Global Warming Places Rivers Across the Nation at Risk
America's Most Endangered RiversTM: 2008 EditionApril 17th, 2008
Garrett Russo, American Rivers, (202) 423-9494
Amy Kober, American Rivers, (206) 213-0330 x 23
Washington, DC — From water mismanagement in the southeast and southwest, to ill-advised projects in the gulf coast and the nation’s heartland, across the country our nation’s rivers and fresh water resources are at risk. Those risks are only exacerbated by the problems created by global warming. The release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™: 2008 Edition shows how a collection of backwards looking decision makers all across the country are using 19th century thinking, in a misguided attempt to solve the 21st century problems we are facing as a nation.
“Water will be the oil of the 21st century,” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers. “Yet all across the country, water mismanagement is on full display as politicians resort to placing another straw in their rivers, or outright stealing water from their neighbors, instead of adopting water policies that will make our communities more resilient in the face of global warming.”
Being named as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ is not an end for the river, but rather a beginning. With the listing comes a national spotlight and action from thousands of activists across the country. These ten rivers have a chance to be reborn, and to serve as models for other rivers all across America.
“These 10 rivers are at a crossroads, and the choices made by local and national decision makers will determine not only the rivers’ future, but the future of America’s fresh water resources,” added Wodder. “Water is a precious resource, we must treat it as such; the future of our communities, our nation, and our planet depends on it.”
#1: Catawba-Wateree River (NC/SC)
While the entire Southeastern United States suffers the effects of drought, policy makers are battling to take more water from the Catawba-Wateree River, rather than focusing on 21st century policies like water conservation and smart development. Without a major change in direction in public policy, the river that provides drinking water for millions of people, pumps tens of millions of dollars into local economies, and is directly responsible for thousands of jobs could be irreparably damaged; and the communities that depend on it will suffer.
Lawmakers in the Carolina’s are among the first to reach this ominous fork in the road, and the direction they choose to take will affect water policy in the Southeast for generations to come.
#2: Rogue River (OR)
One of our country’s original Wild and Scenic rivers could soon have its wild character destroyed if a plan to log key Rogue River tributaries moves forward. The clearcuts would choke the river with sediment and harm the unique river experience that draws thousands of boaters and anglers each year. The fate of the Rouge lies in the hands of Congress, who should pass legislation to grant Wild and Scenic River protections to 98 miles of vital tributaries in the lower Rogue canyon and designate the unprotected roadless areas in the Rogue canyon as Wilderness Areas.
#3: Poudre River (CO)
Colorado’s only Wild and Scenic River could soon lose much of its remaining water thanks to a scheme proposed by some decision makers to unnecessarily divert billions of gallons of water away from the Cache la Poudre. Such action could cripple Fort Collins, which has christened the river as one of the town’s “economic engines.” The proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) would cost homeowners and taxpayers almost a billion dollars, and subject residents and future generations to the debt for 30 years. NISP would divert a staggering 36 million gallons of water a day away from the river before it reaches Fort Collins, enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every 8 minutes.
#4: St. Lawrence River (NY/Canada)
Tens of millions of people in two countries depend everyday on the St. Lawrence River. The health and vitality of this iconic North American waterway is threatened by outdated management plans of the Moses-Saunders Dam that date back to the Eisenhower Administration. These 50 year old polices continue to harm the river that supplies drinking water to large sections of the United States and Canada. The antiquated management plan for the dam is up for revision. Research conducted by more than 180 scientists from both countries agree that the river’s vitality can be improved by implementing a plan known as B+
#5: Minnesota River (MN)
The first major tributary to the Mighty Mississippi could soon be robbed of much of its water, thanks to a misguided plan that would build an unnecessary coal power plant on the shores of Big Stone Lake. Not only would the proposed Big Stone II project suck more than 6 million gallons of water a day from the Minnesota River, but it would also emit massive amounts of green house gasses and mercury into the air, crippling the river that brings tens of millions of dollars into the regional economy, and spelling disaster for the wildlife that call the Minnesota River home.
#6: St. Johns River (FL)
Florida’s longest river could soon be robbed of much of its water in a misguided attempt to quench the unending thirst of out-of-control development in the Sunshine State. The St. Johns River, one of only 14 American Heritage Rivers in the entire country, is home to an ecological wonderland that may be damaged or destroyed by the water grab. The plan would be equally catastrophic for the thriving economies in the region that depend on tourism and recreation dollars. Some of the fastest growing counties in America lie in the St Johns’ watershed and the region’s population is expected to double to more than 6 million people by 2025. Yet water conservation is not a priority for either the St. Johns River Water Management District or the state as a whole. The average Floridian uses 160 gallons of water a day; the average American uses only 100. Conservation is the answer that will protect the St. Johns and allow Florida to continue to grow.
#7 Gila River (NM/AZ)
New Mexico’s last free flowing river could soon see a significant portion of its water stolen thanks to a misguided and expensive water diversion proposal. If enacted, the project could deplete a desert oasis, and shove hundreds of millions of dollars of debt onto taxpayers’ shoulders, who would be forced to pay off the unnecessary boondoggle for generations to come. As the entire Southwest deals with issues of water scarcity, water managers deciding the fate of the Gila should know that the eyes of America are on them.
#8 Allagash Wilderness Waterway (ME)
One of the most important wild rivers in the entire country is being jeopardized by development pressures and a lack of political leadership. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine’s only nationally designated Wild and Scenic River, is slowly seeing its protections degraded. As a result, an incredible link to America’s past could be destroyed. A newly appointed advisory council is deciding what to do next on the Allagash. Conservation groups say the Council should advocate for legislative reaffirmation of the original mandate to enhance the “maximum wilderness character” of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The plan should restrict motor vehicle access, reduce logging roads and bridges, preserve the native fishery, and designate areas for non-motorized winter recreation.
#9 Pearl River (LA/MS)
A massive development scheme masquerading as flood protection, threatens the Pearl Rivers, and shows that the painful lessons of Hurricane Katrina still haven’t been learned. At risk are a thriving recreational and fishing industry, and the source of natural flood protection to countless communities along its banks. The danger has been compounded by failed leadership at the Corps of Engineers, which has refused to look beyond the dangerous scheme and develop a comprehensive approach to flooding and environmental problems along the Pearl. Developers and local politicians are pushing plans to dam and dredge the Pearl to create man-made lakes and islands for commercial development. Also under consideration are large earthen levees, similar to those that failed in New Orleans. All told, almost 140 square miles of wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests would be dredged or drowned.
#10 Niobrara River (NE)
One of Nebraska’s biggest tourist attractions, and one of the state’s most beautiful rivers, is slowly losing water and in danger of losing more. The Niobrara River, a Wild and Scenic River that attracts tens of thousands of paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts to the nation’s heartland, could soon be dewatered. In addition to supporting a booming tourist economy, the Niobrara supports irrigation of more than 600,000 acres. Additional irrigation applications are currently pending with Nebraska’s Department of Natural Resources. These additional irrigation applications threaten to upset that balance, damaging the Niobrara today and they will make surrounding communities even less resilient to the potential impacts of global warming.
About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™
Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer watchdogs for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ report. The report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.
The America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ Report results in thousands of supporters taking action on behalf of their beloved river. Such action produces immediate and tangible results. To see success stories visit www.americanrivers.org/MERSuccesses
Rebecca Wodder is available for interview, both pre and post embargo. Our offices are just blocks away from all major news bureaus. Please contact Garrett Russo at (202) 423-9494 for booking. The full report is available at www.americanrivers.org/MERPressroom