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NFC: Fw: RiverCurrents for the Week of April 13, 2001

Title: RiverCurrents for the Week of April 13, 2001

Brought to you by www.americanrivers.org: The online community for
river activists and river friends
In this week's issue...
Get the full report on the thirteen Most Endangered Rivers of 2001

Find out how drilling, damming, and digging threaten nearly half of this
year's thirteen Most Endangered Rivers
Learn about the local groups working to save these rivers-- and find out
how you can help them!

How does YOUR energy use measure up? Find out how you can save energy,
save money, and save rivers!

It's the rafting trip of a lifetime: 4-day trip for two on Utah's Green
River. Bid on this great adventure at Ebay. Trip includes $100 gift
certificate for gear and apparel, plus two pairs of Teva sandals. All
proceeds donated to American Rivers.



Don't miss the Rivers Photo Gallery

Visit the Rivers Photo Gallery for images of rivers, fish and wildlife,
recreation, and more-- including the Most Endangered Rivers. We will be
updating the gallery with new images regularly. Consider bookmarking
this page-- it's your source for all of your river photo needs!


       Endangered Rivers
       Missouri River
       Endangered species
       Columbia River
       Coal mines
       Chesapeake Bay
       Northwest salmon
       Connecticut River
       Susquehanna River
       Klamath Basin
       Sandy River
       Agricultural waste
       Genetically modified fish



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MOST ENDANGERED RIVERS: Tremendous damage to rivers across the country could be reduced or avoided by increasing efforts to use energy efficiently, produce conventional energy responsibly, and expand the supply of energy from clean and renewable sources, American Rivers said this week in releasing its annual America's Most Endangered Rivers report. Nearly half of the thirteen rivers made this year's list due to the impacts of hydropower, fossil fuel extraction and combustion, and contamination from manufacturing components of the nation's energy grid.

The 2001 report explores the often overlooked link between rivers and energy production, paying special attention to the impacts of hydropower, fossil fuel extraction, and fossil fuel combustion. The report contains recommendations for a more sustainable energy future.

The rivers included in this year's report include, in order: 1) Missouri River (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri), 2) Canning River (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska), 3) Eel River (California), 4) Hudson River (New York), 5) Powder River (Wyoming and Montana), 6) Mississippi River (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana), 7) Big Sandy River (West Virginia and Kentucky), 8) Snoqualmie River (Washington), 9) Animas River (Colorado and New Mexico), 10) East Fork Lewis (Washington), 11) Paine Run (Virginia), 12) Hackensack River (New York and New Jersey), and 13) Catawba River (North and South Carolina)

The full report can be found at


MISSOURI RIVER: The Missouri River won the unenviable distinction of being
pronounced the Nation's Most Endangered River of 2001. Several species of
Missouri River wildlife face extinction because the operation of six federal dams prevents the natural rise and fall of water levels to facilitate just a trickle of barge traffic downstream from Sioux City, Iowa. 

The U.S. Corps of Engineers will take public comments starting this summer on options, including one recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for operating these dams to create more hospitable river conditions for the endangered pallid sturgeon, the endangered interior least tern, and the threatened piping plover. These changes would also boost recreation and tourism along the Missouri, providing tremendous economic benefits for riverfront communities.

In a related story, historian Stephen A. Ambrose met with Vice President Dick Cheney to ask that the administration support a "spring rise" followed by a lowering of water to begin restoring natural conditions in the dam-controlled Missouri river. As reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (4/11/200), "Rather than dwelling on river history, however, Ambrose said he talked to Cheney about river politics," saying that this is an

opportunity for the administration to make its mark.



"The river has been damaged -- not beyond repair -- for the last 50 years because the Corps of Engineers has operated under the dictum of Congress that they make the river a barge canal. It's a great big ditch. We have sacrificed this priceless heritage for the extraordinarily few numbers of people who use barges on the Missouri River."

-- Stephen Ambrose, speaking about the Missouri River at the Most Endangered Rivers press conference on April 11, 2001 in Washington, DC


ENDANGERED SPECIES: In an effort to allow more discretion to federal officials when deciding which species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration has proposed relaxing for a year some of the strictest mandates and deadlines in the Endangered Species Act.

The proposal would limit the ability of citizens and environmental groups to obtain court orders that dictate almost all of the agency's efforts to preserve additional species and their natural habitats, says the Washington Post (4/12/01). Instead, it would be left up to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton to establish priorities and timetables for adding species to the threatened and endangered lists. Some environmentalists have called the move a prescription for extinction, and additional evidence of hostility to the environment by the Bush administration. Though Norton would still be required to comply with existing court orders, the Fish and Wildlife Service rarely lists new species or protects additional habitat without court orders, so "any shift toward discretionary protection would mean no protection at all," say some environmentalists.

Interior Department officials say the move was necessary to let the overburdened agency regain control of a mission they claim has increasingly been driven by the courts. But the ability to sue the agency has been the primary tool of individuals to win protection for plants and animals, says the New York Times (4/11/01). If the plan is approved by Congress, the Fish and Wildlife Service will put its available money next year to listing the endangered species cases it deemed to be top priorities, rather than spending to carry out new court orders or settlements involving other plants or animals.


COLUMBIA RIVER: The Department of Energy's budget proposed for cleaning up
the deadly tank waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington is insufficient, say officials with the Washington state attorney general's office. Though the proposed 2002 budget for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of River Protection was increased from $757 million to $814.5 million, $1.1 billion is needed in 2002 to fully fund the contract with Bechtel-Washington to "design and build a glassification plant to treat 10 percent of the nearly 54 million gallons of highly radioactive waste in the tanks." As reports the Oregonian (4/11/01), out of 177 underground tanks, sixty-seven have leaked more than 1 million gallons over the years, contaminating ground water and threatening the Columbia River.

COAL MINES: The low sulfur content that makes southern West Virginia coal so valuable is now making the water from its old mines more desirable for rearing coldwater fish. Acting like natural cisterns as clean mountain water continually seeps in, the mines are being seen by some in the fish industry as natural hatcheries. "We feel like with the abandoned mine waters we have in southern West Virginia, southern West Virginia and the coalfields will become known for its high-quality fish like it's known for its high-quality coal now," says the director of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, Mike Whitt. Millions of gallons of 55-degree water, often pure enough to drink, flow from hundreds of miles of former mine tunnels and drain into nearby streams, reports the Washington Post (4/11/01).  As an example, West Virginia Aqua has built a $1 million growout farm to complement a hatchery it leases from the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, and uses the water to fatten Arctic char fingerlings from the hatchery.

CHESAPEAKE BAY: The budget proposed by President Bush cuts spending for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs by 10 percent, or $1.9 million, in the next fiscal year, reports the Washington Post (04/11/01). State and environmental officials worry that efforts to restore the estuary would be severely hampered if the proposed cut is approved. Exactly where the spending would be cut, such as from the creation of oyster beds and research on blue crabs and other fisheries, to the monitoring of water quality, is unclear. Officials say the move sends a wrong message about a restoration effort that is supported by the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia and by the mayor of the District of Columbia. "The proposed spending cut comes just months after Congress reauthorized the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act, which enables the federal government to spend as much as $40 million a year through 2006 on bay cleanup programs," says the Post.

CONNECTICUT RIVER: About 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel was sent into the Connecticut River this week after a train derailed. 1,000 tons of rock salt and 200 gallons of crankcase oil were also spilled in the accident. Mark Merchant, an Environmental Protection Agency spokesman, says the spill might be New England's worst environmental problem in recent memory. Officials are withholding a damage analysis until the all the locomotives and rail cars are removed from the river, reports the Boston Globe (4/11/01). However, so far damage to wildlife appears to be limited to a few dead fish and birds at the spill site.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: The Chesapeake Bay is threatened by the sediment that has been building up behind dams along the Susquehanna River, which could overwhelm the dams in 20 years, warns author Susan Stranahan (Washington Post op-ed 4/8/01). It is estimated that the river's three dams could be filled with sediment within 20 years, and their possible failure at that time could cause the bay "as much environmental damage as any noxious chemical concoction." The river carries about 9 trillion gallons of water to the bay each year, as well as about 3.1 million tons of sediment. Two of the three dams that were built to prevent sediment from reaching the bay have already been filled with the sediment, and the third is expected to fill within 20 years.

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KLAMATH BASIN: Farmers in Southern Oregon's Klamath Basin this week sued to force federal dam operators to release water for irrigation that is being saved for endangered species. As reports the Oregonian (4/12/01), the farmers say they must have the water "to keep their irrigated farmlands from drying up and blowing away for the sake of imperiled fish." Last week the federal Klamath Reclamation Project announced plans to save most water for threatened coho salmon and endangered suckers, leaving 90 percent of the basin's farms and its wildlife refuges without water. This year, the snow in the mountains above the basin only holds 34 percent of its normal moisture. The suit was brought by the Water Users Association, two major irrigation districts and two individual farmers, and asked that the court "prohibit dam operators from depriving of water any historically irrigated lands in the Klamath Project unless it would send river or lake levels below historic lows."

SANDY RIVER: The River Conservancy is working with federal agencies and private companies to buy all the riverfront property along a 11-mile stretch of the Sandy River in Oregon that passes through a narrow gorge from Marmot to Sandy. The Conservancy plans then to turn management of the stretch over to the US Bureau of Land Management. This week Congress approved $1.25 million to help with the purchases, and the federal budget proposed for next year includes another $2.5 million. PGE, which owns hundreds of acres near the Sandy River, says it still plans to decommission its Marmot Dam on the river sometime after 2004, and will consider donating its remaining land to the project.

FLOODING: Increased levee construction and floodplain development has dramatically boosted the risk of serious flooding in the St. Louis region and is putting people and wildlife in Missouri and Illinois at greater risk than ever. According to local environmentalists, "several local levee and floodplain development projects underway or planned would add to the constriction of the rivers' natural flood flow patterns." The groups are asking that a multi-agency federal agency carry out a study of how the region's watershed is managed, including how its large rivers such as the Missouri and Mississippi are managed. Both rivers were included on this year's  list of the nation's most endangered rivers by American Rivers.

The US Army Corps of Engineers disagrees that the development projects are adding to the flood danger -"Floods aren't caused by levees, the loss of wetlands, navigation structures in rivers or flood-plain development," said Charles Camillo, spokesman for the corps. "What causes floods is a lot of rainfall over a wide area over extended periods of time." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 04/12/01)

AGRICULTURAL WASTE: A report written by US and Canadian scientists warns that nitrogen-tainted runoff and other pollution problems caused by farming could cause as much or more environmental damage as global warming. 128 leading ecologists agree with the findings, and this week sent a letter to congressional leaders asking that a $2 billion effort be kicked off to reduce the nitrogen pollution that is creating a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. The authors of the report and the ecologists are joining together to highlight the growing threat of nitrogen pollution and other environmental effects of agriculture. The report shows that "the single major driver of global change, other than energy use, was coming from agriculture," said one of the report's authors. As reports the Baltimore Sun (4/13/01), within the next 50 years across the world, "an area larger than the United States will be converted from wild land to farmland and the use of nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides will increase nearly threefold," according to the findings. The result will be the increase by 2.5 times the amount of nitrogen pollution in lakes, rivers and bays.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED FISH: Maryland Governor Parris Glendening this week banned the raising of genetically modified fish unless they are in ponds or lakes that do not connect to other state waterways. As reports Yahoo News (4/12/01), not only must growers raise the fish in separate pools, but they must also ensure that the fish cannot access rivers by other means such as being dropped by birds after being plucked out of the water. The law, which applies to those fish whose genes have been modified through gene splicing, is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Democratic Delegate Dan Morhaim, sponsor of the bill, says that it's time to prevent what is currently occurring in the Pacific Northwest - the release of genetically modified salmon into local rivers and streams that are destroying native species. Currently, the state of Maryland has about 175 active permits for fish farming.

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