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Group says Potomac tops list of country’s endangered rivers

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By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) – The river that provides much of the drinking water to our nation’s capital, the Potomac, tops the annual list of most endangered American waterways,                       according to a national conservation group.

American Rivers said Tuesday that thanks to the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Potomac is in much better shape than it was 40 years ago, but the river still is threatened by pollution.

“When members of Congress fill a glass of water or drink their morning coffee, that water comes from the Potomac River,” said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, in a news release. “It’s time to draw the clear connections between healthy rivers, drinking water, and public health in Washington, D.C., and in communities nationwide.”

The other nine rivers on the list are: the Green River (Wyoming, Utah and Colorado), the Chattahoochee River (Georgia), the Missouri River (nine states in the central United States), the Hoback River (Wyoming), the Grand River (Ohio), the South Fork Skykomish River (Washington), the Crystal River (Colorado), the Coal River (West Virginia) and the Kansas River (Kansas).

Threats to these waterways include new dams or reservoirs, natural gas development, coal mining and dredging, the group says in the 27th annual report. The report focuses on rivers that will be affected by some sort of major policy or business decision in the next year.

For instance, American Rivers cites the Hoback River and Grand River as threatened by natural gas development. Many wells in the Western United States have contaminated water wells, the report says.

The Hoback solution, according to the organization? Lease owners should not drill on the proposed sites.

“To ensure the Hoback’s clean water, air quality, scenery and world-class fish and wildlife are not compromised, the leaseholder must agree to sell or donate its oil and gas leases to a conservation buyer,” the report says.

For the Grand, the organization says Ohio needs to pass a state law that requires more stringent standards for drilling companies.

Trent Dougherty, who helped Ohio legislators craft a House bill to do that, said by e-mail that it probably won’t pass on its own.

A Senate bill, supported by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, likely will pass next week and move to the House, he wrote.

Dougherty, the director of legal affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council, said portions of the House bill should be folded into the Senate legislation.

“SB315 covers many important topics necessary to protect Ohio and Ohioans from the risks of fracking and increased waste disposal,” he wrote, “but fails to meet what is needed to safely move forward with industrial scale drilling.

“The governor set the table, but without some serious amendments and additions, like the provisions in HB474, the plates are empty.”

Likewise, American Rivers said in its press release that the U.S. government needs to maintain strong laws.

The group called “on the Obama administration to finalize guidance clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act and issue a rule-making to ensure that all waters get the protections Americans expect and deserve.”