Dams and Fish

St. Lawrence River is ‘slowly dying,’ U.S. environmental group warns

American Rivers says “harmful” dam operations, not pollution, are threatening fish, wildlife and local communities.


Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo St. Lawrence River continues to participate in “harmful” dam operations that are threatening fish, wildlife and local communities, a U.S. environmental group warned.

By Diana Mehta for the Canadian Press, published by the Toronto Star, published on April 13, 2015

An American environmental group is calling on the Canadian and U.S. governments to act to safeguard the St. Lawrence River, saying the waterway which runs along the border is “slowly dying.”

The group, American Rivers, has placed the St. Lawrence River on its annual list of the most endangered rivers in America and says “harmful” dam operations are threatening fish, wildlife and local communities.

“The St. Lawrence River is slowly dying,” said Rupak Thapaliya, associate director of American Rivers. “The river has suffered, the wetlands have suffered, the wildlife has suffered and we can do better.”

The group notes that the river did not land on its endangered list because of pollution. Rather, the operation of a key dam is at the core of its concerns.

American Rivers explains that water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are largely regulated by the Moses-Saunders Hydropower Dam, which it says operates under an outdated management strategy developed in the 1950s that has little regard for the environment.

The strategy does not allow for natural variability in water levels that are essential to maintaining the river’s health, the group says, leading to a loss of biodiversity in certain areas and a decline in certain fish and water bird species.

“The Moses-Saunders dam has been harming the river system ever since it was built,” said Thapaliya. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s going on that could be improved.”

A new management strategy already exists, Thapaliya notes, and just needs to be enacted by the U.S. and Canadian government.

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