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Snake River 'Most Endangered,' Group Claims

by Libby Quaid, Associated Press
Post Register, April 10, 2000

WASHINGTON - Freshwater species in North America's rivers are disappearing as swiftly as those in tropical rainforests because of decades of dam building, digging of navigation channels and construction of floodwalls and levees, the environmental group American Rivers said.

The group planned today to name a dozen rivers as the nation's most endangered. Last month, American Rivers announced its No. 1 most endangered, the Snake River in Washington state.

The Missouri River is second on the list, which will be released today during a series of news conferences across the nation.

Dams have an impact on four of the top five rivers on this year's list. The Snake's designation was based on four dams built in the 1970s that have brought salmon runs to the brink of extinction.

In Utah, the group ranked the Green River No. 11 on its list.

The plight of three species along the Missouri prompted American Rivers and another group, Environmental Defense, to announce plans last month to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over dam operations and channelization. The species are two endangered shorebirds, the least tern and piping plover; and the pallid sturgeon, an ancient shark-shaped fish with an armor-like shell.

"America's native fish are homeless in most parts of the country," said Rebecca Wodder, American Rivers' president.

"We have straightened the curves, blocked the flows and hardened the banks of thousands of miles of waterways, wiping out habitat and making it difficult for our nation's rivers to support native fish and wildlife," she added.

The other dam-threatened rivers, the group said, were the Ventura River in California and Tri-State River Basins of Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

David Tuft, spokesman for the National Hydropower Association in Washington, D.C., faulted American Rivers for oversimplifying the issue. "This is a complicated, difficult problem that's facing the region," he said.

Along the Missouri, the corps in recent weeks delayed implementation of its new river management plan, citing concerns about the same endangered species. The plan for controlling the flow of the 2,500-mile waterway was to have taken effect this month, but the corps announced Thursday it has been postponed until the fall.

Paul Johnston, a corps spokesman in Omaha, Neb., said recently the agency will consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on restoring endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service has expressed concern that the Missouri River management proposal would threaten those species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said the key problem has been the corps' leveling of flows, eliminating high water during the spring and supplementing naturally reduced flows each summer.

Related Sites:
13 Most Endangered Rivers of 2000
2000 Most Endangered Rivers
1999 Most Endangered Rivers

Libby Quaid, Associated Press
Snake River 'Most Endangered,' Group Claims
Post Register, April 10, 2000

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