Each year since 1986, American Rivers has released its America's Most Endangered Rivers report to spotlight the nation's ten most imperiled rivers. This year, the Gauley River found itself at #3 on the Most Endangered Rivers List. The Gauley River is internationally famous for its whitewater rafting and also supports trout and bass, but is scarred by coal mining impacts and subjected to degradation from ongoing mining activity. Mountaintop removal mining flattens mountaintops, buries streams under debris, and pollutes water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and cooperating agencies must stop permitting mine activity that harms the Gauley's clean water and natural areas.
Mountaintop removal mining allows coal companies to blast the tops off of mountains, extract thin seams of coal, and dump millions of tons of former mountains into streams and valleys. Recent scientific study has once again affirmed that mountaintop removal mining harms streams and drinking water supplies.
In April 2010, new guidance was released to protect the waters of Appalachia from surface mining activity and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated for the first time that it was, “a high priority…to reduce the substantial environmental and human health consequences of surface coal mining in Appalachia, and minimize further impairment of already compromised watersheds.” Now is the time to act on decisions pending at the federal level that represent the cumulative impacts of mountaintop removal mining on rivers across Appalachia, including enforcing EPA’s proposed guidance on conductivity, issuing additional guidance for selenium, and thoroughly reviewing the 79 pending permits by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to prohibit destructive valley fills that submerge streams.
These decisions must not be undermined by further delay or compromise if the Gauley River is to support eastern hellbender and brook trout, internationally renowned whitewater within the Gauley River National Recreation Area, and thriving communities further downstream.