Environmental Protection

Upper Delaware Is Most Threatened, American Rivers Says

American Rivers on June 2 released America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ of 2010. The 25th anniversary edition of the report spotlights 10 rivers facing the most urgent threats, and also features key endangered river success stories from the past two decades.

The No.1 river on the list is the Upper Delaware, where gas drilling threatens the drinking water for 17 million people across New York and Pennsylvania.

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.

American Rivers thanks The History Channel and Orvis for their support of the report. The list, ranked from 1 to 10, follows.

Upper Delaware River
This clean water source is threatened by natural gas extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale, where chemicals are injected into the ground creating untreatable toxic wastewater. The Delaware River Basin Commission must not issue permits for gas drilling in this watershed until a thorough study of impacts is completed. Congress must also pass the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009.

Sacramento – San Joaquin (Calif.)
California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta supplies drinking water for 25 million people, irrigates the most productive agricultural land in the country, and provides critical habitat for the Pacific salmon fishery and millions of migratory birds. However, outdated water supply and flood management systems have decimated the ecosystem and closed the commercial salmon fishery all while leaving Californians more vulnerable to droughts and floods. Decisions by Gov. Schwarzenegger in the last months of his term could advance river restoration, but only if powerful interests do not prevail in perpetuating the failed policies of the past.

Gauley River (W.V.)
The Gauley River is internationally famous for its whitewater, contributing approximately $16 million in annual revenue to West Virginia from commercial rafting. The river also supports trout and bass but is scarred by coal mining impacts and subjected to degradation from ongoing mining activity. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and cooperating agencies must stop the permitting of mine activity that harms the clean water and natural areas that are essential to the health and heritage of Appalachian communities.

Little River (N.C.)
The Little River, home to an abundance of fish and wildlife, provides drinking water, irrigation, and recreation to surrounding communities. A proposed water supply dam would not only cost taxpayers millions, it would severely harm the river's health. American Rivers proposes comprehensive water efficiency measures and expanding existing water supply reservoirs. Raleigh and Wake County should pursue these smarter and cheaper alternatives, and protect the valuable resources of the Little River.

Cedar River (La.)
The Cedar River provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife and is a popular destination for paddlers and anglers. Outdated flood management and poor watershed planning are impacting public health and safety by causing pollution and increasing the risk of flood damage. The Iowa legislature must work with the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize lower cost, non-structural flood management solutions on the Cedar River.

Upper Colorado River (Colo.)
The Upper Colorado River and its tributaries are home to prized trout fisheries, drawing anglers and paddlers from across the country. If two new major proposed diversion projects advance without the right provisions, the river could become a shadow of its former self. Conversely, if the projects move forward with appropriate foresight and consideration for the long-term protection of the river’s health, it could usher in a new era of stewardship and recovery for the Upper Colorado. The regulatory agencies, conservation interests, and people of Colorado must insist that the water projects contain key protections for river health.

Chetco River (Ore.)
Chetco River, designated a National Wild and Scenic River, boasts pristine waters and the prized opportunity to fish for healthy, abundant wild salmon and trout. However, this natural gem is threatened by proposals to mine nearly half its length with suction dredges. As requested by Oregon’s Sens. Wyden and Merkley, Rep. DeFazio, and Gov. Kulongoski, U.S Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Salazar should immediately withdraw the Chetco from entry under the 1872 Mining Law. This will allow time to pass legislation to permanently safeguard the river from this mining proposal. 

Teton (Idaho)
The Teton River is a western treasure, home to abundant wildlife including the rare Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The river supports a tremendous recreational fishery and whitewater boating. Water users and the state of Idaho want to rebuild the Teton Dam – a dam that catastrophically failed 35 years ago. The state and the Bureau of Reclamation should promote more cost-effective, reliable water supply solutions that focus on conservation and smarter water management. 

Monongahela River (W.V., Pa.)
The Monongahela River provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people, and is home to some of the East Coast’s best fishing, whitewater boating, and wildlife. The river and its clean water are threatened by toxic pollution created by natural gas extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, and the states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia must act to prohibit pollution associated with Marcellus Shale drilling to protect the region’s clean water for future generations.

Coosa River (Ala.)
The Coosa River is a cultural icon of the South and home to a rare and unique fish, snails, and mussels. The construction of seven large hydropower dams in the mid 1900s turned the river into a series of reservoirs and caused the largest mass extinction in U.S. history. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must meet its responsibility to insist on strong protections for the river's endangered wildlife in the license that will allow Alabama Power Company to operate these dams for the next 50 years. The Coosa will serve as a test as to whether federal agencies are committed to environmentally sustainable hydropower operations.

Key successes featured include the Elwha River; Hanford Reach of the Columbia River; Alsek and Tatshenshini rivers; Klamath River; San Mateo Creek; Tuolumne River; North Fork of the Flathead River; Blackfoot River; Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River; Neches River; Santa Fe River; Guadalupe River; McCrystal Creek; Minnesota River; Wolf River; Penobscot River; Ipswich River; Hudson River; Susquehanna River; Big Sunflower River; Altamaha River; and Tennessee River.

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