American Rivers’ Report Offers Opportunity for Action

On April 18 the Ohio River was named the second most endangered river in the country in their America’s Endangered Rivers report issued by American Rivers, a national non-profit advocacy organization.  These threats include a legacy of toxic chemical discharges, bacteria impairment, nutrient pollution, mine waste, and the cumulative effect from those who still consider the river as the place to deposit refuse. The Ohio River Basin Alliance sees this designation as an opportunity to advocate for much needed federal funding to address issues in the Ohio River basin. This is alarming; however, the designation does not mean that the Ohio River is imminently dangerous or imperiled, but the threat of it becoming so should be taken seriously. American Rivers’ report is a wake-up call and a catalyst for action to address the issues that are threatening our prized natural resource the Ohio River.

Action is already underway. The Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) in cooperation with the Ohio River Basin Alliance (ORBA) and the Ohio River Way are raising awareness and looking to the U.S. Congress for funds dedicated to the ecological restoration of the river. Enhancing the water quality and recreational value of the Ohio River is paramount. These dedicated federal funds would be similar to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which Congress has earmarked almost $1 billion a year to accelerate the cleanup and restoration of the Great Lakes. The Ohio River has never received that kind of dedicated federal support. Falls of the Ohio is fortunate to have local representation on the Ohio River Basin Congressional Caucus in U.S. Representative Morgan McGarvey (3rd Congressional District – Louisville) who serves as co-chair, and who will be instrumental in steering those federal dollars to address the issues identified in the American Rivers report. The Ohio River Way, aka Ohio River Recreational Trail, is a 275-mile stretch between Portsmouth, OH and West Point, KY, with major cities Louisville and Cincinnati anchoring both ends.

The Ohio River Way coalition is mobilizing river communities and connecting their natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources to the Ohio River. The coalition is working with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program to review and profile each of the river towns and assess their amenities and their relationship to the Ohio River. The ultimate goal is to elevate this 275-mile stretch of the Ohio River as a national water trail and a national river recreation area. Falls of the Ohio – Indiana’ Town of Clarksville, City of Jeffersonville, City of New Albany and City of Louisville, KY – are an integral part of the Ohio River Way.

Submitted by,
Mark Young
Board Member, Falls of the Ohio Foundation