PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to extend the whitewater rafting season by two weeks at the Breaks Interstate Park region in Pike County.
Image courtesy MGN Online
According to a news release, water releases are scheduled each Fall at the Jon W. Flannagan Dam and Reservoir.
This helps create ideal water conditions for rafters and kayakers, who travel from around the world to tackle the rapids of the Russell Fork River, the news release said.
Usually, the Army Corps limited these water releases to only four weekends in October each year.
Sen. McConnell urged the Army Corps to expand the whitewater rafting season by two weeks this Fall. The Army Corps agreed.
Now, as part of an initial pilot experiment, the Army Crops will determine whether it will allow for more waster releases in the future.
Sen. McConnell also requested the Army Corps to study how expanding the whitewater rafting season earlier this year would affect the economy in Pike County and create enhanced tourism opportunities for the area.
“The trial expansion of the whitewater rafting season is great news for Eastern Kentucky. I appreciate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreeing to study additional water releases at this popular destination,” Sen. McConnell said. “By expanding the rafting season, we can provide more opportunities for world-class whitewater rafting to increase tourism and expand economic opportunities in the region.”
CEO and Founder of Whitewater Raft Kayak Rescue Jason Foley said this announcement was welcomed news, "The terrific news of testing additional scheduled release dates for Flannagan Dam’s fall draw-down are exactly the fruits that we have been looking forward to hearing about in the Army Corps process of studying how to optimize the usage of its water resources. Simply scheduling the release of water during that period is a brilliant use of finite resources that otherwise would be wasted."
Foley also said he was appreciative of Sen. McConnell's continued support.
"The tourism and paddle sport communities are appreciative of the continued support that Senator McConnell and his staff are giving the process that could affect the Appalachian economies of East Kentucky and Southwest Virginia in an impactful way," Foley said.
This week, Sen. McConnell said he secured a government funding bill that encouraged the Army Crops to continue studying opportunities to expand the recreational whitewater rafting opportunities at the Breaks Interstate Park.
The measure passed the Senate this week and is now being considered by the House of Representatives.
"Whitewater rafting has been a great economic boon for tourism around the Breaks Interstate Park, but the season has been cut short each year. I applaud the Army Corps for adding additional water release dates at the Flannagan Dam, which will extend the downstream whitewater rafting season into November and attract more recreational enthusiasts to our region this fall," said U.S. Representative Hal Rogers. "In light of the recent downturn of our coal industry, we must capitalize on every opportunity to diversify our economy and enhance our unique tourism options in our beautiful Appalachian mountains."