Pajaro River tops 2006 "endangered" rivers list

American Rivers placed the Pajaro River in central California at the top of its ten “most endangered” rivers of 2006, in a year in which the group focused on development, mining, and related problems. The environmental group did not cite dams or hydropower as reasons for listing any of the rivers.

American Rivers said April 19 the current set of levees is not adequately protecting people living near the Pajaro from flooding. It charged the Corps of Engineers built more than 22 miles of levees along the Pajaro River and compounded the problem by stripping the levees of vegetation. The group said the Corps should develop a new plan that works with the whole river and includes solutions to the Pajaro’s upstream problems, such as gravel mining and development.

None of the ten rivers was carried over from 2005, when the Susquehanna River in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland topped the list. American Rivers said its report highlights rivers facing major turning points, where actions by citizens can make a difference for community well-being and river health.

Other rivers, their states, and threats are: 2. Upper Yellowstone River in Montana, new home construction; 3. Willamette River in Oregon, pollution; 4. Salmon Trout River in Michigan, mining; 5. Shenandoah River in Virginia and West Virginia, development; 6. Boise River in Idaho, mining; 7. Caloosahatchee River in south Florida, discharges of fertilizer and toxic-laden water from Lake Okeechobee; 8. Bristol Bay in Alaska, mining; 9. San Jacinto River in Texas, mining; and 10. Verde River in Arizona, plans to increase pumping from the aquifer that feeds the river.

American Rivers targets Corps of Engineers

American Rivers said 2006 would be a pivotal year for addressing “the mismanagement of our waterways by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

The river conservation group, a frequent critic of the Corps, is calling on the Bush administration and Congress to overhaul the Corps’ approach to river management. It pointed to the 2005 flooding of New Orleans as an example of the government’s failed efforts to prevent flooding and mistaken approaches that put other communities at risk.

American Rivers said new policies for the Corps should include: stronger natural resources protection; new guidelines that account for the risk of wetlands destruction and floodplain development; independent review of agency projects; and renewed focus on “high priority” projects.

It also is urging Congress to pass the Water Resources Planning and Modernization Act of 2006 (S.2288), by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would address fundamental flaws it sees in the Corps’ planning process.

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