Puget Sound river ranked one of country's most endangered rivers

SEATTLE -- A river conservation group named the Green-Duwamish River one of the country's most endangered rivers of the year, coming in at No. 4 in a ranking released Tuesday.

Each year, the group American Rivers ranks "America's Most Endangered Rivers." This year, the Gila River in New Mexico topped the list, followed by the Hudson River in New York and the Upper Mississippi River.

The Green-Duwamish was last included on the list in 2016. American Rivers ranked it as the fourth most threatened river in the country this year, "citing the grave threat that outdated flood management poses to chinook salmon and river health."

American Rivers said its annual report lists rivers "at a crossroads, where key decisions in coming months will determine the rivers' fates."

King County Flood Control District is working on a flood hazard management plan that would call for a more extensive levee system along the urban river. Current flood management is not considered resilient enough in the face of climate change, but conservationists claim the new plan would take away more critical habitat and further contribute to declining salmon stocks.

"Climate change is real," said Tukwila councilmember Dennis Robertson. "This river is going to have to move a lot more water at times and those plans -- with high, steep levees -- don't work."

Some groups are working on an alternative plan for the county that they say will protect against floods without destroying salmon habitat. The river's ranking is a way to pressure the county to consider alternatives. Calls and emails to King County Flood Control District were not returned.

The health of the river and its salmon stocks also impact the critically-endangered southern resident orcas. Last year, NOAA Fisheries said fall runs in the Southern Puget Sound are the second-highest priority chinook salmon stocks for the starving orca -- that includes the Green and Duwamish.