Big Darby Creek named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2019

April 16, 2019

Reckless development threatens clean water in National Scenic River


Katie Rousseau, American Rivers, (419) 215-7748

John Tetzloff, Darby Creek Association, (614) 288-0313

David Miller, Ohio Environmental Council, (419) 944-1986

Washington, D.C. – American Rivers today named Ohio’s Big Darby Creek among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2019, citing the grave threat that urban sprawl poses to this National Scenic River’s clean water and wildlife. American Rivers and its partners called on Columbus, Plain City, West Jefferson, and Madison and Union Counties to produce a science-based development plan to inform how much, and what type, of development will be sustainable and protect Big Darby Creek for future generations.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that face a critical decision in the coming year,” said Katie Rousseau with American Rivers. “Unless local leaders prioritize protection of Big Darby Creek and its clean water, one of the Midwest’s most pristine streams will be irreparably damaged by reckless development.”

Some developers are attempting to bypass an agreement forged in 2006 (the Darby Accord) meant to protect sensitive natural areas and clean water from poorly planned development. Research shows that the health of streams starts to decline from impervious surface (such as roads, buildings and parking lots) at around five percent impervious cover. The level of building proposed near Big Darby Creek would put that region of the watershed well above that threshold.

“Big Darby Creek stands at a crossroads. An unprecedented push by developers into the very heart of the watershed threatens to unravel decades of preservation efforts by central Ohio communities. We must press pause until all jurisdictions can agree on a plan to limit development to a sustainable level,” said John Tetzloff, President of the Darby Creek Association.

“The Big Darby is one of Ohio’s most valued natural resources,” said Kristy Meyer, Vice President of Policy, Ohio Environmental Council. “It is a place of exploration, fishing, boating and wonder for kids and adults alike. Due to mounting development pressure, all of the experiences on Big Darby and the wildlife, including numerous rare and endangered mussels and fish, are under threat. We must do everything we can to preserve this special place in Ohio for our children and grandchildren.”

Big Darby Creek is unique in that it is a National Scenic River adjacent to a major metropolitan area. The creek provides an important recreational and natural area for the more than two million people living in the Columbus region. It offers some of the best canoeing and smallmouth bass fishing in the state. Big Darby is most valued for its aquatic biodiversity, which includes over 100 fish and 44 freshwater mussel species.

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 2019

#1 Gila River, New Mexico
Gov. Grisham must choose a healthier, more cost-effective way to provide water to agriculture than by drying up the state’s last major free-flowing river.

#2 Hudson River, New York

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must consider effective, nature-based alternatives to storm-surge barriers that would choke off this biologically rich tidal estuary.

#3 Upper Mississippi River, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri

State and federal agencies must enforce laws that prohibit illegal levees, which increase flood risk for communities and degrade vital fish and wildlife habitat.

#4 Green-Duwamish River, Washington

Local leaders must produce a flood protection plan that safeguards communities and restores habitat for chinook salmon — fish that are essential to the diet of Puget Sound’s endangered orca whales.

#5 Willamette River, Oregon

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must immediately improve 13 dams to save wild chinook salmon and steelhead from going extinct.

#6 Chilkat River, Alaska

The Japanese investment firm, DOWA, must do the responsible thing and back out of a mining project that could decimate native salmon.

#7 South Fork Salmon River, Idaho

The U.S. Forest Service must safeguard endangered fish by denying a mining proposal that could pollute this tributary of the Wild and Scenic Salmon River.

#8 Buffalo National River, Arkansas

Gov. Hutchinson must demand closure of an industrial hog-farming facility that pollutes groundwater and threatens endangered species.

#9 Big Darby Creek, Ohio

Local leaders must use state-of-the-art science to craft a responsible development plan that protects this pristine stream.

#10 Stikine River, Alaska

The International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada must protect the river’s clean water, fish and wildlife, and indigenous communities by stopping harmful, polluting mines.

2019’s “River of the Year”: Cuyahoga River, Ohio

American Rivers celebrates the progress Cleveland has made in cleaning up the Cuyahoga River, fifty years since the river’s famous fire that sparked the nation’s environmental movement.



American Rivers believes every community in our country should have clean water and a healthy river. Since 1973, we have been protecting wild rivers, restoring damaged rivers and conserving clean water for people and nature. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., and offices across the country, we are the most effective river conservation organization in the United States, delivering solutions that will last for generations to come. Con