Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two Mississippi River Basin Waterways Included on American Rivers "Most Endangered Rivers" List

Earlier today (April 17), the river conservation organization American Rivers released its annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers list, "a list of ten rivers facing urgent threats that call for our immediate, decisive action." In the Mississippi River Basin, the Little Plover River (in Wisconsin) and Niobrara River (in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming) were highlighted among the top-ten threatened rivers. The over-used and drought-depleted Colorado River topped the list.

Little Plover River
The Little Plover River is a relatively short (six-mile) but highly-valued trout stream and tributary to the Wisconsin River. American Rivers cites "dramatic increases in groundwater withdrawals" in the River basin for reduced Little Plover River flows; decreases that "threaten the persistence of fish populations." Models indicate that groundwater withdrawal by high capacity irrigation and municipal water supply wells had historically reduced the River's flow by more than half its baseline flow by 2006.  American Rivers stresses that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) could mitigate this condition by enforcing public flow orders already developed for the Little Plover River, and goes on to note that DNR should "develop and implement management plans for maintaining adequate water flows and regulate High Capacity Wells throughout the state in order to protect other water users and the environment from overuse."

Flooding Niobrara River
The Niobrara River is a major tributary of the Missouri River, the lower portion of which is designated as a federal Wild and Scenic River under provisions of the national Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. American Rivers selected the River as endangered because of sediment build-up that "is raising the level of the Niobrara and threatening local communities with flooding." American Rivers calls upon the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve its sediment management within the Missouri River watershed and prioritize funding in its fiscal year 2015 budget to allow for that to happen.

A primary consideration in developing the list each year is American River's determination whether there is a major decision regarding a selected waterway that the public can help influence in the coming year. In announcing this year's listing, American Rivers noted that the report annually highlights "urgent threats to rivers and has spurred the public to take action. Through the report, we have helped sound the alarm on hundreds of rivers, saving them from threats like pollution and new dams."

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