What does it mean that the Yuba is a “Most Endangered River”

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The Yuba River’s plight has received some great media attention this past week, due to American Rivers’ designating it one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.  And most of this attention has centered on the imperiled state of salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon in the river.

But there is something more to this designation.

Remember:  The designation is not a Most Endangered Fish, but a Most Endangered River.

The Yuba suffers because it is severed from its anadromous heritage by two dams operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.  These dams currently endanger fish, and the three species listed above are also listed as protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.  If the Army Corps doesn’t change its operations and restore fish to their habitats above Daguerre Point and Englebright dams, they very well may go extinct from the watershed.

But the river, too, is endangered by these dams; it is endangered because it is not connected to the ocean’s nutrients, which provide for plants, fungi, and creatures from the tiniest microorganisms to eagles and bears and people.  The river is endangered, too, because the dams hold back woody debris and gravel vital to habitats in its reaches below the dams.

American Rivers’ designation is appropriate and enlightening.  Consider the river, the watershed, and all its habitats and inhabitants, endangered by these dams.

And if you want to take action to help restore this river, you can start by signing the petition to the Army Corps.  Then, volunteer for SYRCL.

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