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Ohio River deemed 'second most endangered' waterway by American Rivers group

A boat pushes barges down the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Newport, Kentucky, in the early morning hours of February 24, 2023. The Taylor Southgate Bridge is in the background.
Bill Rinehart
A boat pushes barges down the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Newport, Kentucky, in the early morning hours of February 24, 2023.

The Ohio River is again on a list of the most endangered waterways in the United States. Heather Taylor Miesle with American Rivers says the second-place ranking is meant to draw attention to opportunities for protections and restoration.

"Not only are we thinking about this from an environmental standpoint, but also a health perspective," Taylor Miesle says. "Not to mention it's really the economic backbone of our region. It's a transportation venue for so much manufacturing; so many goods. And so (it's) really important for us to be thinking about its future."

Taylor Miesle says the greatest threats for the Ohio River are climate change and pollution. American Rivers lists the Colorado River, in Arizona, as the most endangered in the country, with climate change and outdated management cited as the biggest threats.

RELATED: Here's how contaminants are detected along the 981-mile Ohio River

She says the Ohio not only supplies drinking water to an estimated 5 million people, but also supports manufacturing, transportation and recreation.

Taylor Miesle says the designation is meant to draw stakeholders, like industry, transportation and conservationists, together. "The Ohio River has been working for our country since it was founded, and well before," she says. "It's high time we start to come together and take a look at its management in an inclusive way that's really thoughtful of the people and the culture that are on its banks."

Taylor Miesle says they're asking for federal support for the river. "Both in acknowledging that this is a priority river, but also in funding so that we can really go to the next level, and create a plan and start to implement a plan for the river," she says. "We've seen great success with this in places like the Great Lakes, and we think it’s really long overdue."

RELATED: How ORSANCO's role as steadfast defender of the Ohio River has changed

Taylor Miesle says the Ohio River doesn't have federal designation as a protected waterway. She says such a listing would open it up to more regulation and regular funding for things such as better water quality monitoring. She points to ORSANCO's tracking of a chemical plume traced to chemical spills from a train derailment near East Palestine in February. Taylor Miesle says ORSANCO needs infrastructure upgrades.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.