Damming of Alabama’s Coosa River Highlighted in International Report

Published 3/21/2013  |  Alabama Rivers Alliance

In honor of World Water Day*, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released a report, Seven Sins of Dam Building, to highlight the detrimental impacts that building dams has on our precious freshwater resources.  The sole case study highlighted from the United States in the report is the damming of the Coosa River in Alabama.

According to the WWF web release, “The ‘seven sins’ outlined in the report include issues with dam location, neglecting biodiversity, environmental flows, social and economic factors, and risk analysis.” WWF also notes that dam decisions often blindly follow “a bias to build” without considering better, cheaper, and less damaging alternatives.

The Coosa case study is featured in the report as a dam project guilty of the sin of “neglecting biodiversity.”  According to the report, the Coosa River “was once one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the world, but today it is the most developed river in Alabama with only some free flowing stretches remaining.” The report also states that the damming of the Coosa River has been described by the USFWS as “one of the largest extinction rates in North America during the 20th century, with the extinction or extirpation of nearly 40 freshwater species.”

However, the report also notes that all is not lost once a river is dammed.  There are opportunities for ecosystem restoration, such as during the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process, which happens every 30 to 50 years. The Coosa system has been undergoing relicensing for more than a decade and time is running short to make important improvements toward restoration.

According to the report, “FERC has refused to require Alabama Power to conduct critical studies that could lead to the recovery of imperiled fish and wildlife. Without the data these studies could provide, FERC’s finding that the project does not have a significant impact on the environment is unfounded. Unfortunately, the state and federal agencies involved in the relicensing are not addressing the issue of species recovery.”

The Alabama Rivers Alliance has participated as a stakeholder in the federal relicensing process for more than a decade.

“It would be a shame to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to study the potential for restoring what was once the most aquatically biodiverse river system in the nation,” states Mitch Reid, Program Director for the Alabama Rivers Alliance.  Reid is a case study contributor to the report.

“The Coosa River Basin is vital to Alabama’s economy and ecology as one of our largest freshwater resources,” Reid stated. “We are fortunate to now have a Coosa Riverkeeper with which we can partner to protect this river.”

World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.

# # #

 

About the Alabama Rivers Alliance

The Alabama Rivers Alliance is a network of river and water-centered organizations from around Alabama, the statewide organization working to defend and restore Alabama’s rivers by advocating for smart water policy, organizing at the grassroots level, and teaching citizens how they can protect their water with in order to achieve healthy rivers, healthy people, and a healthy system of government for the state of Alabama.  Please visit www.alabamarivers.org for more information.

 

This post originally appeared on Alabama Rivers Alliance.

From our Resource Library

Case StudiesHydro Guides

Activists’ Preparation Guide

Case StudiesFactsheets

Medway Dam Factsheet

See all resources

Email newsletter