U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- American Rivers has announced the ten most endangered rivers in the country at a press conference to release the twelfth annual "Most Endangered and Threatened Rivers in North America" report.
"We've made notable progress in cleaning up our waterways over the last 20 years, thanks to the Clean Water Act and other major legislative initiatives," stated Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. "Rivers like the Cuyahoga no longer catch fire, and they no longer run red with untreated industrial waste. But now, our nation's rivers face new challenges which are often less visible and more insidious than in years past and may actually reverse the successes we've had."
Among the most serious and immediate threats to rivers this year, according to American Rivers, are polluted run-off from corporate farms and city streets which is degrading water quality; explosive population growth in arid areas which is depleting scarce water resources; dams and channelization which are altering whole river systems; urban sprawl which is chewing up floodplains and riparian areas; and waste from large mines which will pollute rivers for years to come.
"Death by a thousand cuts could be the fate of our rivers. This year, the rivers on our list suffer not so much from the threat of a single individual action but rather from the result of thousands of individual decisions by developers, feedlot operators, homeowners, irrigators, and many others in communities and companies across America," added Wodder.
In addition, many of the industries that engage in these activities -- including navigation, logging, mining, grazing, and irrigation -- are federally subsidized.
"Ironically, our tax dollars are being used to help degrade the nation's rivers through federal subsidies of many industries which operate with little regard to the environmental consequences. These industries are undermining conservation efforts at the expense of the public trust," added Wodder.
The most endangered river of 1997 is the Missouri River, severely altered by dams and channelization that support navigation. The Hudson River was named the second most endangered river because of PCB contamination in its upper reaches. The White Salmon River in Washington was named the third most endangered river because of one "deadbeat dam" which blocks all passage for migrating fish.
Other rivers which made the list this year include: the San Joaquin River (CA) for floodplain development and agricultural run-off; the Wolf River (WI) for a proposed zinc/copper mine; the Pinto Creek (AZ) for a proposed copper mine; the Potomac River (WV, PA, MD, VA, DC) for run-off from industrial poultry production, cattle feedlots, and suburban development; Mill Creek (OH) named the Most Endangered Urban River because of urban run-off; the Lower Colorado River (AZ, NV, CA) for dewatering to service growing urban populations; and the Tennessee River (TN, AL, MS, KY) for TVA's elimination of environmental responsibilities.
American Rivers' twelfth annual report, "Most Endangered and Threatened Rivers in North America," examines rivers which this year are facing the most serious and immediate environmental abuse and provides an overview of the state of rivers today. The purpose of the report is to call attention to the myriad threats facing rivers in order to mobilize community action around protecting and restoring locally and nationally significant waterways.
"Despite its discouraging picture, the list is meant to convey an underlying message of hope," said Wodder. "If we continue to draw attention to the impact that our actions as individuals and as a society have on the river environment, we stand a chance of saving, protecting, and restoring one of this country's greatest assets."
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