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Upper Pitt River heads BC’s
Most Endangered Rivers List for 2008

The Upper Pitt River, 40 kilometers from Vancouver, tops this year’s list of the most endangered rivers in British Columbia.
The Upper Pitt, one of BC’s most beautiful and salmon rich waterways, is threatened by a controversial private power proposal that would see the diversion of 8 tributaries along with the construction of 7 power houses, all within a 12 kilometer stretch of the Upper Pitt’s main stem. “The clustering of power projects along the Upper Pitt has raised serious concerns about the potential for adverse impacts to the river and its fish stocks” said Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair for the Outdoor Recreation Council and an Order of Canada and Order of BC recipient.

In addition to fisheries-related concerns associated with the project’s needed infrastructure and roads, the proponent is proposing the construction of a 4.3 kilometer transmission line through a wilderness section of Pinecone Provincial Park. The potential negative impacts of this project on the Upper Pitt have also raised broader concerns that existing government review processes are not adequately distinguishing between those projects that may be appropriate and those that are clearly not. “The Upper Pitt is a jewel amongst BC’s many spectacular waterways and, given its great ecological values, the river and its major tributaries should be protected from such a development” added Angelo, who also heads BCIT’s Fish and Wildlife Program.

In a tie for second spot this year is the Flathead River, which flows through southeastern BC into Montana. The Flathead, which topped last year’s list, is widely considered one of North America’s wildest and most beautiful waterways. The river supports important trans-boundary fish populations while also sustaining perhaps the highest density of inland grizzly bears anywhere in North America, along with many other wildlife species. Yet, while the US section is protected, the BC stretch faces a number of threats, the most prominent being the proposed Cline open pit coal mine. Given the size and location of the mine in the river’s headwaters, water quality would be impacted and recreational, wildlife and wilderness values would be greatly compromised. For these reasons, the public’s response during the review process has been overwhelmingly against the mine. Other threats to the river include coalbed methane development, roads and pipelines.

“No other region along the Canada/US border sustains such a diversity of wildlife and ecosystems,” notes Mark Angelo. “And while mining is a major industry in our province, many British Columbians also believe that there are places with exceptional values that are just not appropriate to mine – and the Flathead River is one of them.”

Also coming in at the number two position is the Fraser River, which for the 15th time in 16 years, makes the top five endangered rivers in BC. “Of particular concern this year are the development pressures facing the ‘Heart of the Fraser’ between Hope and Mission, one of the most productive sections of river anywhere in the world” added Angelo.

Taking the third spot this year is the Taku River, a renowned wilderness river that faces the imminent prospect of a controversial mining development. In the number four spot is the Peace River, marking its first appearance on the list in many years as a result of renewed interest in the Site C dam proposal. In the fifth position is a unique listing that actually combines the headwaters of Skeena, Stikine and Nass, three of Canada’s most important salmon rivers. Widely known to first nations as the “sacred headwaters”, this area is the site of a major proposal by Canada Shell to extract coal bed methane gas, a highly invasive process that many believe would compromise the biological richness of the great rivers that flow from this area.

“The problems outlined in this year’s list are extensive and diverse, ranging from controversial dam proposals and low summer flows to the need for improved riparian protection and better collaborative planning,” explains Angelo. “These issues highlight the fact that you cannot separate the health of our fish stocks from the health of our rivers; they are completely inter-dependent. Yet, while the waterways on this year's list face many habitat-related problems, things can still be turned around if there is a strong enough will to do so".

Each year, the Outdoor Recreation Council solicits nominations for BC’s Most Endangered Rivers from its member groups, which total 120,000 members, as well as from the general public and resource managers from across the province. Submissions are reviewed by a panel of some of BC’s best-known river conservationists. For more detailed information on the threats to – and possible solutions for – BC’s most endangered rivers, please see the backgrounder at www.orcbc.ca

BC’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2008;
1. Upper Pitt River (Independent power project proposal)
2. Flathead River – tied (proposed coal mine, coalbed methane development)
2. Fraser River – tied (urbanization, sewage, pollution, industrial development)
3. Taku River (proposed mine, acid mine drainage)
4. Peace River (hydro-electric dam proposal)
5. “Sacred headwaters” of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine (coalbed methane proposal)
6. Kettle River (water extraction, development, power project proposal)
7. Coquitlam River (excessive sedimentation, urbanization)
8. Glacier/Howser Creeks (power project proposal)
9. Coldwater River (water extraction)
10. Okanagan River (channelization, water extraction, urban encroachment, riparian habitat loss and the building of dams and weirs)
11. Salmon River (near Salmon Arm – low flows, pine beetle, riverside habitat loss)
12. Little Campbell River (development, agricultural impacts, water quality concerns)

Media only: photo/backgrounder details on each river is found at www.orcbc.ca
For more information, please contact:
Mark Angelo – (604) 432-8270 Outdoor Recreation Council - (604) 737-3058
 
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