American Whitewater // Into Nature

Theresa Lorejo-Simsiman, the California Stewardship Director at American Whitewater, tells us more about AW and shares some good news in conservation.

As a part of the Into Nature Sale (May 17 – May 27), Astral is donating 5% of sales to three non-profit organizations that are working to protect soil and water. One of these organizations is American Whitewater.

Astral and American Whitewater are longtime friends over our shared whitewater roots and drive to protect water. We asked Theresa Lorejo-Simsiman, the California Stewardship Director, to tell us more about AW and her work there.

ASTRAL //  Tell us more about your roots. How did you come to join American Whitewater?

Over 25 years ago I was a newbie to the world of whitewater but like every paddler, I became addicted to being on the river in my backyard. That river happened to be the South Fork American River in Coloma CA. I first encountered American Whitewater when I answered the call to advocate for the return of flows to the South Fork American. Eventually, I discovered I had a knack for connecting people and coalitions around our shared love of rivers. That’s when I discovered American Whitewater’s core mission to protect, restore, and enhance paddlers’ ability to enjoy whitewater completely aligned with my interests. So, it was an easy fit to first volunteer for American Whitewater, then work as a Stewardship Associate, and eventually take on the position as the CA Stewardship Director.

ASTRAL //  Tell us a bit about American Whitewater and your role. What work happens there and how do you help?

As the California Stewardship Director, I work with dedicated colleagues at American Whitewater to address impacts on our watersheds from multiple hydropower projects across the state; uphold the protective tenets of the State and Federal Wild & Scenic Rivers Act; and to ensure public access to rivers across the state.

ASTRAL //  What are the primary concerns/projects AW is working on right now?

One primary concern in California that American Whitewater is addressing is the aging infrastructure of multiple hydropower projects that impact flows on our rivers across the state. This includes dams, spillways, diversions and powerhouses. How do we ensure the proper investment in the maintenance of hydropower infrastructure or when necessary, the responsible decommissioning and removal of obsolete infrastructure?

ASTRAL //  Share something good that’s happened in river conservation recently.

American Whitewater recently prevailed in efforts to protect 500 miles of California rivers impacted by Pacific Gas & Electric Hydropower Projects. This includes outstanding whitewater reaches found on the North Fork Feather, the Pit, the McCloud, Butte Creek, Fordyce, the South Yuba, the Bear, the Eel, the Mokelumne, the San Joaquin, and the North Fork Kings. PG&E’s hydropower projects play a critical role in managing water flows for ecological benefit and ensuring the safety and accessibility of these river miles for recreation (for background, read this article).

ASTRAL //  How can an everyday, regular human help?

Take the time to speak up for your rivers in any forum where public comments are required. Your voice matters.

ASTRAL //  What does a day in your life look like?

A day in my life looks like an eddy next to a gigantic wave where you are constantly reading the water for the right line to feed you onto the wave and give you the best surf of the day!

ASTRAL //  What is your preferred way to connect with nature? What is your favorite river?

Whitewater kayaking, of course. Merced River.

ASTRAL //  Who are you most inspired by?

My colleagues at American Whitewater inspire me. Such a talented group of people that amaze me at every level every day!

ASTRAL //  What’s your go-to song right now?

Freedom – Jon Batiste

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