Photo: John McTarnaghan
Find out if one of them is near you and how you can take action.
The America’s Most Endangered Rivers® list is one of the best-known and longest-lived annual reports in the environmental movement.
It is a call to action to engage concerned citizens in the fight to protect rivers.
American Rivers named the Potomac River—known as ‘the nation’s river’ as it flows through the capital—the most endangered in the country. While the Potomac is cleaner than it used to be, the river is still threatened by urban and agricultural pollution. And it could get much worse if Congress rolls back critical clean water safeguards.
As our country commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act this year, the Potomac is emblematic of what’s at stake for rivers nationwide. American Rivers launched a national call to action, giving citizens the opportunity to contact members of Congress and speak up for clean water—see http://www.americanrivers.org/EndangeredRivers.
This year’s Most Endangered Rivers 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 and dangerous to use.
~ Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers
Before the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, the Potomac was a cesspool of sewage and industrial pollution. Thanks to the Clean Water Act, the Potomac and rivers across the country are cleaner and safer for drinking, boating, and fishing. But the Potomac is still suffering—a University of Maryland report card has given the river a “D” grade for water quality for the past two years.
“The Clean Water Act is the reason the Potomac River is no longer called a “national disgrace.” Most of the palpable problems are gone; however, there are many emerging threats that can’t be seen. Residents of the Washington D.C. metro area—including the President and Congress—need to realize they are composed mostly of Potomac river water and they need to protect and enforce the laws that safeguard their health,” said Ed Merrifield, President of Potomac Riverkeeper.
“We need strong federal leadership as we redouble our efforts at the local level to achieve the goal of a healthy, clean Potomac,” said Hedrick Belin, President of the Potomac Conservancy. “We look forward to partnering with American Rivers, Potomac Riverkeeper, and others to continue to make progress cleaning up the Nation’s River. This regional treasure contributes so much to our community’s quality of life, and our neighborhoods deserve healthy, clean streams and creeks.”
“When members of Congress fill a glass of water or drink their morning coffee, that water comes from the Potomac River. It’s time to draw the clear connections between healthy rivers, drinking water, and public health in Washington, DC, and in communities nationwide,” said Irvin.
American Rivers called on Congress to kill any legislation that weakens the Clean Water Act or prevents the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from restoring protections for small streams and wetlands under the Act.
American Rivers also called on the Obama Administration to finalize guidance clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act and issue a rule-making to ensure that all waters get the protections Americans expect and deserve.
Now in its 27th year, 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.
#1: Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC)
At risk: Clean water and public health
The Potomac is the ‘nation’s river,’ rich in culture and history and the lifeblood of our nation’s capital. The river provides drinking water to more than five million people and offers abundant opportunities for recreation. However, the Potomac is threatened by agricultural and urban pollution that will only get worse if Congress rolls back national clean water protections. If Congress puts polluters before people, our nation’s river—and many other rivers nationwide—will become a threat to public health, unsafe for drinking water, wildlife or recreation.
#2: Green River (WY, UT, CO)
Threat: Water withdrawals
At risk: Recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat
The Green River is the largest tributary of the Colorado River, and carves some of the most iconic river canyons in the U.S. Thousands of anglers fish its glorious water and thousands of rafters marvel at the river’s majestic canyons each year, generating a robust rural economy across three states. However, a proposal to pump a massive volume of water out of the Green into a 500-mile pipeline across Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range threatens world-class recreation, rural economies, critical fish habitats and the water supply for the lower Colorado River Basin. The Governors of Utah and Colorado must join Wyoming’s Governor Mead in opposing the pipeline and standing up for more efficient, cost-effective water supply solutions.
#3: Chattahoochee River (GA)
Threat: New dams and reservoirs
At risk: Clean water and healthy fisheries
The Chattahoochee River provides drinking water for millions in metro Atlanta, is one of America’s best trout streams, and was recently designated as our country’s first National Water Trail. However, a water war between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida has spurred proposals for costly new dams and reservoirs that would destroy recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat. The Army Corps of Engineers must deny permits for these reservoirs and state decision makers must embrace more cost effective solutions like water efficiency in order to ensure a reliable water supply and healthy river for generations to come.
#4: Missouri River (IA, KS, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY)
Threat: Outdated flood management
At risk: Public safety
The Missouri is the nation’s longest river, supplying drinking water, commerce, and recreation, and impacting the safety and well-being of millions. However, the river and its communities suffer from outdated flood management, as evidenced by the massive flooding in 2011. In order to improve public safety, decision makers must prioritize using floodplains and wetlands to absorb and store flood waters, and Congress must fully fund the Missouri River Recovery Program and long term planning studies for the river.
#5: Hoback River (WY)
Threat: Natural gas development
At stake: Clean water and world-class fish and wildlife
The Hoback River is treasured for its sparkling clear water, thriving native trout fishery, and excellent paddling opportunities. Unfortunately, proposed natural gas development threatens the river and local residents with toxic pollution. To ensure the Hoback’s clean water, air quality, scenery, and world-class fish and wildlife are not compromised, the leaseholder must agree to sell or donate its oil and gas leases to the U.S. Forest Service.
#6: Grand River (OH)
Threat: Natural gas development
At risk: Clean water and public health
A State Wild and Scenic River, the Grand is a haven for rare birds and other wildlife and boasts the best water quality of any stream flowing into Lake Erie. However, natural gas development threatens the river’s clean water and public health. The State of Ohio must strengthen safeguards to ensure natural gas development and the disposal of wastewater does not harm the river, its clean water, and local communities.
#7: South Fork Skykomish River (WA)
Threat: New dam
At risk: Habitat and recreation
The Skykomish is one of Washington’s most popular rivers for fishing, paddling, and scenic beauty. However, a proposed hydropower dam would destroy the wild character of the river’s South Fork, and reduce two spectacular waterfalls to a trickle. Decision-makers should abandon this damaging project and focus on better energy alternatives to ensure those needs are balanced with the need for healthy rivers and a strong outdoor recreation economy.
#8: Crystal River (CO)
Threat: Dams and water diversions
At risk: Fish, wildlife, and recreation
The Crystal River provides essential habitat for fish and wildlife, beautiful vistas and recreation for visitors, and is one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in Colorado. However, new hydropower dams, reservoirs, and water diversions threaten to destroy the river’s unique values. Local water districts should reject the dam proposals and support federal Wild and Scenic River designation for the Crystal River, while embracing more efficient and cost-effective water supply solutions.
#9: Coal River (WV)
Threat: Mountaintop removal coal mining
At risk: Clean water and public health
The Coal River supplies drinking water for local communities, supports fish and wildlife, and boasts a water trail for fishing, boating, and other recreation. However, the river is threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining, which has already buried, poisoned, and destroyed miles of streams in the basin. Congress must restore Clean Water Act protections to the Coal’s headwater streams in order to prevent more destructive mining and permanently safeguard clean water and public health.
#10: Kansas River (KS)
Threat: Sand and gravel dredging
At risk: Clean water and community health
The Kansas River provides drinking water for 600,000 people and is the state’s most popular river for canoeing, kayaking, and other recreation. However, the river is threatened by sand and gravel dredging, which would cause severe harm to clean water, wildlife, and recreation opportunities. The Army Corps of Engineers must complete a comprehensive study of the impacts of dredging, deny all new permit requests, and plan to end dredging on the Kansas River by 2017.
With public support, we can directly impact the fate of these endangered rivers and save them for generations to come.
More about American Rivers.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide.
Click here to urge Congress to restore protections to small streams, wetlands under the Clean Water Act.
* Adapted from the I Count for myEARTH blog.