Two Washington rivers among most endangered, environmental group says

Two Western Washington rivers are on a new list of the USA's ten most endangered rivers.

Environmental group American Rivers says the Green-Toutle River is being threatened by a proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine. The group says mining could lead to the formation of sulfuric acid which could increase copper levels in the water, which can be toxic to salmon and steelhead.

The group also says the South Fork Skykomish River is threatened by a new hydropower project proposed by Snohomish County PUD. It says the project threatens salmon and steelhead.

This year the top dishonor goes to the Lower Colorado River, which runs through Arizona, Nevada and California.

The Colorado provides drinking water for 30 million Americans in cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix and also helps grow 90% of the nation’s winter vegetables. "It's an incredibly important river for the economic and environmental welfare of the nation," American Rivers President Bob Irvin said.

One of the main threats to the river, he said, is that the river is "overtapped," since demand is far outstripping the supply.

“The Lower Colorado is the lifeblood of the region and grows food for Americans nationwide, but the river is at a breaking point," said Matt Rice, Colorado Basin director for American Rivers. "It is critical that the Trump administration and Congress support and fund innovative water management solutions."

Irvin said that some of the draconian cuts to federal agencies and rollbacks of environmental rules as proposed by the Trump administration would undo recent progress there.

“Americans must speak up and let their elected officials know that healthy rivers are essential to our families, our communities and our future," Irvin said. "We must take care of the rivers that take care of us”

American Rivers has also reached out to Latino communities about preserving the Colorado River, as one-third of the nation's Latino population lives in the river basin. The group has made "a conscious decision to engage another community that may not have been as engaged in conservation," Irvin said.

Maite Arce, the president of the Hispanic Access Foundation, said “the Lower Colorado River is an integral part of our heritage and way of life. From serving as the backbone for the agricultural industry to providing a cultural focal point for faith communities, the Lower Colorado River is essential to the livelihood of the Southwest.”

Other rivers on this year's list include the Bear River in California; the Mobile Bay rivers of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi; and the Rappahannock River in Virginia.

 

The "top 10" most endangered rivers are rounded out by the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers in North Carolina; the Middle Fork Flathead River in Montana; the Buffalo National River in Arkansas; and the Menominee River in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Threats to the other rivers range from fracking and mining to poor water management and new dams.

These rivers aren't the nation's "worst" or most polluted rivers. According to American Rivers, three factors allow rivers to be placed on the list: The significance of the river to human and natural communities; the magnitude of the threat to the river and its nearby communities, especially in light of a changing climate; and a major decision that the public can help influence in the coming year.

The group has been compiling an annual list of the nation's most endangered rivers since 1984.

KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report.

 

© 2017 KING-TV


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