The committee could not find a recent national assessment of the number of stream and river miles affected by channelization or leveeing, but the total is probably much greater than the number of miles of river dammed. Although water resources agencies track their own development projects, the only nationwide inventory of rivers and streams was conducted in the 1970s (DOI, 1982) in response to passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.
Therefore, the committee believes there is a need for a comprehensive up-to-date nationwide assessment of rivers, comparable to the National Wetland Inventory. It would be very useful to know how many miles of free-flowing, unchannelized rivers remain in the United States, and where these reaches are located.
The Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977 (P.L. 95– 217) now encourage the restoration and protection of wetlands. These laws should be expanded to provide for the protection and restoration of large active floodplains and riparian zones that are key components of riverine ecosystems. In addition, the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Easement Program, and short-term agricultural set-aside programs should be amended to ensure that riparian zones and floodplains of all kinds are eligible for inclusion along with wetlands.
Opportunities to allocate water to in-stream uses arise (1) when land with water rights is sold or transferred, (2) when municipalities and irrigators decrease water withdrawals through conservation, and (3) when operating permits for dams are scheduled for renewal. Although the prior appropriations system (the basis of water law in the West) initially did not permit in-stream flow rights, many western states now recognize in-stream flow water rights. Therefore, states that have not established a water right for in-stream uses should do so. Flow that becomes available as the result of water conservation or lapse of permits should not automatically be reassigned to a consumptive use or withdrawal. Instead, consideration should be given to assigning the flow to in-stream uses. In addition, operating plans for dams should consider the annual water regime required by riverine fish and wildlife.
Federal agencies should be requested to update channelization estimates and to estimate miles of bank stabilization work already performed. The agencies should provide average and mean costs per mile for construction and maintenance of these conventional river management strategies, so that unit costs are available for comparison of different strategies. Government agencies should also conduct post-project evaluations of fluvial modifications, enhancement, improvement, channelization, and restoration projects to determine whether