The St. Marys River has been named among the nation’s 10 most endangered rivers in an announcement Tuesday by American Rivers.

The America’s Most Endangered Rivers designation is in response to Twin Pines Minerals’ pursuit of a permit to mine titanium and other heavy minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, source of the St. Marys River.

“America’s Most Endangered Rivers is a call to action,” said Ben Emanuel, Atlanta-based clean water supply director with American Rivers. “Some places are simply too precious to allow risky mining operations, and the edge of the unique Okefenokee Swamp is one. The Army Corps of Engineers must deny the permit to save this national treasure.”

The Alabama-based company submitted an application to the Army Corps of Engineers to operate on 2,414 acres about 1.7 miles from the edge of the refuge boundary. The company withdrew its application earlier this year before submitting another application to mine on a slightly smaller tract. The overall project, if permitted, is expected to grow to 12,000 acres, potentially coming within 400 feet of the swamp, according to the report.

The annual report lists rivers “at a crossroads,” where key decisions in coming months will determine the rivers’ fate.

Mining heavy mineral sand requires freshwater sources, and the most reliable source of millions of gallons of water is the Floridan aquifer.

Withdrawals needed could lower the water table of the Okefenokee swamp and impact the natural flows of the Suwannee and St. Marys rivers. Groundwater drawdowns could also exacerbate wildfire frequency and intensity and contribute to droughts, thus compounding the impacts of climate change, the report said.

Rena Ann Peck, executive director of Georgia River Network, described the Okefenokee as the “heart of the regional Floridan aquifer system.”

“The life force of water from the Okefenokee swamp not only flows into the St. Marys River to the Atlantic Ocean but also into the Suwannee River to the Gulf of Mexico,” she said.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have said “permanent” and “unacceptable” damage could happen to the swamp and surrounding waterways and wetlands if mining is permitted.

Despite the many concerns from environmental groups, including all 13 waterkeepers in Florida, a majority of elected officials in Charlton County support the proposal because of the jobs it would create and the impact it would have on the local economy and tax digest.

Opponents say it’s not worth the risk to the local economy because the refuge attracts an estimated 600,000 visitors from across the world every year.

“The Okefenokee Swamp and St. Marys River define the communities and families of Southeastern Georgia,” said Alice M. Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation with One Hundred Miles. “Generations of Georgians have depended on this natural asset for food, jobs, and quality of life. No one corporation should be permitted to destroy that legacy for short-term gain.”

The Okefenokee swamp has been designated a national natural landmark, a wetland of international importance and a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site because the refuge has not been compromised by agriculture or industrial development.

“The mining industry has no place on the doorstep of the Okefenokee,” said Christian Hunt, Southeast Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “The Okefenokee and St. Marys River support local economies and thousands of species because they’ve not been spoiled by the type of development proposed today. Twin Pines cannot be allowed to gamble with the health of these world-renowned resources.”

Here is the America Rivers list of the Top 10 most endangered rivers in the nation and the threats they face:

• No. 1: Upper Mississippi River (Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnestota, Wisconsin)

Threat: Climate change, poor flood management

• No. 2: Lower Missouri River (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas)

Threat: Climate change, poor flood management

• No. 3: Big Sunflower River (Mississippi)

Threat: Yazoo pumps project

• No. 4: Puyallup River (Washington)

Threat: Electron Dam

• No. 5: South Fork Salmon River (Idaho)

Threat: Gold mine

• No. 6: Menominee River (Michigan, Wisconsin)

Threat: Open pit sulfide mining

• No. 7: Rapid Creek (South Dakota)

Threat: Gold mine

• No. 8: Okefenokee Swamp and St. Marys River (Georgia, Florida)

Threat: Titanium mining

• No. 9: Ocklawaha River (Florida)

Threat: Rodman Dam

• No. 10: Lower Youghiogheny River (Pennsylvania)

Threat: Natural gas development

More from this section

Motorists may not have been appreciative Saturday when the ongoing project to replace the intersection of East Beach Causeway and Demere Road with a roundabout met with heavy Memorial Day traffic, but the project is on track to finish in August.