WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Western rivers are performing a disappearing act according to a new report. The liberal think tank Center for American Progress says they’re in jeopardy for a variety of reasons, but there could be hope if action is taken. The report says Idaho rivers are in the best shape of all because of government protections. Kate Kelly, one of the architects of the project says states like Idaho rely on rivers for clean drinking water, habitats and a 7.8 billion dollar recreation economy.
Kate Kelly says conservation policies will help reverse the fortunes of some rivers in the west.
“That just speaks to the importance of economic development around rivers and the value that they serve to local communities,” said Kelly.
Idaho is the least impacted of the 11 states analyzed. It shows 33-percent of all Gem State rivers are altered. It says the Blackfoot, Boise and Snake Rivers are the most affected. Kelly says Idaho rivers are not perfect, but faring better than their neighbors because of policy decisions.
“Rivers that flow through public protected lands are 50 percent more natural than rivers that flow through altered lands,” said Kelly.
Kelly’s report says dams and other man-made changes hurt these rivers. She says federal protections can help turn the tide. Others say locals should have all the control.
“They have a market incentive to ensure that it is healthy and robust,” said Nick Loris from the conservative Heritage Foundation.
He says private stewardship is one solution to maintain their health. Loris says locals in Idaho with personal interests are best equipped to care for their waters, not the federal government.
“You are disconnecting the people closest to the situation from making the decisions,” said Loris.
None of our Idaho lawmakers provided comment on this report.