Restoring the Health of Georgia’s Flint River

Hightower-Shoals-credit-Alan-CresslerFlint River at Hightower Shoals | Alan Cressler

Georgia’s Flint River is one of only 40 rivers left in the United States that flow for more than 200 miles undammed, and American Rivers intends to keep the Flint that way. The Flint is also unfortunately the “poster child” for Southeastern rivers running dry, and with our partners we are working to restore healthy flows in this important river basin.

The Flint rises from humble origins just south of Atlanta—some of the river’s headwater streams actually flow out of pipes buried beneath Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport. Downstream, the river serves as a water supply source for communities in the southern part of the Atlanta metropolitan area and throughout west-central Georgia. It also boasts a world-class fishery for native shoal bass, spectacular paddling and a unique environment where the Southeastern Coastal Plain meets the tail end of the Appalachians, and the river cuts through ancient mountain ridges covered in forests of oak and montane Longleaf Pine.

Sadly, the upper Flint River has been running dry in recent years. This is a problem not just for wildlife that depend on the river, but also for the outfitters who make a living sending paddlers through its scenic reaches along Sprewell Bluff and Yellow Jacket Shoals, and for the communities that depend on the Flint for water supply.

The reasons for the drop in river flows on the Flint are many. They include the urbanization of the landscape at the river’s source, wetland loss, changing rainfall patterns with more frequent and intense drought, dams on tributary streams throughout the Flint’s headwaters, increasing water withdrawals from the river system for public water supply, and diversions of water from the Flint to other river basins.

In addition to these threats to a living, healthy Flint River system, the river has been targeted for major dam construction projects. Dam proposals vetoed by then-governor Jimmy Carter in the 1970s have resurfaced in the 21st century as part of a misguided response to historic drought conditions and continued growth in metro Atlanta. American Rivers’ work toward a sustainable river system includes standing with our partners such as the Flint Riverkeeper to oppose these proposals for destructive dams on the Flint.

All of these challenges have led the Flint to appear on our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® list in 2009 and in 2013. And because the Flint’s problems have taken shape over several decades, the solutions will take time, too. Our work in the basin is ongoing—please learn more by exploring the links below.

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