Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 1, 2023


Will Harlan, (828) 230-6818,

Two Ohio Waterways Nominated for Strongest Clean Water Act Protections

Outstanding National Resource Waters Status Sought for Big Darby, Little Darby Creeks

COLUMBUS, Ohio— The Center for Biological Diversity and its partners filed a formal request today with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency seeking protective designations for the Big and Little Darby creeks near Columbus. The Outstanding National Resource Waters designations would afford the creeks the strongest level of protection under the Clean Water Act.

Thousands of supporters in Ohio, the Midwest and across the country joined the Center in calling for the designations.

“The Big and Little Darby creeks are national treasures that deserve the highest level of protection,” said Will Harlan, a scientist at the Center. “They’re two of the most biologically diverse waterways in the country and the lifeblood of central Ohio. It’s heartbreaking that increased pollution has caused steep declines in their rare and endangered species.”

The Big and Little Darby creeks shelter more than 100 species of fish and 44 mussel species. Five of these mussels — rabbitsfoot, rayed bean, northern riffleshell, snuffbox and clubshell — are endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also proposed protecting the longsolid, another imperiled mussel species in Big Darby Creek, under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, the Big and Little Darby creeks contain federally designated critical habitat for endangered mussels.

The Big and Little Darby creeks are already designated national scenic rivers because of their outstanding aquatic biodiversity. However, sprawling suburban development and pollution from sewage treatment plants have caused steep declines in fish and mussel populations. Big Darby Creek has twice been named one of the country’s most endangered rivers in the past decade.

The Center is urging the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to boost protections for the Big and Little Darby creeks as the agency considers its triennial water quality standards review. The Ohio Environmental Council, Darby Creek Association and American Rivers joined the Center in submitting a request for Outstanding National Scenic Waters designation, which provides stronger safeguards against new sewage treatment plants and other point sources of pollution.

More than 3,000 people submitted public comments to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency during its triennial review. The agency is expected to make a decision on the proposed designation in the next few months.

“Outstanding National Resources Waters designation is urgently needed to protect this world-class watershed in Columbus’ backyard,” said Harlan.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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