On April 10 American Rivers, the nation's leading river conservation organization, released the 15th Annual Most Endangered Rivers Report. After reviewing nominees submitted by grassroots and watershed organizations nationwide, the American Rivers conservation staff evaluated and ranked the rivers based strongly on: the magnitude and imminence of the threatened river, and whether or not there is a decision point in the near future that will either magnify or eliminate the threat.
Named the Number 1 Most Endangered River for the second year in a row, the lower Snake River has both these forces impeding on its prosperity. Explains Rebecca R. Wodder, President of American Rivers, during the release of America's Most Endangered Rivers 2000, "Our government is about to decide whether to leave the dams there, or order them removed to save these gravely endangered salmon - and further delay means extinction." Wodder adds that America has "built 75,000 of these dams over 6 feet tall on America's rivers. Such dams threaten 4 of the 5 most endangered rivers on this year's list."
Ruhooked.com has compiled a synopsis of these endangered rivers and their respective threats:
Snake River WA
Threat: Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite Federal Dams
Synopsi: The Clinton-Gore Administration will decide the fate of these 4 dams this summer. Proponents advocate this is essential to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts. In 1999 not one chinook salmon returned to spawning grounds in 2 Snake River tributaries. Opponents would rather invest in salmon hatchery reform programs, replenishing diminished populations, but not necessarily encouraging natural habitation.
Missouri River MT, ND, SD, NE, MO, IA, KS
Threat: Dams and Barge Canals
Synopsi: Meandering channels with thousands of islands, sandbars and a vast floodplain has become rock-lined for barge canals and slackwater reservoirs. Although there is no mention of dam removal, The Army Corps of Engineers are currently considering managing water flows to help restore some natural wildlife habitat. A final decision is scheduled in July.
Ventura River CA
Threat: The Matilija Dam and Funding
Synopsi: Few disagree that the Matilija Dam is detrimental to its endangered steelhead population, or that it inhibits natural sedimentary deposits on the southern California beaches. Local, state and federal agencies have already taken steps to remove the dam. But despite these forward movements, the lack of funding keeps the Matilija standing. By making this a top priority, authorities could then allocate more funding to this cause.
Cooper River Delta AK
Threat: Proposed Logging Road
Synopsi: The Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC) wants to build a logging access road across this 700,000-acre wetlands world-renown for its salmon runs. Planned to lay 30 miles east of the Copper River, this road could also invite additional future development. Currently there is an aggressive grassroots conservation initiative to offer the CAC other sources of financial gain. The Chugach National Forest Service is also currently revising their land management plan and will present a draft this spring. If there is enough support to designate this area as a wilderness, the CAC would no longer be a threat.
Tri-State River Basin AL, GA, FL
Threat: Dams, Urban Growth, Water Withdrawals, & Non-point Source Pollution
Synopsi: This once lush area is becoming increasingly arid due to the rapidly developing and water-hungry southeast. These 3 states have until May 1 to develop a plan that addresses the over-consumption of water in the area while complying with environmental laws.
Coal River WV
Threat: Mountaintop Removal Mining
Synopsi: Last October the federal district court in WV halted permission to fill valleys with mining waste, a result of decapitating a mountaintop for extracting coal. This ruling was made under both The Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act and The Clean Water Act. Unfortunately the state DEP filed an appeal immediately, claiming that valley fills do not violate the aforementioned acts. In June a draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on mountaintop removal mining will be released to the public for feedback.
Rio Grande CO, NM, TX, Mexico
Threat: Excessive Water Diversion and Overconsumption, Flood and Irrigation Projects, Land Development and Pollution
Synopsi: The 5th longest river in the US, almost 95% of the Rio's average annual flow is diverted for irrigation and municipal use. Due to their declining supply of groundwater aquifers, the populations pressures of Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and El Paso are proposing plans to draw up to 50% of their drinking water from the Rio Grande. Right now there is a bill in Congress that would transfer irrigation managerial rights from the Bureau of Reclamation to The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, a poorly regulated irrigation district in New Mexico. The cities of Albuquerque and El Paso will also release Environmental Impact Statements regarding diversion for municipal consumption for public feedback this summer.
Mississippi and White Rivers MN, WI, IL, IA, MO, KY, TN, AR, MS
Threat: Flood Control and Navigation Projects
Synopsi: The US Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to channel even more of the Mississippi and White Rivers in an effort to increase barge traffic. However opponents are not convinced that barge traffic will indeed increase. By expanding and reforming the Habitat Restoration Projects along the Mississippi, correcting the Navigation Forecast Studies, rejecting the White River Navigation Expansion Project and re-evaluating the use of expansive wetlands instead of uplands for Flood Control Projects, the Corps and Clinton administration would take great steps in protecting the welfare of the Mississippi and White Rivers.
North Fork Feather River CA
Threat: Hydropower Dams, Energy Deregulation, and the sale of Pacific Space Gas & Electric
Synopsi: Energy market forces promote Hydropower Dam because they can turn them on and off at the flick of a switch, which unfortunately causes high fluctuations in water flows. Add this in with California's preference toward energy deregulation and these fluctuations could change with the whim of the market. To top it off, these hydropower dams on the North Fork Feather are undergoing federal regulatory review for the first time in 50 years, which is good. Unfortunately, each project will be relicensed separately which could lead to an even greater disruption in the river's flow. Even more disconcerting is the fact that Pacific Space Gas & Electric (PSG&E) will sell its entire hydropower system to the highest bidder. Parties ranging from multinational energy corporations to local counties have already shown interest. This spring the CA Public Utilities Commission will hold public hearings whether this sale is in the public's interest.
Clear Creek TX
Threat: Houston's Flood-control Project
Synopsi: The Army Corps of Engineers, and city officials propose to convert one of Houston's last remaining bayous into a uniform channel in order to contain floods. Although the Corps claims this will help, opponents propose this will cost $120 million, fail to protect suburbs and increase flooding around Clear Lake. Congress and the Clinton-Gore Administration need to continue reforming national flood control policies in favor of promoting non-structural alternatives like relocation and land acquisition.
Green River UT, CO
Threat: Flaming Gorge Dam
Synopsi: The Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River has consistently been run to maximize electricity production. Downstream through Canyonlands National Park, at least four fish populations have been placed on the federal Endangered Species list at the cost of the Flaming Gorge's productivity. During this next year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and Western Area Power Administration will review the management of Flaming Gorge's future operations. So far, adequate restoration initiatives have not been pursued in either of the two federal agencies draft proposals.
Clark Fork River MT, ID
Threat: Proposed Rock Creek Mine
Synopsi: The Clark Fork Superfund Complex, a for-profit company, is planning to mine silver and copper out of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area at the site of Rock Creek, a major tributary to the Clark Fork River. Although, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has already deemed this area crucial to bull trout recovery efforts, the complex would discard 3 million gallons of treated wastewater daily, right into Rock Creek. Another 29,000 gallons of contaminants would leak daily into the groundwater. The US Forest Service, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are all involved in creating an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) due out this summer. The Forest Service and Environmental Quality Department will then issue a Records of Decision to permit or deny the permit application