Troubled Waters

By Russell, Dick | E Magazine, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Troubled Waters

Russell, Dick, E Magazine

America's 13 Most Endangered Rivers: Can They be Saved?

Peter Lourie, a chronicler of river life, says that rivers are living mysteries, linking the past to the future. Today, that link has been largely broken. Through damming, dredging and channelization, we have changed the way rivers flow--diverting water to generate hydropower, support navigation and irrigate crops. Half of our drinking water still comes from rivers, yet non-point source pollution poses an ongoing threat.

"A lot of things were done before it was understood how important rivers are to our environment," says Rebecca Wodder, president of the conservation organization American Rivers. "The United States leads the world in diversity of freshwater creatures. Yet these same species are equally as endangered as those in tropical rainforests." (So far, 17 species of freshwater fish have gone extinct.)

At the same time, restoration of healthy rivers has climbed high on many local agendas, resulting in some 4,000 river-oriented grassroots groups around the country. Riverkeepers and Waterkeepers patrol in search of pollution violators, and even government entities such as the Army Corps of Engineers have begun to think twice about altering nature's course.

Robert Kennedy, Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, warns of hard struggles ahead: "The Supreme Court recently dealt the biggest blow to the Clean Water Act in its 30-year history, lifting the protection of hundreds of millions of acres of wetlands and opening them up to developers the stroke of a pen." President Bush's new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, "saw environmental regulation as an impediment to business," notes Kennedy. He calls her "a disaster for the Hudson River and New Jersey waterways." He also points out that Bush's Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, has argued that the Surface Mining Act, which protects Western streams from pollution, is unconstitutional. "Those are bad omens," Kennedy concluded in an interview with E, "for people who care about America's waterways"

Each year, Washington, D.C.-based American Rivers profiles the nation's 13 most endangered rivers to call attention to imminent threats as well as opportunities for change. Spotlighting these rivers with policy-makers and the public has brought results. The Yellowstone's Clark Fork, for example, topped the endangered list from 1994 to 1996; President Clinton, in August 1997, had the government buy out the gold mine threatening it. The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, No. 1 in 1998, was declared a national monument by Clinton in July 2000.

A central theme of this year's listing is energy. "Large segments of both the development and production side of energy have a significant impact on rivers and wildlife" says the group's energy policy director, Andrew Fahlund.

The lineup of America's Most Endangered Rivers, 2001, in descending order of threat, looks like this:

1. The Missouri

When first traversed by Lewis and Clark during their 1804 expedition, this was surely Americas most dynamic waterway. It came to be called the "Big Muddy," an ever-shifting combination of multiple side channels, sandbars and islands. Beginning in Montana and running for 2,500 miles before joining the Mississippi just north of St. Louis, the Missouri drains about one-sixth of the surface area in the contiguous U.S., covering some 530,000 square miles.

Today, however, the river might more aptly be called the "Big Boondoggle." Shortly after World War II, most of the river's natural character was altered by dams and channels to create a deep, rock-lined barge canal and a series of slack water reservoirs. The average width of the "wide Missouri," sung about in the song "Shenandoah" has been reduced by two-thirds, and below Sioux City, Iowa, it's been shortened by 127 miles. In the Dakotas and eastern Montana, most of the original Missouri has been buried under America's largest reservoirs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Troubled Waters


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.