Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Three Mississippi River Basin Waterways listed by American Rivers as "Most Endangered Rivers"

This week the river conservation organization American Rivers released its annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers list, a report highlighting "ten rivers facing urgent threats, and (that) encourages decision-makers to do the right thing for the rivers and communities they support." In the Mississippi River Basin, the Smith River (in Montana), Holston and Harpeth rivers (both in Tennessee) were highlighted among the top-ten threatened rivers. The Colorado River once again topped the organization's list.

Smith River
The Smith River flows 60 miles in Montana before joining the Missouri River just south of Great Falls. The River was listed as endangered by American Rivers because of a Tintina Resources Inc. copper mine along Sheep Creek, a major Smith River headwater tributary. For the 2015 list, American Rivers choose rivers facing key decisions over the next 12 months. The Smith River Basin copper mine proposal is expected to be filed with the state sometime in late 2015. Should the mine be opened, American Rivers predicts that the River's wild trout fishery would be subject to "acid mine drainage, contamination with toxic heavy metals, and nutrient pollution."

Holston River
The Holston River and people who rely on its waters are threatened by Research Development Explosive (or "RDX") residuals in wastewater being discharged from the Holston Army Ammunition Plant, located along the River in Tennessee. RDX has been found 143 miles downstream of the ammunition plant, at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers.   RDX, according to American Rivers, "is a toxic chemical used in explosives and recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a possible human carcinogen. It can also cause seizures in humans and animals when large amounts are inhaled or ingested."  Four mid-1900s-era Tennessee Valley Authority dams on the Holston River provide electricity and flood control for the region, and the South Holston River is a drinking water source for many communities that bordering that River branch.

Harpeth River
The Harpeth River is a Tennessee-designated scenic river that flows through four Middle Tennessee counties, including the Nashville metropolitan area, and a series of state, county, and city parks. The River and its tributaries are home to rich freshwater biodiversity, including over 50 fish and 30 mussel species. Both American Rivers and the Harpeth River Watershed Association believe that the River faces two threatening issues: water withdrawal to supply drinking water to the town of Franklin, Tennessee and Franklin's wastewater discharges to the River. In 2014, the Watershed Association sued the city of Franklin claiming it had violated the Clean Water Act.

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