Environment Death of a River

An ecological catastrophe in California points to the need for new rules on the transport of toxic compounds

As it wound through the canyons southwest of Mount Shasta, 60 miles below the Oregon border, the Sacramento River was a babbling stream, rugged enough to attract kayakers, yet so pristine that it supported a thriving population of blue-ribbon trout. Each year the 45-mile stretch of river lured thousands of anglers and tourists, drawn by the bucolic setting and the reputation of its native rainbows and browns.

But now the trout are dead, the fishing is finished, and the tourist industry is suffering. A Southern Pacific tanker car derailed last week on a tricky canyon bridge six miles north of Dunsmuir,...

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