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Results of Planning Meeting 2/14/01 Tallulah Gorge Releases

Everyone:

As you are now aware, no permits will be required to paddle Tallulah this spring. However, you will be required to sign a waiver at the top to the stairs. You will be required to initial your waiver for any subsequent runs on that same day. A survey will be taken at the takeout. The registration and the survey will help measure demand and determine the need for changes and new releases.

The following is a summary of my notes from a meeting that I attended relating to Tallulah Releases:

The purpose of the meeting was to review the "Recreational Flow Releases Monitoring Plan". In attendance were Chief Ranger Bill Tanner from the Department of Natural Resources, Mike Philips, Larry Wall, and Mike Barnett from the Southern Company, Sherry Olson and Risa Shimoda from American Whitewater, Emily Hitchcock and Chuck Creekmore from the Georgia Canoe Association, and Brent Coleman and myself from the Atlanta Whitewater Club. The topics of discussion included a review of the implementation of whitewater boating flows, boating usage data, and a review of the currently proposed access change. We also discussed other change proposals for access to Tallulah Gorge.

Chief Range Bill Tanner said he is working on plans to accommodate the unusually large number of boaters that are expected to attend to the event. He is planning on providing a boat unloading area that we can drive up to and drop off our boats. He is working on plans for providing additional parking areas as well. He has asked us to help by car pooling if possible. Sherry Olson and Risa Shimoda are asking for volunteers to help them with their responsibilities. You can also help by respecting the delicate nature of the gorge. Please do not leave the stairs until you enter the river. The area around the stairs contains "Persistent Trillium" which is an endangered and protected plant. If we want future releases it is important that we have a minimal affect on the gorge.

Sherry Olson, representing the AWA, introduced two items for discussion and further study. One was an increase in the number of future releases. Currently. no new releases are proposed. Partially because the procedures used to measure boater demand are flawed. The application process was flawed and did not provide any valuable statistics that could be used in measuring demand. Emily Hitchcock cited other examples where boater demand was not measured. She cited examples of boaters who left to paddle other rivers because their chances of actually getting on Tallulah were too remote and they were running out of time. These people and others like them were not included in the demand statistics. Everyone at the meeting agreed that these procedures will be changed.

The second item that Sherry introduced was the possibility of obtaining simultaneous releases on the stretch of Tallulah between Rabun and Tallulah Lakes. This is a five mile stretch of class II-III whitewater. She proposed this release would encourage participation of a broader group of paddlers - the type who are more likely to spend money in the area visiting the Interpretive Center, and eating at local restaurants. I agreed. Sherry is looking for an engineer with skill in this area to help her study the possibility of obtaining these releases.

Another topic of discussion was the unusually large number of boaters that are expected to attend the first permit free runs. Most of the boaters in attendance agreed that the initial permit free releases would draw an unusually large crowd, but felt that demand would eventually drop back to a normal level. No one yet knows what normal will be. However, I for one, do not foresee Tallulah becoming another "Ocoee". After all, there are the steps at the top of the run and the lake paddle at the bottom. In addition, it is only a 2.5 mile run. In my opinion, many first timers, especially hardcore playboaters, will return to the easy access of the Ocoee.

We also discussed bottlenecks that may result from too many boaters being on the river at the same time. Ranger Bill cited the current bottlenecks at "Oceana" and "Bridal Veil" as examples. Could Ocoee-like bottlenecks begin to occur? Chuck Creekmore stated that bottlenecks were more likely to occur at play spots like "Amphitheatre". Chuck said the real bottleneck would be on the stairs. He pointed out that the boat ramp at the bottom of the stairs can only accommodate a single boater.

Overall, the tone of the meeting was one of cooperation and friendliness.

 

Mark Neisler

Principal Consultant

Class Five Technology, Inc.

markn@classfivetech.com