American Rivers Releases Endangered List

From water mismanagement in the Southeast and Southwest to ill-advised projects in the Gulf Coast and the nation's Heartland, America's rivers and fresh water resources are at risk. Those risks are only exacerbated by the problems created by global warming. America's Most Endangered Rivers™: 2008 Edition shows how 19th century thinking won't solve 21st century problems.

"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," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

The group said that the listing actually helps the rivers as they enter the national spotlight and concerned activists begin their work.

This year's 10 rivers are:

1. Catawba-Wateree River (North Carolina and South Carolina). Policy makers are battling to take more water from the Catawba-Wateree River, rather than focusing on water conservation and smart development. Without a major change in public policy, the river could be irreparably damaged; and the communities that depend on it will suffer. It provides drinking water for millions of people, pumps tens of millions of dollars into local economies, and is directly responsible for thousands of jobs.

2. Rogue River (Oregon). This Wild and Scenic River could have its wild character destroyed if a plan to log key Rogue River tributaries moves forward. The clearcuts would choke the river with sediment. 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 (Colorado). Colorado's only Wild and Scenic River could lose its water thanks to a scheme to 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.

4. St. Lawrence River (New York/Canada). The health and vitality of this waterway is threatened by outdated management plans of the Moses-Saunders Dam that date back to the Eisenhower Administration. These policies continue to harm the river that supplies drinking water to large sections of the United States and Canada. The dam's management plan is up for revision. Research conducted by more than 180 scientists from both countries show that the river's vitality can be improved by implementing a plan known as B+.

5. Minnesota River (Minnesota). The first major tributary to the Mississippi River could be robbed of its water, thanks to a plan that would build a coal power plant on the shores of Big Stone Lake. The proposed Big Stone II project would drain more than 6 million gallons of water a day from the Minnesota River.

6. St. Johns River (Florida). The St. Johns River, one of only 14 American Heritage Rivers in the country, is home to an ecological wonderland that may be damaged or destroyed by a water grab. The plan would be catastrophic for 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.

7. Gila River (New Mexico/Arizona). New Mexico's last free-flowing river could see a significant portion of its water taken because of a water diversion proposal. If enacted, the project could deplete a desert oasis and shove hundreds of millions of dollars of debt onto taxpayers' shoulders.

8. Allagash Wilderness Waterway (Maine). The Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine's only nationally designated Wild and Scenic River, is slowly seeing its protections degraded. 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 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 (Louisiana/Mississippi). A massive development scheme masquerading as flood protection threatens the Pearl River 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. 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 (Nebraska). A Wild and Scenic River that attracts tens of thousands of paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts to the nation's heartland, this river could be dewatered. In addition to supporting tourism, the Niobrara supports irrigation of more than 600,000 acres. Additional irrigation applications are pending with Nebraska's Department of Natural Resources. These additional irrigation applications threaten to upset that balance, damaging the Niobrara, and they will make surrounding communities even less resilient to the potential impacts of global warming.

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