America's Top Ten Most Endangered Rivers

May 18, 2011
Outside Magazine

American Rivers, the country’s foremost river focused nonprofit, released their annual list of the top ten endangered rivers yesterday. It marks the 26th year American Rivers has released the report, drawing attention to some 360 waterways--pristine or polluted.

“It’s not a list of the unhealthiest rivers,” says Amy Kober, AR’s communications director. “We want to highlight rivers that are at a crossroads so the public can weigh in and make a difference."

Topping this year’s list is New York’s Susquehanna. AR's calling for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to analyze the consequence of natural gas companies drilling in the river's basin. They're particuarly concerned with fracking, a controversial mining practice known to seep arsenic and/or hydraulic fluid into underground water supplies. Record-breaking flooding on the Mississippi earned the river special mention for its antiquated flood control systems, and Illinois’s Chicago River came it at number four for sewage pollution--don't swim there.

Each year, some 100 rivers are nominated by the organization's 65,000 members. If there's one you'd like to see on 2012's list, email AR. Publicity garnered from the top ten list has helped get government commitments for dam removals on Washington’s Elwha and White Salmon rivers. For more info on dam removals in Washington, check out my story on Hemlock Dam in last fall’s Water Issue. In the meantime, watch Outside TV's profile of pro kayaker Andy Maser weighing in on why dam removal is so important for kayakers (and salmon). The top ten list American rivers there's still time for you to protect is below.

1. Susquehanna River (NY); Threat: Natural Gas Extraction

2. Bristol Bay; Threat (CA): Copper and gold mining (Read Tim Sohn's feature Gold Fish for more)

3. Roanoke River (VA); Threat: Uranium mining

4. Chicago River (IL); Threat: Sewage

5. Yuba River (CA); Threat: Dams

6. Green River (WA); Threat: Mining

7. Hoback River (WY); Threat: Natural Gas extraction

8. Black Warrior River (AL); Threat: Coal mining

9. St. Croix River (MN); Threat: Loss of protections

10. Ozark National Scenic Riverways (MO); Threat: Overuse and under management

--Kyle Dickman

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