Law Center Names 3 Rivers Endangered

The Southern Environmental Law Center recently released their “Top Ten Endangered Places 2011.” These are scenic, ecologically significant natural areas in the Southeast that are imperiled due to poor decisions. Of the ten on the list, three are rivers.

The abundance of migratory fish, which support recreational and commercial fishing, is at an all-time low. One reason- the construction of large dams which block their access to upstream spawning (breeding) grounds. In South Carolina, Santee-Cooper, a state-owned utility, operates large hydroelectric dams on the Santee and Cooper Rivers which have blocked fish and altered downstream river flows for 70 years. Past due for a new operating license (PDF) needed to operate these dams, there is great opportunity to change operations, but the utility is resisting every step of the way. American Rivers and the Southern Environmental Law Center have joined forces to ensure the new license will have safeguards that enhance fish passage around the dams, protect endangered fish species and restore river flows to benefit extensive downstream wetlands.

On the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, a massive cement plant would destroy high-quality wetlands and pollute the river with mercury. The Cape Fear River is heavily used for both drinking water and recreation, so the impact on fisheries and clean water would be noticed.

In Georgia, the Oconee River threatens to go nearly dry with plans for a new coal-fired power plant that would withdraw nearly 14 million gallons every day. The already-low river supports farmers, communities, and critical fish and wildlife habitat downstream. These would be at risk if the coal plant is allowed to withdraw so much water.

American Rivers applauds the recognition of these threats, and hopes this will help drive conservation efforts for these rivers and many others in the region that face such issues.

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