Catawba, Rogue, Poudre Top Endangered Rivers List for ’08


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Catawba Tops American Rivers Most Endangered Rivers List

From water mismanagement in the southeast and southwest, to ill-advised projects in the Gulf Coast, our nation’s rivers are at risk, with their problems exacerbated by global warming, says Washington, D.C.’s American Rivers (AR), which just released its list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2008. “Water will be the oil of the 21st century,” says AR President Rebecca Wodder. “Yet water mismanagement is on full display throughout the country.”

Topping this year’s list is North and South Carolina’s Catawba, a popular paddling waterway in the Southeast, along with Oregon’s Rogue and Colorado Poudre—both popular paddling rivers as well–taking the second and third spots, respectively. “These 10 rivers are at a crossroads, and the choices made by local and national decision makers will determine not only the rivers’ future, but the future of America’s fresh water resources,” adds Wodder. “Water is a precious resource, we must treat it as such; the future of our communities, our nation, and our planet depends on it.”

The List:

#1: Catawba-Wateree River (NC/SC)
While the entire Southeastern United States suffers the effects of
drought, policy makers are battling to take more water from the
Catawba-Wateree River, rather than focusing on 21st century policies like water conservation and smart development. Without a major change in direction in public policy, the river that provides drinking water for millions of people, pumps tens of millions of dollars into local economies, and is directly responsible for thousands of jobs could be irreparably damaged; and the communities that depend on it will suffer. Lawmakers in the Carolina’s are among the first to reach this ominous fork in the road, and the direction they choose to take will affect water policy in the Southeast for generations to come.

#2: Rogue River (OR)
One of our country’s original Wild and Scenic rivers could soon have its wild character destroyed if a plan to log key Rogue River tributaries moves forward. The clearcuts would choke the river with sediment and harm the unique river experience that draws thousands of boaters and anglers each year. 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 (CO)
Colorado’s only Wild and Scenic River could soon lose much of its
remaining water thanks to a scheme proposed by some decision makers
to unnecessarily 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, enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every 8 minutes.

#4: St. Lawrence River (NY/Canada)
Tens of millions of people in two countries depend everyday on the St.
Lawrence River. The health and vitality of this iconic North American
waterway is threatened by outdated management plans of the Moses-
Saunders Dam that date back to the Eisenhower Administration. These
50 year old polices continue to harm the river that supplies drinking
water to large sections of the United States and Canada. The antiquated
management plan for the dam is up for revision. Research conducted by
more than 180 scientists from both countries agree that the river’s vitality
can be improved by implementing a plan known as B+

#5: Minnesota River (MN)
The first major tributary to the Mighty Mississippi could soon be robbed
of much of its water, thanks to a misguided plan that would build an
unnecessary coal power plant on the shores of Big Stone Lake. Not only
would the proposed Big Stone II project suck more than 6 million gallons
of water a day from the Minnesota River, but it would also emit massive
amounts of green house gasses and mercury into the air, crippling the
river that brings tens of millions of dollars into the regional economy,
and spelling disaster for the wildlife that call the Minnesota River home.

#6: St. Johns River (FL)
Florida’s longest river could soon be robbed of much of its water in a
misguided attempt to quench the unending thirst of out-of-control
development in the Sunshine State. The St. Johns River, one of only 14
American Heritage Rivers in the entire country, is home to an ecological
wonderland that may be damaged or destroyed by the water grab. The
plan would be equally catastrophic for the 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. Conservation is the answer that will protect the St. Johns and
allow Florida to continue to grow.

#7 Gila River (NM/AZ)
New Mexico’s last free flowing river could soon see a significant portion
of its water stolen thanks to a misguided and expensive water diversion
proposal. If enacted, the project could deplete a desert oasis, and shove
hundreds of millions of dollars of debt onto taxpayers’ shoulders, who
would be forced to pay off the unnecessary boondoggle for generations
to come. As the entire Southwest deals with issues of water scarcity,
water managers deciding the fate of the Gila should know that the eyes
of America are on them.

#8 Allagash Wilderness Waterway (ME)
One of the most important wild rivers in the entire country is being
jeopardized by development pressures and a lack of political leadership.
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine’s only nationally designated
Wild and Scenic River, is slowly seeing its protections degraded. As a
result, an incredible link to America’s past could be destroyed. 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 Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The plan
should restrict motor vehicle access, reduce logging roads and bridges,
preserve the native fishery, and designate areas for non-motorized winter

#9 Pearl River (LA/MS)
A massive development scheme masquerading as flood protection,
threatens the Pearl Rivers, 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, which
has refused to look beyond the dangerous scheme and develop a
comprehensive approach to flooding and environmental problems along
the Pearl. 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

#10 Niobrara River (NE)
One of Nebraska’s biggest tourist attractions, and one of the state’s most
beautiful rivers, is slowly losing water and in danger of losing more. The
Niobrara River, a Wild and Scenic River that attracts tens of thousands
of paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts to the nation’s heartland, could soon
be dewatered. In addition to supporting a booming tourist economy, the
Niobrara supports irrigation of more than 600,000 acres. Additional
irrigation applications are currently pending with Nebraska’s Department
of Natural Resources. These additional irrigation applications threaten to
upset that balance, damaging the Niobrara today and they will make
surrounding communities even less resilient to the potential impacts of
global warming.
Info: Click here

Case Study: Inside the Poudre River Designation
The Poudre, Colorado’s only Wild and Scenic River whose Big South Fork, Spencer Heights, Narrows, Mishiwaka and Pineview sections have entertained paddlers for decades, faces an imminent threat to its future from the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP)/Glade Reservoir—a water diversion scheme that would severely degrade the ecological health of the river, dry up farmland, and threaten both the quality of life and economy of the region. The project is also a debt disaster in the making, with ballooning expenses burdening generations to come for decades

“Because of the NISP/Glade project, Fort Collins has been saddled with a very dubious distinction,” says Gary Wockner of the Save The Poudre Coalition. “Fort Collins and the region have been called the ‘Best Place to Live in America’ by Money Magazine and a ‘New American Dream Town’ by Outside Magazine. We can’t let the proposed Glade Reservoir drown our city’s reputation. We need to stop this project.”

The NISP/Glade project, a massive dam-and-reservoir project that would include the 177,000 acre-foot Glade Reservoir, is the largest engineering project proposed along Colorado’s Front Range in a quarter century. If built, the project would divert about 35% of the water out of the Poudre River as it flows through Fort Collins—and that is in addition to the 60% of water that is already diverted out of the Poudre. It would also wipe out a scenic valley just north of Fort Collins and require the relocation of part of Highway 287 at an enormous cost to ratepayers.

The ecological costs are even higher. Besides draining the Poudre to a trickle and threatening a variety of plant and animal species, the NISP/Glade project would severely deplete the already beleaguered “June Rise,” the natural increase in stream flows that occurs during snowmelt that is critical to the overall health of the Poudre River ecosystem. “The Poudre is already stretched by the many demands we place upon it and is often dry during parts of the year,” said Becky Long of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “Any large new development on the river is going to have substantial impacts on all users.”

With its size and price tag, the NISP/Glade project also puts at risk downtown Fort Collins businesses and the multi-million dollar investment citizens have made in the public land corridor that runs along the river and through the city. For farmers, the NISP/Glade project represents an additional challenge as at least 20,000 acres of farm land will have to be cleared, paved over, and converted into residential housing in order to finance the project. “If NISP is completed, we may well be giving a parched kiss goodbye to our cultural, economic, and ecological heritage,” says Mark Easter of the Sierra Club Poudre Canyon Group. “The price is simply too high.”

“Instead of projects like NISP, we should implement proven and effective water-saving measures,” adds Wockner. “We also need to work proactively with farmers to find flexible solutions for the benefit of the region – that’s the best solution to meeting our water needs, not further draining our rivers. American Rivers’ condemnation of the Poudre as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers is a reminder that it’s time to stop the NISP/Glade project before our city’s good name—and our river—dries up and turns to dust.”

An comment period on the project’s Environmental Impact Statement—expected to be released late this month—will give citizens a voice in the process. Residents can let their voices be heard at

Click here

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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