MagazineJune 2011Shorts: Water News from Around the Blue Ridge

Shorts: Water News from Around the Blue Ridge

Photo: Will Reeves

Must Do Adventures: June

See blooming rhododendron: If the Southern Apps are known for one thing, it’s our rhodo. See it in full bloom this month. Check out the 600 acres of blooming rhododendron on Roan Mountain, along the Tenn./N.C. border. Time it with the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival, June 18-19.

Take your kid camping: June 25 is the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout. Not enough kids camp. Change that en masse.

Ride a bike in downtown Atlanta. The South’s largest city is becoming more bike friendly. Two days a year, the city even shuts down one of its downtown streets for Atlanta Streets Alive, opening the thoroughfare to bikers and pedestrians only. The event will occupy the proposed Atlanta Streetcar route between Martin Luther King, Jr. Park and Centennial Olympic Park twice this month (June 4, June 25).

Breathe Easier

A landmark settlement between TVA and the state of North Carolina will require the utility giant to close at least 18 old coal-fired units and spend $5 billion in the cleanup process. It also directs TVA to either clean up or close down the four plants closest to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The state’s lawsuit against TVA was headed to the Supreme Court before the settlement was reached in April.

New Whitewater?

South Carolina paddlers are anxiously awaiting the unveiling of a brand new whitewater destination. Two dams on Twelvemile Creek, just outside of Clemson in the foothills of the Appalachians, are scheduled to be removed this year. The dam removals will return a two-mile stretch of Twelvemile leading into Lake Hartwell back to its natural state, and paddlers are hopeful that there’s solid class II-III whitewater within that currently dammed section.

“The dams were built in the 1800s, so nobody’s ever kayaked those waters,” says Kevin Colburn, national stewardship director for American Whitewater. “The whitewater could be awesome, but nobody really knows.”

The hydroelectric dams are being removed as part of a Superfund agreement between the federal government, South Carolina, and the Shlumberger Technology Corporation (current owners of the dams) to allow for natural sedimentation to occur in order to bury 441,000 pounds of PCBs that were released into Twelvemile between 1955 and 1977. The additional whitewater venue is merely a happy side effect of this agreement.

Kevin Miller, the president of the Foothills Paddler Association, expects Twelvemile to be a worthy post-work play spot or short weekend destination for Southern boaters. But Twelvemile will be dependent on rainfall, which means it’ll likely only be boatable around 100 days a year.

There have already been three years worth of delays in the removal process of the first dam, so it’s unlikely that the second will be removed immediately. But a federal judge has berated the parties responsible for the excessive delays, so the dam removals are expected by the end of the year.

“Winter and spring rains next year could provide paddlers their first opportunity to explore a river that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years,” Miller says.

See a photo gallery of the River Keeper’s exploratory trip of the French Broad River Paddle Trail.

Places to Go, Things to See: