New Ocoee River agreement keeps rafting waters flowing - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

New Ocoee River agreement keeps rafting waters flowing

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POLK COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

A new partnership is helping keep recreation possible on the Ocoee River.

Friday, state leaders, TVA officials, and folks with the Ocoee River Outfitters celebrated a new agreement to keep the river's waters flowing.

Even on rainy days, rafters flock to Tennessee's Ocoee River.

"We get people on tours, trips from china and India, a lot of times a lot of locals love coming to play!" explained rafting guide Aaron Benavides.

Whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River floods Polk County with tourists and their money this time of year.

But it requires an agreement between TVA and rafting businesses to keep the water flowing.

That agreement was set to expire,but thanks to a bill, signed by Governor Bill Haslam this month, operations will continue for at least another 15 years.

"It's like no other river in the us," said Keith Jenkins, with the Ocoee Outfitters Association, "That's why it's the number one visited river in the U.S. It's a continuous whitewater stream."

Recreational businesses on the Ocoee provide nearly 650 jobs.

The new agreement was crucial for those businesses to keep their doors open.

"For us, it's our future," urged Jenkins, "It's the future of the river and the future of all these small businesses, not just me, but also all the other small outfitters involved on the Ocoee River."

"The Ocoee River is the most rafted river in the United States, and it's a unique asset for Tennessee," said Senator Mike Bell.

An asset that creates a roughly $44 million economic impact to the region, and something many state officials are happy to see stay.

"We provided some stability, we maintained the jobs, maintained the tax base, maintained recreation, and the economic impact for several years to come," urged state Rep. Dan Howell.

There is still some discussion about the agreement between the organizations involved, but the new agreement will last roughly 15 to 20 years.

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