(from the press release)
Washington, D.C.- American Rivers named Wisconsin’s Little Plover River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2013 today, shining a national spotlight on excessive groundwater withdrawals by irrigation, municipalities, and industrial wells that threaten river health, wildlife, and fishing.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point,” said Steve White of American Rivers. “We all need healthy rivers. They provide our drinking water, support the economies of our communities, and promote public health and quality of life. We hope citizens will take action to ensure a healthy Little Plover River for generations to come.”
The Little Plover River is threatened by dramatic increases in groundwater withdrawals that have repeatedly caused sections of the river to run dry in late summer. Historic data shows how low flows have coincided with the expansion of wells drilled for irrigation as well as industrial and municipal use. Today, the Little Plover River competes for groundwater with 14,000 people, 5,500 acres of irrigated crops, a paper mill, and a vegetable processing plant.
American Rivers and its partners have called on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to develop management plans restricting large well development and ensuring adequate flows in the Little Plover River.
“After years of scientific studies of the Little Plover River, the time has come for the DNR and the State of Wisconsin to embrace the science and, without further delay, put into effect an enforceable groundwater management plan. We cannot continue to keep increasing groundwater pumping and expect it not to dry up the Little Plover River and other Wisconsin rivers and lakes,” said Barbara Gifford, with Friends of the Little Plover. “We need better stewardship of
our groundwater to ensure our Wisconsin waters are available for the enjoyment of future generations.”
“We are asking the Department of Natural Resources to enforce their own rules,” said Helen Sarakinos, Water Policy Director at the River Alliance of Wisconsin. “It is the right thing to do.”
“This is a compelling opportunity to continue Wisconsin’s long and unbroken legacy of strong leadership in environmental conservation and stewardship,” said Alistair Stewart, a member of the Elliott Donnelley Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “The potential future harms caused by the absence of effective plans for high capacity wells are in nobody’s best interests, and we urge the Wisconsin DNR to maintain and protect the public trust doctrine.”
“It is very troubling for sportsmen and women who pay $100 million per year in license and associated fees to see one of the best trout streams in Central Wisconsin destroyed by the failure of state government to protect the Little Plover River. It is time for action to restore the flow in this stream,” said George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
The Little Plover River flows six miles from its headwaters to the confluence with the Wisconsin River. Historically prized for its native brook trout, it was once a magnet for anglers. Flowing through the region immortalized by Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, the Little Plover River continues to delight the many who visit its banks each year.
The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.