A number of national parks are clustered around some of the 10 rivers whose health is so threatened by mining operations, pollution, dredging, proposed dams, and other impacts that American Rivers found them deserving to be listed as America's Most Endangered Rivers.
This year's ranking by the organization, which since 1986 has annually published a list of "endangered rivers," includes some new names, but also some that have been on the list before.
In Wyoming and Utah the group for the second straight year cited the Green River, which flows through Dinosaur National Monument and into Canyonlands National Park. In Maryland and Virginia and the District of Columbia it listed the Potomac River, which flows through Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and Great Falls Park. In Georgia the Chattachooche River, which recently had a stretch designated as America's first national water trail, also made this year's list.
"We chose the Potomac as America’s #1 Most Endangered River for 2012 because of the threat from urban and agricultural pollution. While the Potomac River is cleaner than it used to be, pollution is still a serious problem – and it could get much worse if Congress rolls back critical clean water safeguards," wrote Jessie Thomas-Blate, who coordinates the program for American Rivers, on her blog. "As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act this year, the Potomac – known as 'the nation’s river' as it flows by the capital -- is emblematic of what’s at stake for rivers nationwide."
Bob Irvin, the organization's president, said “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 to use.”
America's Most Endangered Rivers® of 2012:
1. Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC)
Threat: Pollution. At stake: Clean water and public health
2. Green River (WY, UT, CO)
Threat: Water withdrawals. At stake: Recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat
3. Chattahoochee River (GA)
Threat: New dams and reservoirs. At stake: Clean water and healthy fisheries
4. Missouri River (IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY)
Threat: Outdated flood management. At stake: Public safety
5. Hoback River (WY)
Threat: Natural gas development. At stake: Clean water and world-class fish and wildlife
6. Grand River (OH)
Threat: Natural gas development. At stake: Clean water and public health
7. South Fork Skykomish River (WA)
Threat: New dam. At stake: Habitat and recreation
8. Crystal River (CO)
Threat: Dams and water diversions. At stake: Fish, wildlife, and recreation
9. Coal River (WV)
Threat: Mountaintop removal coal mining. At stake: Clean water and public health
10. Kansas River (KS)
Threat: Sand and gravel dredging. At stake: Public health and wildlife habitat
The St. Croix doesn't seem to have fared so well being on the list, as the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year allowed an earmark to authorize a new, and large, bridge to be built over the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway between Minnesota and Wisconsin. That move was particularly noteworthy in that the St. Croix is a wild and scenic river, and the earmark specifically ignores that designation in authorizing the bridge to be built.
As for the Ozark River, the National Park Service is developing a general management plan that American Rivers hopes will address some of the issues facing that river, which flows through Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Last year's Most Endangered Rivers report claimed that the scenic riverways in Missouri were being strangled by poor Park Service management.
Since 1984, all-terrain vehicles have created a dusty, spaghetti bowl network of trails, some that lead down into the Current and Jacks Fork river corridors and onto gravel bars used by canoeists and other boat campers, stated the report. Additionally, the report claimed horse use of the park has gotten out of control; while there are only 23 miles of designated equestrian trails in the park, "National park management allows equestrian use on any unpaved roads and trails, and there are now more than 250 miles of horse trails and 80 places where horses cross the rivers in the park, which harm water quality with erosion and manure."