Group Names Allagash One of the Most Endangered Waterways
April 23, 2008 -
An environmental advocacy group placed rivers from Maine to Oregon on its list of most-
endangered waterways in a report Wednesday that concludes they are threatened by potential
overuse and in some cases persistent drought.
American Rivers put the Catawba-Wateree River in South and North Carolina No. 1 on its top
10 list for 2008.
Maineís Allagash Wilderness Waterway was listed No. 8. The organization chooses from
nominations made by environmental and river advocacy groups and bases the selections on the
significance of a river as a resource, the level of the threat, and pending decisions that could
affect the river in the next year, said Rebecca Wodder, president of the Washington-based
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway flows for 92 miles through the commercial forests of
northwestern Maine. In 1970, the Allagash became the first state-administered waterway within
the National Wild and Scenic Rivers program.
But the Allagash has been the center of numerous, high-profile legal and legislative battles
between conservation groups wanting to maximize the "wilderness character" of the waterway
and St. John Valley residents who want access to the river for day use.
Tensions culminated in 2006 with a controversial state law that effectively guaranteed a list of
vehicle access points to the river and designated six bridges within the waterway as permanent
Those changes were among the reasons given by American Rivers for adding the Allagash to
2008 list of endangered rivers.
On the Allagash, the issue is "excessive motor vehicle access and development," American
Rivers said in a news release. "Originally, only two drive-up access points were authorized.
Over the years, another 10 vehicular access sites have been created. That has caused conflicts
when short-term users try to outcompete wilderness paddlers for campsites."
"Politicians often flip-flop on issues," Wodder said in a statement. "But to flip-flop by reversing protections for the Allagash on the 40th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is particularly unfortunate."
The most-threatened rivers this year are endangered by proposed construction projects,
outdated management plans and faulty ideas to pull water from them, the report said.
"There is plenty of water to go around if we use it wisely," Wodder said.
"People across America should look at whatís happening on the Catawba-Wateree as a
preview of coming attractions, and this movie isnít a comedy, itís a horror film," Wodder said.
The designation is the latest bit of bad news for the 300-mile Catawba-Wateree river, which
also is the focus of a legal fight between the Carolinas thatís made its way to the U.S. Supreme
Court. That debate is under way in the Carolinas, where two growing suburbs of Charlotte, N.C., want to pull millions of gallons from the river before it flows south to the state line near
where its name changes to the Wateree. The river already provides drinking water to 1.3 million
people and electricity to at least a million people, according to Charlotte-based Duke Energy
Corp., which owns and operates the riverís reservoirs and power plants.
BDN writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.
Thursday April 17th, 2008
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