WASHINGTON, DC, May 17, 2011 -- American Rivers has released its annual compilation of the nation's most endangered waterways. Topping the list is the Susquehanna River, which supplies drinking water to six million people.
"Healthy rivers are great assets and give communities so many benefits, including clean water and natural flood protection," said Andrew Fahlund, senior vice president of conservation at American Rivers. "This year's list of America's Most Endangered Rivers is a clear reminder that if we don't protect and restore our rivers, then public safety, the economy, and the environment will suffer grave consequences."
On the Susquehanna River, hydraulic fracturing has taken a toll. The process requires taking large amounts of water from rivers and streams, mixing it with sand and toxic chemicals, and then pumping it underground to extract the natural gas. Current facilities are unable to adequately treat the highly toxic wastewater that is generated, and American Rivers noted there are insufficient government safeguards to ensure the wastewater doesn't contaminate drinking water supplies.
American Rivers called on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the states of New York and Pennsylvania to issue a moratorium on natural gas drilling-related permits until the industry can prove they can operate without damage to the river and clean water supplies. The organization also called on Congress to do away with the loopholes that have allowed the natural gas industry to avoid basic standards for public and environmental health.
The Mississippi River received a special mention in the report, given the unprecedented nature of recent flooding and the opportunity to improve flood management for public safety and river health.
In listing the Mississippi as a "special mention," American Rivers pointed to outdated flood management strategies and over-reliance on levees that have contributed to the record flood damage. American Rivers called for a strategy that combines structural flood protection solutions like levees with "natural defenses" like healthy wetlands and floodplains that absorb floodwaters.
Other rivers on the list include Bristol Bay (AK), Roanoke River (VA, NC), Chicago River (IL), and Yuba River (CA).