America’s Most Endangered Rivers List

America may be filled with beautiful rivers and streams, but some of the country's most notable waterways are also its most endangered. Released Tuesday, the 2012 America’s Most Endangered Rivers list examines the most threatened waterways in the U.S. and the human activities that jeopardize their quality.

At the top of the list is the Potomac River. According to American Rivers' report, the river is threatened by both agricultural and urban pollution, along with attempts to roll back the Clean Water Act. The group notes that the polluted Potomac was deemed a "national disgrace” by President Johnson in 1965, and, according to TreeHugger, was a catalyst for the 1972 Clean Water Act.

American Rivers president Bob Irvin said in a statement that the list, "underscores how important clean water is to our drinking water, health, and economy. If Congress slashes clean water protections, more Americans will get sick and communities and businesses will suffer. We simply cannot afford to go back to a time when the Potomac and rivers nationwide were too polluted to use.”

Several rivers on the list -- in Wyoming, Ohio and West Virginia -- are threatened by natural resource extraction, including natural gas development and mountaintop removal coal mining. Wyoming's Hoback River, the report explains, could face the "likely impacts" of fracking, including pollution, water loss and wildlife displacement.

For the Hoback, the report recommends that "the leaseholder should agree to sell or donate its oil and gas leases to a conservation buyer." The report argues that to protect northeastern Ohio's Grand River from negative impacts of natural gas development, the state must "require the highest standards" for monitoring and testing chemicals and wastewater related to fracking.

American Rivers notes in their report that theirs "is not a list of the nation’s 'worst' or most polluted rivers, but rather it highlights rivers confronted by critical decisions that will determine their future." (Source)

America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2012:

1. The Potomac River (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Washington D.C.) is threatened by pollution and rollbacks to the Clean Water Act.

2. The Green River (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado) is threatened by unsustainable water withdrawals affecting local fish and wildlife habitats and opportunities for river recreation.

3. The Chattahoochee River (Georgia) is threatened by possible new dams and reservoirs which would increase water withdrawals and destroy tributary streams.

4. The Missouri River (Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) is threatened by the outdated methods of flood management, which increase the risk of damage to both habitat and personal safety.

5. The Hoback River (Wyoming) is under threat from new natural gas development using the controversial hydraulic fracturing methods (fracking). This could endanger both surface and groundwater by exposure to toxic fracking fluids, as well as upset the fragile balance of wildlife and the natural ecosystems in the area.

6. The Grand River (Ohio) is also being threatened by natural gas development, also using the fracking process to release it from Ohio's extensive shale gas deposits.

7. The South Fork Skykomish River (Washington) is under the threat of proposed new hydropower dam, which would all but erase two iconic waterfalls, the 40' high Canyon Falls and the 104' high Sunset Falls, as well as affect wildlife habitats and water quality in the area.

8. The Crystal River, one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in Colorado, is being threatened by a proposed dam and 4,000 acre-foot reservoir, a significant water diversion from its largest tributary, and a hydropower dam and another 5,000 acre-foot reservoir on another of its tributaries, Yank Creek.

9. The Coal River, West Virginia’s second longest river, is being increasingly threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining (which has already buried, poisoned, and destroyed miles of streams in the Coal River basin), which adversely affects not only wildlife health, but human health in those communities.

10. The Kansas River, the state's most popular recreational river, is already threatened by sand and gravel dredging (to the tune of 2.2 million tons removed each year), with proposed increases by private dredging companies. The dredging causes erosion damage and increases the sedimentation, contamination, and pollution of the watercourse by churning up old industrial pollutants already in the river (such as heavy metals and PCBs).

Today, it’s time for all of us to stand up for our health, our environment and our communities by taking action to protect clean water and help ensure that we have clean water in our nation's rivers.

[About American Rivers: American Rivers is the leading conservation organization fighting for healthy rivers so communities can thrive. American Rivers protects and restores the nation’s rivers and the clean water that sustains people, wildlife, and nature.]


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