Mobile Bay River Basin makes American River’s 2017 “Most Endangered” list

Mobile Bay River Basin Birmingham Alabama
Mobile Bay River Basin Birmingham Alabama
Photo via Mobile Baykeeper

American Rivers, a national river protection organization, today named the Mobile Bay River Basin among America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.

The Mobile Bay River Basin covers nearly two-thirds of the state of Alabama and is considered one of the most abundant and rich in biodiversity river systems in the nation.

According to the American River’s, annual 2017 America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, the Mobile Bay, its Delta and the rivers that sustain them– including the Black Warrior, Tombigbee, Alabama, Coosa, Tallapoosa and Cahaba Rivers– are threatened by rampant mismanagement of water resources. Throughout the Basin, river flows are increasingly being altered in an effort to accommodate excessive use and consumption.

The report also noted that in Alabama, which is responsible for the vast majority of the watershed, does not measure or manage the use of water at all. In 2016, Alabama’s mismanagement of water resources throughout the summer resulted in over ten percent of the watershed’s streams setting new record low flows due to unchecked water consumption and a failure to address water shortages at the state level. As droughts and over consumption have increased in recent years, the State of Alabama has been too slow to act.

How significant are Alabama’s rivers? Check out this infographic  by Alabama Water Watch

“Alabama has been working towards a sustainable water plan for years,” said Cindy Lowry, Executive Director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. “The future generations of our state are depending on us to make the right decisions today. The health of the entire Mobile Basin ecosystem is essential for the people of Alabama and our economy. Now is the time to defend this critical Alabama resource.”

At a  press conference today, in front of the State Capitol in Montgomery, American Rivers and its partners asked the Alabama legislature to pass legislation that provides for sustainable water management throughout the Mobile Bay Basin. The groups specifically called for a water management program that will require the state to identify and reserve from allocation the flows and levels necessary to protect the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the state’s waters. This should include real provisions for accounting for water use, and describe the steps that the state will take in order to ensure that streams, as well as water users, are protected during future droughts and water shortages.

“Droughts and water shortages are becoming more common and more severe. Alabama can no longer afford to mismanage and squander its resources,” said Mitch Reid with Alabama Rivers Alliance.

Four of Alabama’s largest cities— Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Mobile— as well as large portions of the Atlanta Metro Area, rely on Mobile Bay rivers for drinking water. The basin’s rivers are important for seafood, navigation, power generation, irrigation and recreation, including fishing, boating and whitewater kayaking. The Port of Mobile alone accounts for an estimated $22 billion in total economic impact, while outdoor recreation brings in $7.5 billion in direct consumer spending to Alabama.

Described by E.O. Wilson as “America’s Amazon,” the basin, particularly the Mobile Delta, is home to hundreds of species of fish, crayfish, mussels, snails and other aquatic lifeforms, many of which are found nowhere else on earth.

In its 32nd 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.

Other area rivers recently listed as endangered include: the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin (#1 in 2016), Black Warrior (2011 and 2013) and Coosa (2010).

Here is the America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2017:

#1: Lower Colorado River (Arizona, California, Nevada) Threat: Outdated water management and excessive diversions
#2: Bear River (California) Threat: New Dam
#3: South Fork Skykomish (Washington) Threat: New hydropower project
#4: Mobile Bay Rivers (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi) Threat: Poor water management
#5: Rappahannock River (Virginia) Threat: Fracking
#6: Green-Toutle River (Washington) Threat: New mine
#7: Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers (North Carolina) Threat: Pollution from hog and chicken farms
#8: Middle Fork Flathead River (Montana) Threat: Oil transport by rail
#9: Buffalo National River (Arkansas) Threat: Pollution from massive hog farm
#10: Menominee River (Michigan, Wisconsin) Threat: Open pit sulfide mining

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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