America’s Most Endangered Rivers for 2016 — @AmericanRivers

MER2016_map

Here’s a report from Jessie Thomas-Blate writing for the AmericanRivers.org blog. Here’s an excerpt:

This report identifies the 10 most threatened waterways in the country and highlights the urgent need for conservation, greater efficiency, and better management of water resources to prevent further harm to river health, wildlife, fish and recreation. Fierce competition for water from rivers under ever greater strain from growing demand and the impacts of climate change is threatening the health of rivers across the country. As pressure on limited water resources grows, conflict must give way to cooperation if we are to satisfy the nations’ growing water needs and maintain clean and healthy rivers.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers 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 Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

This year, we found that outdated and ineffective methods of water management threaten major river basins on both the east and west coasts. The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin, which includes portions of Alabama, Georgia and Florida, ranks number one on the list, followed by the San Joaquin River in California at number two.

More than eight million people depend on clean drinking water from these two systems combined, and water shortages threaten billions of dollars in agricultural production and fisheries.

The America’s Most Endangered Rivers list spotlights rivers facing urgent threats across the country. The Susquehanna River, for example, which flows through Pennsylvania and Maryland, is threatened by harmful dam operations. In Montana, the Smith River is at risk from a proposed mine and remains on the endangered list for a second year.

From National Geographic (Brian Clark Howard):

What do two rivers in the Southeast and California have in common? Both are threatened by battles over their water.

The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida tops a new list as the most endangered river in the U.S. this year, according to an annual report from the Washington, D.C.-based conservation group American Rivers. Second most endangered is the San Joaquin River in northern and central California.

“Both rivers suffer from increasing conflict among stakeholders who depend on their water,” including cities, farmers, and wildlife, says Chris Williams, a senior vice president at American Rivers. “And these issues are exacerbated by population growth and climate change.”

Other rivers high on the list include the Susquehanna in Maryland and Pennsylvania, the Smith in Montana, and the Green-Duwamish in Washington.

The annual list, which dates back to 1984, is based on three criteria: A river must be under serious threat, of regional or national significance, and at a turning point in a decision related to conservation. Last year, the Colorado River was number one, and since then two of its three biggest threats have been withdrawn: a controversial development and a plan for a tram. (A uranium mine proposal remains a threat.)

Past annual lists also helped raise awareness about the Hoback River in Montana, where oil and gas leases were defeated, and the Elwha River in Washington, where a series of dams was removed to restore the ecosystem.

Water conflicts are particularly timely now, notes Williams, given several imminent regulatory and court decisions.

“It is time to move away from the old-fashioned model of fighting over water, through grabs and lawsuits, and toward a cooperative model in which stakeholders sit down together and hammer out agreements, so everybody can get what they need,” Williams says.

He points to recent successes in negotiating water-sharing agreements on the Colorado and Yakima Rivers. (Learn more about restoration work in the Colorado Basin.)

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