Life can be many things. Many of those things are wonderful, enjoyable and eminently satisfying.

But some are just an exercise in frustration.

Let me give you a real example. Some 21 years ago, a whitewater addict in Haysi arranged a meeting with officials from Flanagan Reservoir and the Corp of Engineers, congressional representatives from Kentucky and Virginia, both states’ fish and wildlife departments and local outdoor tourism and economic development interests.

The purpose of the meeting was to explore more scheduled whitewater releases, both during the official October season and selected summer weekends. The summer releases discussed would be much lower than October, just enough water to get a kayak through the Breaks Canyon. 

The gathering, in Haysi’s city hall, was friendly and enthusiastic. At the end of the meeting, I was confident that, within a couple of years, Elkhorn City would soon be promoting summer whitewater levels friendly to solo boaters working to improve their skills and anglers casting for the perfect smallmouth.

Boy was I wrong.

Fast forward to 2018. After a generation of meetings, roadblocks and animated discussion, it looked like support from several sides, including congressional delegations from Virginia and Kentucky, would finally carry the day. The Corps would consider extending the October season a couple of weekends and testing summer releases.

One thing that is crucial to understand about our October season is the water is going to be released no matter what. There’s a 16 feet difference between the height of summer pool on the lake and winter pool. Sixteen feet of water has to be let out of the reservoir in October and November to get to winter pool. The law says they have to be at winter pool on Dec. 1.

So in October of 2018, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers developed a survey for the outdoor community giving potential options for an extended season along with general comments. These were supposed to be distributed release weekends in October.

Except somehow, the surveys were hijacked by a commercial outfit on the lake that doesn’t want the lake levels to change. Period.

Meanwhile, due to several factors that include the wettest fall in our history, whitewater crowds were the lowest in 25 years. When every stream in the southeast has water in them, lots of folk decide to stay closer to home.

That’s especially true when the mayor and police chief of a particular Kentucky town have made it clear they aren’t welcome anymore.

Consequently, after more than 20 years of working to get more whitewater releases, and more than 30 years of “rafting season,” the Corps of Engineers are proposing eliminating the first two October weekends. All that is based on false information, low turnout and doctored surveys from a group whose purpose is to go backward.

This is the kind of exercise in frustration I was talking about.

There will be a public comment meeting at 1 p.m., Tuesday April 2, at the Breaks Park conference center. I encourage my friends from Elkhorn City and the rest of Pike County to go if you can. If anyone in Pike is still serious about promoting whitewater tourism on one of the most spectacular runs in the United States, this would be the time to make it loud and clear.

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