The Rio Grande and parts of the mighty Mississippi made an environmental organization’s list of the nation’s most endangered rivers due to mining, flood control projects, dams and plans for a border wall.
American Rivers, a green group focusing on various threats posed to the nation’s waterways, released its annual “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” list on Thursday.
“The Trump administration has proposed the construction of hundreds of miles of new border walls along the Rio Grande,” the report says. “Much of this new construction will be ‘levee-border walls’— carving away the river-facing side of existing earthen levees and inserting a vertical concrete slab — that will cut the Rio Grande off from its floodplain and block access to this life-giving resource for people and wildlife.”
While the report is critical of Trump’s plan for the Rio Bravo, the most endangered river is identified as Big Sunflower River in Mississippi. A tributary of the Old Yazoo River that eventually flows into the mighty Mississippi, the Big Sunflower is endangered by plans proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to eradicate much of its wetlands as part of a flood control project.
“According to independent estimates, Yazoo Pumps would drain and damage up to 200,000 acres of ecologically-significant wetlands and a highly productive floodplain fishery,” the report says.
Big Sunflower’s spot on the list, comprised of ten rivers in all, highlights the unusual criteria American Rivers uses.
The green org isn’t interested in highlighting the worst rivers, the most polluted or degraded in other ways.
Instead, they focus on rivers important to the economic and social well being of surrounding communities and which face a major decision in the coming year that could entirely alter its health and its role in the ecosystem and local communities.
For instance, the rivers of Bristol Bay in Alaska are home to some of the last great salmon runs in the world. The rivers also function as the lifeblood for three distinct indigenous communities and 7,000 residents spread over an area the size of Ohio.
A source of fresh drinking water and economic vitality, the waterway is indispensable.
But the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers are threatened by the Pebble Mine, which if approved would become one of the largest open pit mines in the world.
Mining is a frequent culprit throughout the list.
The Boundary Waters in Minnesota, one of the most iconic locations for multi-day canoe and kayak trips in the world, is under threat from a massive sulphide-ore copper mine proposed by a foreign-owned mining company.
Water quality threats, as a result of mining, loom over the South Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho and the Smith River in Montana, according to the list.
Dams threaten the Mississippi River Gorge in Minnesota and the Kinnickinnic River in Wisconsin. The prospect of a nearby coal fired power plant menaces the Middle Fork of the Vermillion River in Illinois.
Finally, proposed oil development clouds the future of the Colville River in Alaska.
American Rivers has been compiling its endangered list annually since 1984.