Crystal River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers

Dams and water diversions threaten wildlife, recreation

May 15th, 2012

Matt Rice, American Rivers, (303) 454-3395
John Ely, Pitkin County attorney, (970) 920-5190
William Jochems, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board,
(970) 963-3662
Dorothea Farris, Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association,
(970) 963-9509
Delia G. Malone, Ecologist, Colorado Natural Heritage Program,
(970) 963-2143
John C. Emerick, Colorado School of Mines, (970) 963-2143

Washington, D.C. – American Rivers named the Crystal River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® today, shining a national spotlight on the threat dams and water diversions pose to spectacular recreation and fish and wildlife habitat. 

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point,” said Matt Rice, Colorado Conservation Director for American Rivers. “We all need healthy rivers for our drinking water, health, economy, and quality of life. We hope citizens will join us to ensure a healthy Crystal River for generations to come.”

The Crystal River is threatened with a hydropower dam and 4,000 acre-foot reservoir between Redstone and Marble; a significant water diversion from Avalanche Creek, the largest tributary to the Crystal; and a hydropower dam and 5,000 acre-foot reservoir on Yank Creek, a tributary. These proposed projects will substantially degrade the river and the surrounding area. Fish, wildlife, and habitat will be diminished and the scenic qualities of the river valley — along with recreation and related economic values — will be degraded.

American Rivers and its partners called on local water districts to reject the dam proposals and support federal Wild and Scenic River designation for the Crystal River, while embracing more efficient and cost-effective water supply solutions.

“Our rivers and streams continue to be under assault from competing interests that too often do not consider the value intrinsic in the ecosystems that rivers and streams create, nurture, and sustain.  If we are to preserve our rivers, public awareness of the threats and impending changes facing these ecosystems is essential,” said John Ely, an attorney for Pitkin County.

“Our spectacular and untamed Crystal River deserves to be saved as a healthy, free-flowing and sustainable stream,” said Bill Jochems, with the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board.

“As stewards of our fragile environment, each of us has a responsibility to preserve and protect our rivers, our lands, and our quality of life.  The integrity of the Crystal River and the Crystal River Valley is our challenge.  Working together, we can maintain the integrity of the wild, scenic and recreational qualities of the Crystal for today’s and future generations,” said Dorothea Farris, with the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association.

“As the Crystal tumbles down from the high peaks of the Maroon Bells Wilderness, its waters provide both humans and wild critters with the essence of life itself. Maintaining the free-flowing character of the Crystal is a must. We are determined to conserve this natural wonder and the life that depends upon its flows,” said Delia Malone, an ecologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program.

The Crystal River provides essential habitat for fish and wildlife, beautiful vistas and recreation for visitors, and is one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in Colorado.

Now in its 27th year, the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers®  report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2012:
#1: Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC)
Threat: Pollution
At risk: Clean water and public health

#2: Green River (WY, UT, CO)
Threat: Water withdrawals
At risk: Recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat

#3: Chattahoochee River (GA)
Threat: New dams and reservoirs
At risk: Clean water and healthy fisheries

#4: Missouri River (IA, KS, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY)
Threat: Outdated flood management
At risk: Public safety

#5: Hoback River (WY)
Threat: Natural gas development
At stake: Clean water and world-class fish and wildlife

#6: Grand River (OH)
Threat: Natural gas development
At risk: Clean water and public health

#7: South Fork Skykomish River (WA)
Threat: New dam
At risk: Habitat and recreation

#8: Crystal River (CO)
Threat: Dams and water diversions
At risk: Fish, wildlife, and recreation

#9: Coal River (WV)
Threat: Mountaintop removal coal mining
At risk: Clean water and public health

#10: Kansas River (KS)
Threat: Sand and gravel dredging
At risk: Public health and wildlife habitat


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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.