RICHMOND, Va. — Pollution, coal mining and natural gas exploration have put the Chesapeake Bay, North Carolina's Piedmont and the mountains of Tennessee and Virginia on an environmental group's list of most endangered places in the Southeast.
The Southern Environmental Law Center released its fourth annual "Top 10 Endangered Places" on Thursday. Among the other entries and the threats are the Alabama coast, jeopardized by oil exploration; the Savannah River, by a shipping channel; and Tennessee's Chilhowee Mountain, by a four-lane highway.
The SELC, based in Charlottesville and with offices throughout the South, said the 10 endangered places "face immediate, potentially irreparable threats in 2012."
"The South's special places and natural riches are threatened by a wave of calculated attacks on the bedrock laws that protect our environment and health," Maria Hawthorne, the SELC's director of development, said in a statement. An unsteady economy, she added, should not be an excuse to promote projects at the price of harming some of the region's top natural attractions, she said.
The 10 places and the SELC's reasons why they made the list are:
Alabama's coast, with a return to offshore drilling projects that led to the Deepwater Horizon mess, which threatens the state's beaches, marshes and wildlife.
Dawson Forest, Georgia, endangered by a proposed reservoir that would siphon 100 million gallons a day from the Etowah River to quench Atlanta's thirst. The reservoir threatens habitat for endangered aquatic life.
Catawba River Basin, North Carolina, threatened by pollution, hydroelectric dams and water withdrawals by farms and communities.
North Carolina's Piedmont, jeopardized by gas drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which threatens water supplies.
Savannah River on the Georgia-South Carolina line, threatened by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan to deepen 38 miles of the river for a shipping channel. It would increase saltwater levels in the river and jeopardize freshwater marshlands in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
Chilhowee Mountain, Tennessee, facing a planned four-lane highway through the Cherokee National Forest.
The Chesapeake Bay, diminished by decades of pollution and government inaction.
Mountains of Tennessee and Virginia, under threat from destructive coal mining practices such as mountaintop removal.
Charlottesville and its surrounding countryside, by a proposed highway bypass.
Southside Virginia, by a proposed uranium mine.