Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers Among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014

April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014


(Washington, DC) – American Rivers named the Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa rivers among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014 today, shining a national spotlight on the threat that megaload shipments bound for the Canadian tar sands pose to the rivers’ unique Wild and Scenic character.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Scott Bosse of American Rivers. “If the Forest Service allows the shipment of megaloads along the Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, it will severely undermine the rivers’ scenic and recreational values and diminish the protections afforded by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act nationwide.”

The Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa rivers are threatened by the shipment of massive mining equipment, known as “megaloads,” to aid in tar sands development in Alberta, Canada. The megaloads are hauled up Highway 12, along the rivers, on truck beds and can be as large as 30 feet high, 30 feet wide, 350 feet long, and weigh nearly a million pounds.  During the day, these loads are parked in turnouts along the Wild and Scenic River, creating a visual blight in an otherwise pristine area and blocking access to river recreation.  At night, the transport creates a massive rolling roadblock that interferes with normal highway traffic, presents numerous safety hazards, and degrades visitor experiences.

American Rivers and its partners called on the U.S. Forest Service to ban the shipment of megaloads along the river corridor to protect the rivers’ unique values and stop the industrialization of this Wild and Scenic corridor.

“Wild and Scenic protections were established by Congress to prevent this type of activity in America’s revered river corridors,” said Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United. “If allowed to continue, this sets a dangerous precedent for Wild and Scenic Rivers across the nation.”

“Our customers come from across the country and around the world to experience the natural vitality and tranquility of the Clearwater and Lochsa river canyons,” said Peter Grubb, owner of Idaho-based ROW Adventures, an internationally-renowned adventure travel outfitter, and the Riverdance Lodge, a resort located along the Clearwater River Wild and Scenic corridor. “Megaloads pose a huge threat to the Wild and Scenic character of this magnificent place, and to my guests’ experiences and my business. People don’t travel here to see spaceship-size equipment parked by the river, or lumbering along the rural roadway. They travel here to experience Wild and Scenic rivers.”

Flowing for roughly 100 miles through the Clearwater National Forest, the Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa rivers traverse the homeland of the Nez Perce people. The Middle Fork Clearwater River and one of its main tributaries, the Lochsa River, were among America’s first rivers to be designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Highway 12, which follows the Clearwater, was designated as a National Scenic Byway due to its circuitous route through a narrow river canyon of unparalleled beauty.  This river corridor supports a vibrant recreational economy while remaining an integral component of the Nez Perce Tribe’s way of life.

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 2014:

#1  San Joaquin River
Threat:  Outdated water management and excessive diversions
At Risk:  River health and resilient communities

#2  Upper Colorado River System
Threat:  New trans-mountain water diversions
At Risk:  River health and recreation

#3  Middle Mississippi River
Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky
Threat:  Outdated flood management
At Risk:  Wildlife habitat and public safety

#4  Gila River
New Mexico
Threat:  New water diversions
At Risk:  River health, fish & wildlife, recreation, and tourism

#5  San Francisquito Creek
Threat:  Dam
At Risk:  Fish and wildlife habitat and public safety

#6  South Fork Edisto River
South Carolina
Threat:  Excessive water withdrawals
At Risk:  Fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and water quality

#7  White River (CO)
Threat:  Oil and gas drilling
At Risk:  Drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat

#8  White River (WA)
Threat:  Outdated dam and fish passage facilities
At Risk:  Salmon, steelhead, and bull trout populations

#9  Haw River
North Carolina
Threat:  Polluted runoff
At Risk:  Clean water

#10  Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers
Threat:  Industrialization of a Wild and Scenic River corridor
At risk:  Scenery, solitude, world-class recreational values

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 250,000 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.