American Rivers named the Chattahoochee River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers Tuesday, shining a national spotlight on two dam and reservoir proposals that some claim are far too expensive and would harm local waters.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point,” said Jenny Hoffner of American Rivers. “We all need healthy rivers for our drinking water, health, economy, and quality of life. We hope citizens will join us to ensure a healthy Chattahoochee River and secure water supply for generations to come.”
The Chattahoochee is threatened by the proposed Glades Reservoir - in the headwaters - and Bear Creek Reservoir - downstream of Atlanta. However, according to the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (UCR), building new large reservoirs to meet water supply need in the Southeast does not make sense. The projects use inflated projections of future water demand, making their necessity doubtful. Moreover, the projects are far too expensive and would lose a lot of water to evaporation.
Several organizations, including American Rivers and UCR, called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny permits for the reservoirs and urged decision-makers to implement and fund conservation and efficiency measures which would secure new water supplies with less cost and environmental impact.
“These dams are being sold as critical water supply projects, but they have always been planned as amenity lakes to benefit private landowners. When one considers the inflated water supply demands that are based on unrealistic population growth scenarios, and price tags in the hundreds of millions at a time when local governments are struggling, these projects are sham water planning efforts that will benefit a small group of private landowners at the expense of taxpayers and the environment,” said Sally Bethea, executive director and Riverkeeper of UCR.
The Chattahoochee River, which flows through Duluth, provides drinking water for millions in metro Atlanta, is one of America’s best trout streams and was recently designated as the first National Water Trail in the U.S.
“Consistent, cold, clean instream flows are required to sustain this unique urban fishery which is both a recreational and economic resource for the Atlanta Metro area,” said Kevin McGrath, president of the Upper Chattahoochee Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Just last month, the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system as a whole was named one of America's Great Waters by the America's Great Waters Coalition, an alliance of groups from the local to the national level involved in protecting, and in some cases restoring, the health of American water resources.
“We need a clean and abundant water supply for our product, not a river that’s threatened by overuse and pollution,” said Steve Farace, SweetWater Brewing Company.
The Chattahoochee has been listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers in past years – in 1996, 1998, and 2000 for threats including development, sewage, water withdrawals, and dams.
Now in its 27th year, the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.
“This 'most endangered' status for the Chattahoochee underscores not just the threat to the environment, but the threat to taxpayers who are being asked to pay for incredibly expensive and unneeded reservoir projects that will negatively impact our river system,” said Barbara Payne, executive director of Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation.
America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2012:
- Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC); Threat: Pollution; At risk: Clean water and public health
- Green River (WY, UT, CO); Threat: Water withdrawals; At risk: Recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat
- Chattahoochee River (GA); Threat: New dams and reservoirs; At risk: Clean water and healthy fisheries
- Missouri River (IA, KS, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY); Threat: Outdated flood management; At risk: Public safety
- Hoback River (WY); Threat: Natural gas development; At stake: Clean water and world-class fish and wildlife
- Grand River (OH); Threat: Natural gas development; At risk: Clean water and public health
- South Fork Skykomish River (WA); Threat: New dam; At risk: Habitat and recreation
- Crystal River (CO); Threat: Dams and water diversions; At risk: Fish, wildlife, and recreation
- Coal River (WV); Threat: Mountaintop removal coal mining; At risk: Clean water and public health
- Kansas River (KS); Threat: Sand and gravel dredging; At risk: Public health and wildlife habitat