From: Associated Press
Published April 21, 2006 12:00 AM

Group Calls River Second 'Most Endangered'

BOZEMAN, Mont. — A conservation group is calling an 80-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River in Park County, Mont., the second "most endangered river" in the United States because of development and bank stabilization projects.

In a report issued Wednesday, American Rivers said development in the Upper Yellowstone River's floodplain poses a risk to new homes and the wild quality of the waterway.

"The Yellowstone River is a national treasure, but building these homes right on the river sets the table for massive bank stabilization and flood control projects in the future, and wrecks the very reason people want to live there in the first place," Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers, said in a statement.

The report urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Park County officials to guide development in a way that protects the river and avoids putting people in harm's way.

The Yellowstone River is the only Montana river to make the group's 10 most endangered list this year. It has issued lists every year since 1986.

The list isn't a ranking of the nation's worst or most polluted waterways, but rather it identifies rivers where decisions in the coming year could determine their futures, the group said.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition worked with American Rivers to draw attention to the Upper Yellowstone.

Both groups are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a long-promised Special Area Management Plan for the river, saying the agency has made little progress on it while continuing to issue permits for bank-stabilization projects.

The management plan is supposed to be an outgrowth of the work done by the Governor's Upper Yellowstone Task Force, which was formed after the floods of 1996 and 1997 to study the effects of riverbank stabilization projects. The task force completed its work in 2003.

In letter to the Corps last month, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., scolded the agency for not keeping in touch with the people of Park County, pointing out that he secured the Congressional funding to initiate the management plan in 1999.

Allan Steinle, state program manager for the Corps, said his agency expects to have a document analyzing the task force's findings ready by June.

"We have been working on it steadily and actively, but we're not finished yet," he said.

This is the second time the Yellowstone River was named to the most endangered list. The entire river made the list in 1999, when it ranked fifth.

The other rivers making the 2006 list are, beginning with the most endangered: the Pajaro River in California; Willamette River in Oregon; Salmon Trout River in Michigan; Shenandoah River in Virginia and West Virginia; Boise River in Idaho; Caloosahatchee River in Florida; Bristol Bay Watershed in Alaska; San Jacinto River in Texas; and the Verde River in Arizona.

Source: Associated Press

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