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NFC: Fw: RiverCurrents: August 24, 2001

Title: RiverCurrents: August 24, 2001
RiverCurrents: August 24, 2001
Brought to you by www.americanrivers.org: The online community for river activists and river friends

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In the news this week...

-- New report: How Congress and farmers can clean up polluted bays

-- Maryland Governor proposes new protections for bays
-- Washington's "dirty little secret"

-- Standoff continues in Klamath Basin
-- Precedent-setting water lease will benefit Montana's Madison River
-- Experts predict water shortages world-wide

-- Mountaintop removal in Kentucky
-- USGS report on mountaintop removal mining
-- Clean up deal for Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Basin

Special feature...

Most Endangered Rivers


American Rivers is welcoming applications from individuals and
groups for the Most Endangered Rivers of 2002 report. If your local river is
facing a significant threat, this report can help provide a media spotlight
and spur key decision-makers to action.
Don't wait! The deadline is quickly approaching.

Click here to find out more:


So you've received your Most Endangered Rivers nomination form, and
you've been thinking about putting together a nomination for the
river you've worked on for years-- a river that could really use that
listing to get a little publicity and sway an important decision.
But it looks like a lot of work, and you don't have all of the
materials you need.  And to cap it all off, the deadline is October 1.
What should you do? 
Talk to American Rivers at the Most Endangered Rivers online chat! 

Join us on September 6th, 2PM eastern time to talk about Most Endangered Rivers nominations.

For some simple instructions on where the chat room is and how to use it, click here:
If you have any questions about Most Endangered Rivers nominations or the chat,
contact Rebecca Sherman at 202-347-7550 or rsherman at amrivers_org.



1) Using the Farm Bill to clean up bays

American Rivers, Environmental Defense, and Restore America's Estuaries this week called on Congress to reward responsible farmers when it renews farm programs this fall. 

According to a new report by the groups, Bringing Dead Zones Back to Life: How Congress, Farmers and Feedlot Operators Can Save America's Most Polluted Bays, agricultural runoff is the leading threat to 13 of the nation's 17 most polluted bays. The report finds that most farmers are rejected when they seek federal help to clean up water bodies.

The bays and water bodies primarily impacted by agricultural runoff include the Laguna Madre (TX), Northern Gulf of Mexico (LA), Neuse River (NC), Delaware Inland Bays (DE), San Francisco Bay (CA), Corpus Christi Bay (TX), Baffin Bay (TX), Tijuana Bay (CA), Potomac River (MD, VA), Chesapeake Bay (MD, PA, VA), Patuxent River (MD), Lake Pontchartrain (LA), Newport Bay (CA), Calcasieu Lake (LA), Barnegat Bay (NJ), and Florida Bay (FL).

By triggering the growth of algae, polluted runoff contributes to low-oxygen "dead zones" and blocks the sunlight needed by bay grasses. Polluted runoff also reduces food supplies for fisheries and increases the frequency of red tides. Agricultural runoff can be reduced by techniques such as targeted fertilizer and manure applications, installation of buffers and wetlands to filter runoff, and tillage practices that reduce erosion.

The groups urged Congress to support H.R. 2375, the Working Lands Stewardship Act championed by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), which provides more than $6 billion in annual funding to farmers who help reduce polluted runoff and restore wetlands.

Get the report here:

Book of the week

My Story as Told by Water
by David James Duncan

"Confessions, Druidic Rants, Reflections, Bird-Watchings, Fish-Stalkings, Visions, Songs and Prayers Refracting Light"
Buy it here today!
(When you use this link to buy the book, ten percent of your purchase goes to river conservation efforts)

2) Protecting Maryland's bays

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening is planning to introduce legislation that would place new restrictions on development along Maryland's coastal bays, which he says are being destroyed by unchecked development. As reports the Washington Post (8/21/01), "the new regulations would be similar to the "critical areas" legislation that was developed in 1984 to protect the Chesapeake Bay and which in some areas is severe enough to limit tree cutting..."

Glendening expects the legislation will result in one of the most contentious environmental battles during his administration, with property owners opposing any regulations on their lands. Local officials say they are surprised by the news and that they had already begun working local ordinances to govern development. The bays targeted by Glendening are Assawoman, Isle of Wight, Sinepuxent, and Chincoteague.

3) Washington's "dirty little secret"

The National Wilderness Institute says it is planning to sue the Army Corps of Engineers over its continued excessive dumping of sludge in the Potomac River which runs through the nation's capital. Officials admit they have been sending chemically treated sediment into the Potomac, but maintain they have the appropriate permits and that no legal violations are occurring.

However, Rob Gordon of the National Wilderness Institute says that the sludge is often dumped under cover of night and in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. "Washington's dirty little secret is now out: The Army Corps of Engineers is poisoning the river and endangered species habitat, and it's got to stop," said Gordon. According to Gordon, the Corps is discharging the sludge from the Washington Aqueduct at a rate as high as 45,000 milligrams per liter, as opposed to the maximum allowance of 30 milligrams per liter commonly enforced on many other water treatment plants.

As reports the Washington Times (8/21/01), the Institute also is suing the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration.

Group of the month

A homegrown approach to saving rivers: find out how one Florida family is
fighting to save their favorite inner-tubing river.



4) Standoff continues in Klamath Basin

This week approximately 4,000 people converged in downtown Klamath Falls, Oregon to demand more irrigation water for over 1,000 farms. The farmers and their supporters are describing themselves as patriots taking on the Endangered Species Act, which is being used to reserve Klamath Basin water for endangered species. As reports the Portland Oregonian (8/22/01), "a convoy of about 10 trucks, some carrying food and hay for local farmers, rolled down Klamath Falls' main street flying American flags and sounding their horns." The crowd accompanied the trucks, chanting "Let the water go."

Although Interior Secretary Gale Norton did allow some water to flow to farms about four weeks ago, that flow is expected to run out this week when federal authorities close the main canal head gates. The gates are being guarded by about a dozen federal officers. Farmers and their supporters have been protesting and sitting at the gates for about a month. Federal officials are hoping to close the gates peacefully without confrontation with the farmers.

According to the Oregonian, environmental groups and area tribes say that the Endangered Species Act is not responsible for the water shortage. The current water scarcity, they say, is a result of the government over-promising water to tribes, farmers, wildlife refuges, and others. To make matters worse, little action was taken to resolve the situation before this year's drought.

5) Precedent-setting water lease in Montana

A long-term water lease will return water to Wolf Creek, Moose Creek, and Squaw Creek, three tributaries of Montana's Madison River. The river's trout population, including imperiled westslope and Yellowstone cutthroat trout, will benefit from the new water (220 cubic feet per second) from Montana's Sun Ranch.

As reports Trout Unlimited, "the lease will not only protect water instream for spawning and rearing habitat for several species of trout migrating from the Madison River, it will also provide significant habitat improvement for trout that stay in the tributaries year-round, particularly in times of drought."

The Sun Ranch's decision to lease water to a private, non-profit conservation group is precedent-setting as the largest lease of its kind, not only in Montana, but also in the West. Under laws governing water use in the arid western states, water users who take water out of streams--for purposes ranging from irrigation to mining to municipal uses-- have an exclusive right to it. Those who were the earliest users of water are entitled to all of their water before others get any, including the river. Now, changes to Montana's water law allows for someone with a water right to lease their water for instream flow purposes, so that streamflows and river health can be protected (Trout Unlimited press release 8/21/01).

6) World-wide water shortages

Some 2.7 billion people could be facing water-shortage problems by 2025, say some experts.  North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and parts of India and China, as well as areas in southern Europe would be affected the greatest, but parts of the US will be stressed as well.

Warmer temperatures, the loss of wetlands to sprawl, and the growing demands of agriculture are accelerating shortages across the U.S.  Major U.S. cities could go dry in 10 to 20 years, reports Grist (8/13/01). According to a regional planning commission, "parts of six counties in a region that borders one of the world's largest freshwater sources, Lake Michigan, could be in for serious water shortages within 20 years, says the New York Times (8/12/01).

Elsewhere in the United States, some of the big rivers are running dry. The Rio Grande is so overused by farmers and fast growing cities in New Mexico and Texas, that it's down to barely a trickle when it reaches Big Bend National Park in Texas.  State officials in Kansas are discussing plans to build a pipeline, costing as much as $200 million, to the Missouri River to keep northeast Kansas from going dry. However, most of the Missouri's water is already spoken for.

Attend the Largest Land Conservation Conference in the World!
September 29-October 2
Baltimore, Maryland

The Land Trust Alliance is sponsoring the 14th Land
Trust Rally which is bringing together approximately 1,600 land
conservationists from 48 states and 13 countries. Attend
one, two, three or four days of the conference's 23 field trips, 30
seminars, or 140 roundtables and workshops.

Sessions focusing on the land/river connection include:
--"Protecting Rivers Through Private Lands Stewardship: Ecological Design Principles for Riverfronts" 
--"The Potomac River: Building Multi-Jurisdictional Watershed Conservation Programs"
--"Land Trusts and Watershed Groups: The Coming Convergence"

Registration for Rally 2001 will close September 7, or when the
conference is fully subscribed -- whichever comes first. The past two
Rallies were fully subscribed before September, so register as soon
as possible!

To register:
-Go online to www.lta.org/training/rally.htm.
-Call LTA (202-638-4725) to receive a registration brochure in the
-Email Emily Farwig (efarwig at lta_org) at LTA to receive a
registration brochure in the mail.


7) Mining news

Environmental groups are arguing that the Army Corps of Engineers cannot legally approve a Kentucky strip mining permit that would bury more than six miles of streams in Martin County, Ky. The group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth argued this week in a federal court complaint that the Corps cannot authorize any valley fills through its Clean Water Act "dredge-and-fill" permits.

In mountain-top removal mining, entire hilltops are blasted away to uncover low-sulfur coal reserves. The leftover rock and dirt are dumped into nearby valleys, burying streams. According to the group, "the clear purpose of Martin County Coal's and other mining companies' disposal of coal mining overburden into the rivers of Kentucky is to dispose of the waste which is a violation of the Clean Water Act." As reports the Charleston Gazette (8/22/01), the group requested a court order to block the Corps from approving any future valley-fill permits. Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said that the lawsuit  could "literally shut down the coal mining industry."

In related news, the US Geological Survey has released a report that says mountaintop removal coal mining may damage stream habitat by harming insects and the fish that feed on them. According to the report, mining might reduce the size of rocks and other particles in streambeds and change the physical environment - a change some biological communities might not be able to adapt to. 

Also, as reports the Charleston Gazette (8/15/01), the agency found that mining could reduce daily fluctuations and seasonal variations in stream temperature, and that stream flows during low-flow periods could be six to seven times greater at sites with valley fills than those without fills. "These changes alter the physical and chemical environment to which the biological communities are adapted," says USGS biologist Doug Chambers, "resulting in reduced numbers or even local extinction of some species unable to adapt."

In Idaho, Hecla Mining Co. has agreed to pay up to $138 million during the next 30 years to clean up a century of mining pollution. As reports the Idaho Statesman (8/23/01), the tentative deal would settle Hecla's responsibility for pollution of North Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Basin.

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