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 Coosa River found itself at #10 on the Most Endangered Rivers List. The Coosa River is a cultural southern icon and home to an astounding variety of rare and unique fish and wildlife. Seven large hydro-power dams constructed in the mid 1900's transformed the river into a series of reservoirs and caused the largest mass extinction in U.S. history. But there is still an opportunity to save some of the Coosa's remaining natural heritage for future generations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must meet its responsibility to insist on strong protections for the river's endangered wildlife in the license that will allow Alabama Power Company to operate these dams for the next 50 years.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) 50-year relicensing of Alabama Power’s dams is a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve river conditions for people, fish, and wildlife, ensuring a future for 21 federally listed species in the area. Unless dam operations are improved through the relicensing process, many of the listed species will likely go extinct. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the Coosa River's last line of defense. For this reason, American Rivers has identified the Coosa River as one of America’s Most Endangered RiversTM of 2010.
FERC will send USFWS its Biological Assessment for the effect of the seven dams on endangered species this summer. FERC's assessment is based on previous assessments prepared by Alabama Power Company, which underestimate the impacts of the project. USFWS must reject FERC's assessment and initiate formal consultation based on the best science and well supported by the relicensing record to ensure protection and restoration of the Coosa River and its unique natural heritage for future generations.
If this once in a lifetime opportunity is squandered, it is likely that the tenuous connection that the citizens of Alabama and the Southeastern United States have with the river will be lost forever.
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