Four regional rivers were named to the country’s top 10 endangered rivers, published annually by watchdog group American Rivers. West Virginia’s mighty Gauley River—revered for its world-class whitewater—is threatened by toxic valley fills and dumping from mountaintop removal mining on the ridge above it.
“It’s destroying one of the most biologically diverse and culturally rich areas in the world,” said Margaret Janes of Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment.
It’s also endangering one of West Virginia’s most thriving economic engines—recreation tourism. The Gauley is a centerpiece of the state’s outdoor scene, which attracts climbers, hardcore paddlers, and approximately 275,000 annual whitewater rafters.
West Virginia’s Monongahela River—a favorite for flatwater paddlers—made the endangered list due to natural gas mining pollution. The Mon provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. North Carolina’s Little River earned a spot on the endangered list due to a proposed water supply dam, a multimillion dollar taxpayer burden that could be avoided through comprehensive water efficiency measures in the Raleigh area. And in Alabama, improving a hydropower dam on the Coosa River could save several aquatic species’ from extinction.