An environmental nonprofit has named an Eastern Kentucky river as one of the nation’s 10 most endangered.
American Rivers released its annual list Tuesday, and it includes the Russell Fork River.
The Russell Fork is on the border between Kentucky and Virginia, and flows through the Breaks Interstate Park. It’s used for whitewater rafting and fishing, but it’s coal mining that landed it on the annual list.
For the past few years, the Russell Fork has been threatened by a mountaintop removal mine proposed by Paramount Coal, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources. The Doe Branch mine was proposed several years ago but hasn’t moved forward. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued objections to the project, citing existing pollution problems in the watershed.
Tarence Ray of nonprofit Appalachian Voices said the juxtaposition of the Doe Branch permit and the Russell Fork River is emblematic of the choice many coalfields communities are facing.
“The Russell Fork is proven that it generates income for the local economy,” Ray said. “As the coal industry collapses, as it changes, we see this as an opportunity to preserve something that could create future jobs, future income and future support for these communities around it.”
Other rivers that made this year’s top 10 include the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and the Pee Dee River in North Carolina.