Interior Secretary Cites "Most Endangered River" As Model Of America's Great Outdoors River Initiative

Apparently top Interior Department officials didn't get the memo: The Chattahoochee River, which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says is a "model of the America's Great Outdoors River Initiative," is also considered one of the nation's most endangered rivers by American Rivers.

Exactly one week after American Rivers published its top-10 list of Most Endangered Rivers, a list that says the Chattahoochee River is threatened by dams and reservoirs, Secretary Salazar promoted the river and its associated National River Trail as a model of conservation and restoration.

"The Chattahoochee River has long been a favorite place for people to get outdoors in the Atlanta metropolitan area," said National Recreation Area Superintendent Patty Wissinger in an Interior Department release. "Our recent designation as a National Water Trail and this recognition from America's Great Outdoors highlights the continuing role that the river plays as a regional and national resource as well. Coming with the start of summer vacation this weekend, this is a great reminder to enjoy the national park in your backyard."

But in designating the river as one of the country's most endangered, American Rivers said, "The Chattahoochee River provides drinking water for millions in metro Atlanta, is one of America’s best trout streams, and was recently designated as our country’s first National Water Trail. However, a water war between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida has spurred proposals for costly new dams and reservoirs that would harm water quality, destroy recreation opportunities, and ruin wildlife habitat."

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must deny permits for these reservoirs and state decision makers must embrace more cost effective solutions, like water efficiency, in order to ensure a reliable water supply and healthy river for generations to come," the group said.

Comments

The secretary and NPS have the authority and, actually, the duty to speak out if the impacts of new dams and reservoirs are likely to significantly affect NPS areas along the river either upstream or downstream. NPS knows from vast experience out west that dams can have a profound negative effect on the native or existing aquatic biota and sediement dynamics. Of course using this vast experience and existing data to voice concern about the long-term health of the river in areas he's respponsible for is sure to generate great political controversy so it is much easier to declare everything just fine and walk away.