Rep. Dan Howell seeks expansion of water releases on Ocoee River

State Rep. Dan Howell, R-Ocoee, who chairs the Ocoee River Recreation and Economic Development Fund Board (ORRED), is looking at the possibility of adding rafting days on the Ocoee River.

House Bill 1946, sponsored by Howell, will allow the ORRED to work with the deputy commissioner of state parks to negotiate with TVA for additional water release days during the rafting season. The expansion should bring more tourists and rafting enthusiasts to the area.

“The Ocoee River is a magnificent natural resource that boasts some of the best whitewater rafting in the world,” Howell said. “This bill will allow for additional water releases for Tennesseans and tourists to enjoy being on the water, drawing more people to the region and further boosting our economy. The Volunteer State is blessed with immense natural beauty and it’s important to encourage people to enjoy the great outdoors.”

If passed, House Bill 1946 will designate the Ocoee as an “Olympic River” in keeping with the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Act. The bill would allow for up to 24 outfitter permits for whitewater rafting at the Ocoee River Recreational Area. The legislation also allows permit holders who wish to retire or sell their business to transfer permits, which current state law does not allow.

The Ocoee River, part of the Tennessee state park system, boasts Class III-IV rapids and was the venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics canoe slalom event. More than 220,000 paddlers take to its waters each year, contributing almost $44 million annually to the region and providing more than 600 jobs.

State Rep. Dan Howell represents House District 22, which includes Meigs and Polk counties and part of Bradley County.

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