Cedar River Named One of America’s Most Endangered Rivers for 2010

Outdated flood management threatens public safety

June 2nd, 2010

Shana Udvardy, American Rivers, (404) 347-7550
Sean McMahon, The Nature Conservancy, (515) 244-5044
Susan Heathcote, Iowa Environmental Council, (515) 244-1194 x 205
Rosalyn Lehman, Iowa Rivers Revival, (515) 202-7720

Washington, DC — Flood risk along Iowa’s Cedar River is growing, and outdated flood management is putting public safety and the river’s health at risk. This threat landed the Cedar in the number five spot in America’s Most Endangered Rivers™: 2010 edition, produced by American Rivers.

“Unless decision makers and communities along the Cedar River embrace 21st century natural flood management solutions, public safety and the river’s health will continue to be compromised,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

American Rivers called on Congress and the Iowa legislature to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize lower cost, non-structural flood management solutions in the Cedar River Basin. Natural, non-structural flood management solutions, like protecting wetlands and restoring floodplains, are cost-effective and can have multiple benefits.

“We have an opportunity to learn from the devastating floods of 1993 and 2008 and rebuild smarter and stronger. We need to incorporate non-structural, natural solutions that provide flood protection, improve water quality, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and provide recreational opportunities and economic benefits to local communities,” said Sean McMahon, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Iowa.

“It is time for Iowans to insist that state and federal flood protection policies work to reduce flood damage by moving people and structures out of harms way, allowing the flood plain to perform its natural function to absorb and slow the river’s flow during future floods,” said  Susan Heathcote with Iowa Environmental Council

“The newly-organized Cedar River Watershed Coalition has recognized the need to take a holistic approach to watershed management by reaching across city and county jurisdictions to take a whole watershed approach to flood mitigation and river restoration.  This innovative group of concerned individuals and communities is committed to working together to reduce the impacts of flooding in the watershed and to improve water quality in the Cedar River,” said Rosalyn Lehman with Iowa Rivers Revival.

By 2008, the Cedar River had had two 500-year floods within 15 years. Rain falls on a radically changed landscape: plowed fields have replaced tall grass prairies; streams and creeks have been straightened; 90 percent of wetlands have been destroyed; floodplains have been filled and developed; and flows have doubled in just the last half century. Even without factoring in possible effects of climate change, which would exacerbate the problems, the landscape changes will bring more frequent and severe floods. The communities along the Cedar River deserve better, 21st century flood protection solutions to ensure public safety and river health.

The Cedar River, a tributary to the Mississippi River, provides drinking water to more than 120,000 residents, and roughly 530,000 people live and work in the Cedar River watershed. The primary land use in the watershed is agriculture and the river is a popular place for boating and fishing. The river is home to globally rare plant communities and fish and wildlife, including two species of endangered mussels.

About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™

Each year, American Rivers reviews nominations for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers™  report from river groups and concerned citizens across the country. Rivers are selected based upon the following criteria:

  • A major decision (that the public can help influence) in the coming year on the proposed action
  • The significance of the threat to human and natural communities
  • The degree to which the proposed action would exacerbate or alleviate stresses caused by climate change

The report is a call to action and emphasizes solutions for the rivers and their communities. By shining the spotlight on key decisions that will impact the rivers, and by providing clear actions the public can take on their behalf, the report is a powerful tool for saving these important rivers.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ is sponsored by Orvis, the oldest mail order company in the US, which has been outfitting customers for the sporting traditions since 1856. Orvis is a long-time supporter of American Rivers.  This is the second consecutive year that they have sponsored America’s Most Endangered Rivers and have also provided American Rivers with a 2010 Conservation Grant.  Orvis donates 5% of their pre-tax profits annually to protect nature.
 
Interviews
American Rivers Senior Vice President for Conservation Andrew Fahlund and Director of Flood Management Shana Udvardy are available for interviews, both pre and post embargo.  Please contact Amy Kober, 206-898-3864 for booking.

Reporters wishing to direct readers to the report online may use the following link:  www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.