According to conservation outfit American Rivers, the section of the Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon is most endangered freshwater way in the United States.
Every year since 1984, American Rivers puts out its “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” report. This year’s report lists threats like harmful human development, groundwater depletion and uranium mines as just a few of the reasons why one of North America’s most iconic stretches of river tops the 2015 list. It’s the third year in a row the Colorado has held the dubious distinction.
“The Grand Canyon is facing the biggest threats in a generation,” Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, said in a press release. “The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon is an irreplaceable national treasure that should be preserved for all of us, for all time. The Grand Canyon is not for sale.”
The new reports focuses on two key development projects, which environmentalists say will put undue pressure on the vulnerable water system. The first is a plan to construct several large commercial buildings and some 2,200 homes in Tusayan, Ariz., a small resort town near the south entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. The report’s authors say pollution and groundwater depletion from the project threatens the Colorado.
The second plan, the Grand Canyon Escalade project, calls for construction of a two million square-foot tourist development that enables large numbers of visitors to visit the bottom of the canyon by way of tram lines and stairways. Critics contend the construction will pollute the river and upset the fragile ecosystem — an ecosystem that holds the last remaining populations of some of the Southwest’s rarest native aquatic species.