so inspired by their words that I want to share them here with you:Were you politically active before the election?Melina: Until recently, I was mostly all talk. I’ve always cared deeply about the environment and social issues, but it wasn’t until last October when I started seeing more Trump than Hillary signs that I was moved to take action. I kept thinking that I haven’t done anything to stop this. I’ll have to tell the kids that I haven’t yet had that I stood by and watched. Anna: In college I studied international studies and spent a semester in Chile, focusing on liberation theology in Latin America. I interviewed people who were exiled, men and women who had been tortured. I saw first-hand what it was like to live under a dictatorship, to hear the stories of people who had been silenced by their government.My life took a detour and I have focused on empowering women through kayaking. When I started seeing more ego-centered leaders use extreme rhetoric, I had to do something. I felt that if I remained silent, I’d be contributing to the problem. I don’t want to look back in twenty years and wish that I had taken action.How did you become involved? Melina:  I volunteered with the Hillary campaign during the last three weeks of the election. I made phone calls and greeted people at the polls handing out the democratic ticket. The first thirty-six hours after the election I was in a state of horror and when that lifted I realized that it would be a new world for me, for everyone. I got in touch with Anna and we talked about organizing the Asheville contingency of the Women’s March in DC.  We started brainstorming how we can move forward after the march with connecting women throughout Western North Carolina. Anna, I know you’ve spent decades empowering women on the water. How has your work leading kayaking trips overlapped with organizing logistics to travel to DC?Anna: Organizing kayaking trips involves a lot of the same skills including group management, communication, risk management, and organizing transportation. Now I’ve taken on that same role as trip leader in a different setting. Helping with the march logistics has gotten me outside my bubble and connected me to women I might not have met otherwise. This project challenged me to do something different while still using my same skill set. Stepping outside my comfort zone has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve met so many great women in our community. How have you incorporated political activism into your lifestyle?Melina: Up until I was twenty-nine, I lived a dreamy outdoor existence – every weekend I was either rock climbing or kayaking. Then I got sick with lymes disease. I stayed at home for an entire year. I couldn’t go outside. There were days when I couldn’t even read.I asked, “Why is this happening to me?”All of my outdoor friends were healthy and going on new adventures, while I was battling for my life.The more I got involved with chronic illness community I started answering my question of why not me. I’m not entitled to good health more than any other person. Spending so much time outdoors probably put me at a greater risk for getting lymes disease.Now when there’s an opportunity to affect positive change, my mantra has become “why not me.” We would all rather go outside and play, but if nobody shows up then our voices go unheard.Has it been intimidating to become involved with activists projects?Anna: Calling representatives is like paddling a scary rapid. I really want to do it but at the same time would rather not. All the same worries pop up. Making calls can be intimidating, but then it’s just a matter of picking up the phone and communicating my opinion about a particular policy. Just like paddling hard rapids, the more I do it, the easier it becomes, and I always feel good after I make calls to representatives. What tips do you have for others who might want to get involved but don’t know where to start?Anna:  Get involved in a group on Facebook. At first you can just read the posts and private message people.Share your interest with friends and family, start with a safe circle and ask them questions. Share your own actions and story.Melina: Speaking from the perspective of someone who is new to activism, it’s simpler than you think. Show up to something because just like anything, it’s all about momentum and inertia. The hardest meeting or march or rally is going to be the first one. Give yourself permission to go late and leave early if that what it takes, just leave the house and go. It’s easy to get caught in the self-talk that you’re just one person, but if we all did that we’d be sitting home drinking coffee. So far it’s been a real warm and positive experience connecting with others. I feel an immediate bond with anyone going to the march. We all need to fight the panic, grief, and dread and I don’t think we should face that alone. We are so much stronger together.last_img read more

This is the Noli

first_imgPaddlers, filmmakers, and local citizens team up to nominate the Nolichucky as a Wild & Scenic River.That the Nolichucky River is both wild and scenic seemed obvious enough on a brilliantly clear day last fall when I walked into its namesake gorge east of Poplar, N.C. The water level, which fluctuates widely in this dam-free stretch of the Nolichucky, was ideal for paddling, the water surging powerfully but remaining a clear, beer-bottle green in the channels between boulders. And though the landing at Poplar is little more than an hour’s drive from downtown Asheville, and this was the kind of sun-drenched afternoon that beckons paddlers, I counted precisely one small party of kayakers.“The Nolichucky Gorge is as remote a place as some people will ever get to in their lives,” said Matt Moses, owner of Mountain River Guides & USA Rafts near Erwin, Tenn. “We see a remarkable amount of wildlife. One trip not too long ago witnessed an osprey pulling a fish out of the river, a mama bear and two cubs on the bank and a deer swimming, probably to get away from the bears. And right at the end, as if that wasn’t enough, we had an eagle fly right over.”More than just Wild and ScenicAlong with checking essential boxes for federal designation as a Wild and Scenic River: beauty, pristine surroundings and unhindered flow-the upper Nolichucky claims other qualities that justify its listing. It generates more than $12 million in tourism revenue for the local economy, a figure that with a few tweaks to accommodate visitors could easily climb to nearly $17 million, a consultant recently found. Among the many cultural resources along its banks is the site of a classic moonshine-making, government-averse mountain settlement, the now-abandoned Lost Cove.In fact, the U.S. Forest Service confirmed the Nolichucky’s worthiness for listing more than two decades ago, in 1994, when it named the stretch through the gorge as eligible for Wild and Scenic status, said Kevin Colburn, American Whitewater’s national stewardship director.The only remaining gap, one that paddlers and local businesses have recently been working hard to fill, is political action.“Eligibility is based on the river’s physical attributes, while designation is based on public and political will to see the river protected,” Colburn said. “It’s really all about public enthusiasm.”Public Enthusiasm and Political ActionThat has been growing for about two years, starting with conversations among guides and spreading to local business and political leaders. A petition on Change.org has been signed by more than 20,000 supporters, and a Facebook page links to a short film, This Is the Nolichucky, that highlights the river’s distinctive qualities. Entrepreneurs in Erwin, Tenn., a former railroad hub near the lower end of the gorge, have jumped on board, seeing listing as a crucial step in their effort to refashion their town as a center of outdoor tourism. The mayor of Erwin and leaders of surrounding Unicoi County have sent letters backing Wild and Scenic designation to federal lawmakers who must introduce a bill to make it happen.“This all sprung organically,” Colburn said. “It was just a good idea that started resonating.”That those federal lawmakers remain noncommittal is the main obstacle to securing Wild and Scenic status. But the job of convincing them has been made easier by the disappearance of traditional opposition from mining, agricultural and railroad industries, said Tyler Engle, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Unicoi County, home to the western portion of the gorge.“We have presented this idea for the last couple of years,” he said, “and, really, we have not heard of any opposition.”Lobbying for the Nolichucky is easy because the river is so distinctive, so stunning.Its tributaries, including the North Toe and Cane rivers, drain the slopes of two of the highest points in the East, Mount Mitchell and Roan Mountain. Near Huntdale, N.C., these tributaries join to form the Nolichucky, which flows west into the gorge— a deep gash in the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the North Carolina-Tennessee border that could only have been created in an area with unique geology, said Philip Prince, a geologist with the state of Virginia and an avid paddler.“That is a steepness and a magnitude of relief that’s only going to occur with a very quartz-rich bedrock, and it’s not a topography that you’re going to find anywhere else in Appalachia,” Prince said.This hard rock also creates the erosion-resistant ledges and chutes that provide some of the most challenging rafting and kayaking in the East. The river descends an average of 31 feet per mile through the gorge, cascading down runs such as On the Rocks and Quarter Mile.Unlike some of the Southeast’s most famously harrowing rivers—the dam-controlled Gauley, for example—the Nolichucky claims no Class V rapids. But its roughest passages can seem at least that treacherous in high water.“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been plenty scared on the Gauley,” said Chris Lennon, a USA Raft paddling and fishing guide who has extensive experience leading trips on both rivers. “But when the (Nolichucky) is erupting and it’s chaotic and there is all this debris and root balls floating by, I’ve definitely been more puckered up here.”“That’s the beauty of a free-flowing river like the Nolichucky, it’s always changing. That and there’s no houses on the ridge tops. There’s no horns honking. There’s no cell service.”The unspoiled conditionis a result not only of a topography that prohibits road building and limits trail construction—even the nearby Appalachian Trail skirts the gorge—but also, ironically, its most visible mark of civilization: the railroad that runs next to the river for the length of the gorge.This stretch was part of the original 242-mile Clinchfield Railroad, a marvel of mountain-traversing engineering that connected Spartanburg, S.C. with Dante, Va. in 1909. The route was chosen because the gorge presented builders with a natural gap through the Blue Ridge and, said railroad historian Martha Erwin, because steam engines of the era needed a reliable water source for the frequent refilling of their tanks.The Tennessee Valley Authority once identified the towns of Erwin and Poplar as prime sites for hydroelectric dams, according to Forest Service documents. These dams were never built, Lennon said, because by the time of the TVA’s formation in 1933 the rail line was well established as an economic powerhouse.“The railroad took precedence over the TVA,” Lennon said. “It saved this gorge.”And as the years passed and traffic on the line steadily decreased, paddlers and Forest Service employees came to see the tracks less as a man-made blight and more as a landmark.In 1980, a federal study declined to recommend the Nolichucky for Wild and Scenic statuspartly because the report stated, the railroad “significantly diminished” the river’s “scenic values.” In 1994, the Forest Service reversed this finding, determining that “the railroad is well-screened from the river by vegetation,” and that the railroad trestle crossing the river near Poplar “does not appreciably detract from the river’s outstandingly remarkable values.”The tracks tucked into the base of the gorge’s southern wall, the rumble of occasional freights, the whistle blasts sounded by friendly engineers—all these sights and sounds have become highlights of rafting trips through the gorge, Moses said.“The only sign of human intrusion is the railroad tracks, and who doesn’t love trains?”The railroad—or at least its near demise—is also the reason business leaders who once seemed indifferent to the idea of Wild and Scenic listing are now all for it.For decades, the city of 6,000 was home to one of the region’s largest rail terminals, said Jamie Rice, the city’s communications specialist: “Erwin really hung its hat on being a railroad town until three years ago.”That was when CSX, the railroad giant that had absorbed the historic railroad in 1983, abruptly closed the terminal due to decreased demand for its primary cargo, coal.The company immediately laid off 400 workers, most of them highly skilled and well-paid union members, Rice said. Another 200 CSX employees moved to take other jobs with the company.“I thought, well, here we are, a railroad town without a railroad,” Erwin said.To respond to the crisis, Rice, 36, who had recently moved from Asheville to her hometown of Erwin and invested in downtown property, teamed up with other like-minded business people to form an economic development group, RISE Erwin.Casting about for a new economic identity,“we looked out our windows and realized, my goodness, we are so blessed with all these natural assets that really, up to now, nobody has supported,” said Rice, who was later hired by the city of Erwin to promote the town.The group started hosting events such a spring festival timed to accommodate thru-hikers on the nearby Appalachian Trail, offering beer, music, food trucks, podiatrists and massage therapists. Maybe the area’s biggest economic coup has been attracting Pyranha Kayaks, which recently relocated from Weaverville, N.C. to a site west of Erwin.By the time CSX closed its terminal, Colburn had already begun quietly pursuing Wild and Scenic designation—an idea that had also been percolating in the mind of Curtis England, the manager of a Nantahala Outdoor Center outpost formerly based on the Nolichucky. He had learned of the Nolichucky’s eligibility status while studying for a degree in outdoor recreation. He had guided scientists on the river researching the endangered elktoe mussel, which can only live in clean, free-flowing rivers.“It was a cumulative thing … a lot of different events that got me thinking that (permanent designation) is really a no-brainer,” he said.England launched the Change.org petition in early 2017 and enlisted the support of other guides, including Lennon. One of Lennon’s first steps was to reach out to his well-connected boss, Moses, who took the idea to RISE.Moses’s pitch to RISE—that Wild and Scenic status for the Nolichucky could cement the region’s identity as a destination for paddlers and anglers—was persuasive partly because Congressional listing is such a rare distinction, Colburn said. Only four streams have been designated in western North Carolina, which, on the other hand, is home to 390 dams. Membership in the exclusive club of listed, free-flowing rivers, he said, “can definitely raise awareness as a point of pride for the area.”But he and Moses added they don’t necessarily want to attract hordes of paddlers to the Nolichucky. A better outcome might be a sustainable flow, Colburn said, more like “drip irrigation,” less like “turning open a firehose of dollars.”Many advocates of Wild and Scenic designation for the Nolichucky don’t even mention economic development. They just want to see the river preserved, and the bad news here is that listing can only do so much.It won’t stop riverside subdivisions from sprouting on the private land upstream from the gorge, Colburn said. It won’t doom factories or intensive agricultural operations, he said. “It does not restrict industry or development and it is not a watershed-wide limiting piece of legislation.”Though It would require the Forest Service to manage its land to preserve the river’s outstanding qualities and prohibit the construction of dams on this property.Though the river’s eligibility status already offers some protection, Colburn said, Congressional action would make this firmer. And permanent.“Otherwise, in 10 years, this (eligibility) could just go away.”One other benefit of designation, he said: it encourages the kind of cooperative conservation efforts that have already greatly improved water quality.Jeff Stanley, a guide who owns Wahoo’s Adventures, which is based in Boone, N.C., and operates an outpost in Poplar, remembers the Nolichucky as a different river when he started leading trips on it in the 1970s.“It was like the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon—chocolate milky, real silty,” he said. “After you swam in it you’d have to hose down because you’d have these little bits of mica on you. You’d kind of shine.”This poor water quality was another reason the river was not recommended for listing in 1980.In 1994, however, the Service reported that the river had become much cleaner due to the decrease in a once-dominant upstream industry, mica mining, and the work of local, state and federal agencies to reclaim old mines. In 2002, North Carolina upgraded its rating of the Nolichucky.So far, none of this has spurred action from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, a Republican whose district includes Unicoi County and whose position on designation mirrors that of other federal lawmakers from the region.“I will be interested to hear from local stakeholders about how to best ensure future generations can continue to enjoy this river,” he said in a statement from his legislative office.Colburn is not surprised. One of his major challenges, he said, is to remind energized activists that building the required support for designations often takes years.But he and others are sure it will happen. Once Moses leads people down the clear river and past the glistening white cliffs, “we’re hard pressed to find anyone who would say it doesn’t deserve to be designated,” he said. “One trip is enough to convince most people that this is a very special place that needs to stay that way.”last_img read more