The Corps is studying plans to deepen and widen the Mobile Ship Channel. Currently the study concludes “no impacts” will result from deepening and widening the Mobile Ship Channel. After speaking with local experts, community members, and doing our own research - the study is inadequate and likely underestimates the impacts to our precious natural resources. We need you to take action and submit comments by 5pm, Monday Sept 17th.
The Army Corps of Engineers is hosting a public meeting on the proposed deepening and widening of the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel on Sept. 11th. Check out these talking points so you can come to the meeting prepared. Your attendance is important!
If the dam broke, it would release more than 21 million tons of toxic coal ash into the heart of the Delta, a volume 20 times larger than the oil spilled from BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster. We don’t want to see another disaster strike the Gulf Coast. Covering this leaking unlined pond near the Mobile River is irresponsible and threatens the health of our community, economy, and environment.
On July 27, 2018 the Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) was released by The Army Corps of Engineers. The Public Comment Period will now be open for 45 days. Mobile Baykeeper looks forward to reviewing and submitting additional comments over the coming weeks as we research how our concerns were taken into account following our earlier comments.
Mobile Baykeeper Submits Comments on Mobile Ship Channel Expansion Study
Mobile Bay is our home - a place where we all enjoy swimming, fishing, and playing. It is also a complex and highly sensitive ecosystem that is considered one of the most biodiverse in North America. We depend on a healthy Mobile Bay for many things: recreation, delicious seafood, tourism, coastal development, industry, and so much more.
Therefore, Mobile Baykeeper is staying heavily involved in plans to deepen and widen the Mobile Ship Channel. By thoroughly studying and developing a comprehensive plan for the port expansion, we can grow responsibly and minimize negative impacts to the very natural resources that support many economic sectors and our quality of life along the coast.
Mobile Baykeeper recently submitted comments in advance of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) due to be published later this summer evaluating the proposed deepening and widening of the Mobile Ship Channel. A summary of our latest comments are below. We ask the Army Corps of Engineers do the following:
Better Define and Understand “No Action” – We are troubled that the Corps has thus far stated there will be “no environmental impacts” associated with this project. We now understand this finding is in part based on predicting ship traffic will be greater without the ship channel deepening and widening project than once it is built - that is a tenuous assumption. We request the Corps review impacts under a variety of scenarios to accurately understand what impacts will occur under these all potential growth scenarios. For example, if ships are able to be more heavily loaded (because the channel is deeper) how will this impact the wake height experienced along the western shorelines of Mobile Bay.
Use More than One Year as a Baseline – The Corps is using weather patterns from 2010 as the only year to develop a model for the entire project. The year of 2010 did not have severe or extreme drought and is likely not an accurate characterization of the full range of conditions that would result from the modifications to the ship channel. We strongly believe they should use more than one single year to create a more accurate model.
Evaluate Alternatives - We suggest the Corps look at alternatives proposals including the implementation of a Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) program that may reduce project impacts from ship wake (causing erosion to shorelines and disturbing oyster spat settling) and air emissions (degrading air quality) through a reduced speed requirement of all vessels in the channel.
Cumulative & Indirect Impacts – Cumulative impacts include those coming from affiliated industries that will need or wish to expand due to the Port’s expansion as well as prospective new growth due to a deeper and wider ship channel. The cumulative analysis needs be sensitive enough to include other important factors including but not limited to: extreme weather events, pollution, wetland loss, fishery habitat impacts, and sea level rise. The Corps must identify all indirect impacts such as new growth and development, and compensate for any unavoidable impacts.
Coordinate with All Appropriate Audiences – The Corps should meaningfully coordinate with all the appropriate audiences to develop the DSEIS – including state and federal agencies, commercial and recreational fishermen, and minority and low-income communities located in affected areas. To ensure the Corps is utilizing the best available science, they must also connect with the local scientists and researchers who specialize in subjects that are relevant and pertain directly to the study. These individuals have extensive and critical information.
Monitoring Plans & Mitigation – We suggest the Corps implement a long-term monitoring plan that closely evaluates the impacts of dredging and disposal areas for at least 10 years. We encourage them to consider public comments to ensure impacts are not underestimated. If any unavoidable impacts are identified, we suggest the Corps work with the community and environmental groups to ensure mitigation projects will adequately fix the impacts identified and are supported by the community.
Mobile Baykeeper also provided more specific concerns that we want them to study at length:
Changes to saltwater and dissolved oxygen (after creating a deeper channel) impacting...
Wetlands productivity and survival
Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAVs) or seagrasses
Fish and benthic species from habitat loss or changes to water characteristics
Increased ship wake and wave height causing...
Oyster spat settling and oyster farming viability
Current and future living shorelines
Potential mammal ship strikes
Disturbance of mammal and fish species migrations
Dredging activities and a deeper channel causing...
Turbidity (or muddy water) which can impact SAVs, oysters, and fish
Release of harmful contaminants locked in the bottom substrate
Causing direct mortality or disturbance to benthic communities (critters that live on the bottom bay floor)
**And how all of these activities will impact our Threatened and Endangered Species like the West Indian Manatee and Gulf Sturgeon, etc.
Ultimately, we encourage the Corps select a plan that addresses the triple bottom line - the economy, environment, and community. Benefiting all three of these values will continue to allow Mobile Bay to thrive and continue to support its many uses. If you want to dive deeper into our full comment letter, please click here.
Submit comments – You still have a chance to speak up! You can submit written comments via email to MobileHarborGRR@usace.army.mil. On July 27, The Corps released a Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement with a 45 day comment period, so be sure to follow Mobile Baykeeper for updates on this important document.
Become a Member of Mobile Baykeeper to receive more information about our involvement in this issue and other important issues we're working on to protect the Mobile Bay Watershed and our coastal communities.
Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! Contact Program & Grants Coordinator Laura Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (251)-433-4229
Thanks to the help of a number of concerned citizens, the City of Fairhope recently discovered a breach in the outfall line from the sewage treatment plant. This is alarming because the breach is allowing treated sewage to discharge approximately 475 feet from the shore into Mobile Bay in only 3-4 feet of water.
First Apple Snail Roundup of the Year
By: Sarah Hogan, AmeriCorps Volunteer Engagement Member
We were greeted with a beautiful day on Saturday March 24 to launch our first Apple Snail Roundup of 2018. There were many familiar faces and lots of new ones who came out to help us remove apple snails from Langan Park.
Because the temperatures are cooler this time of year compared to the summer months, not as many snails were out and active. They avoid the cold by staying in deeper water and reducing their activity levels. However, this did not prevent our group from collecting 462 snails and 660 egg clusters! What a great effort by our incredible volunteers!
This roundup had the added plus of the Goodwill Easter Seals' recycling trailer being on site at Langan Park. As a result, we were able to sort out a significant amount of recyclable materials from our overall collection of litter. There were approximately 450 pieces of trash collected from the park, which could have easily ended up in our waterways if it wasn’t for all of the volunteers who helped do their part.
About Apple Snails
Because an invasive species, apple snails have no natural predator in this area. Our goal is to prevent them from spreading further beyond Three Mile Creek into the Mobile River and Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The snails will continue to grow in masses and eat their way through the local vegetation, causing an imbalance to our local ecosystem. One of the most alarming features of the snails is their capability to reproduce several times during our warmer months. The apple snails’ eggs are sticky, smelly, bubble-gum pink and found deposited along the water’s edge.
One of our community partners, Red Beard's Outfitters, graciously donated some goodies for a give away! Our volunteers who filled out the event survey were entered into a drawing to receive either a hat, t-shirt, and other gifts from our local outdoor store. Special thanks to our friends at Red Beard's for putting a fun spin on the roundup! We intend to apply more fun competitive incentives at other events in the future.
At our next cleanup effort, we plan to ‘Plog The Earth’ on April 22 (Earth Day) with our partners Fleet Feet and Serda's Brewing Company. What is plogging? It’s the newest craze which combines jogging and picking up litter! Click the link above to learn more about this exciting event and sign up online. We hope to see you there!
Mobile Baykeeper has once again discovered ongoing violations by Daphne Utilities. With Daphne Utilities releasing nearly three million gallons of partially treated sewage every day in January, the 4000% violation of legally allowable bacteria levels amounts to approximately 4.6 trillion colonies of bacteria above the legal limit being released into Mobile Bay during the month.
We recently submitted comments to the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) regarding the application to fill nearly five (5) acres of wetlands in the Dog River Watershed to expand a housing development.
We have significant concerns with the amount of wetlands proposed to be filled in the Dog River Watershed, a predominantly developed watershed, that faces constant threats from flooding, shoreline erosion, storm surge, stormwater runoff, and other water quality issues.
You can write your own letter here or by scrolling to the end of this blog post. You will also find a copy of Mobile Baykeeper's comments included at the bottom of this page.
Why is this important?
Dog River is a vital resource in Coastal Alabama for many reasons. It is home to both full-time residents and visitors. Its local restaurants serve fresh, delicious seafood that come straight from the river. It serves as a favorite pastime for many families who spend their days swimming, fishing, boating, and playing on the river. The river plays a crucial role to the health and well-being of our community, environment, and economy. For these reasons we have concerns about filling these wetlands.
What has been done?
The Dog River Watershed Management Plan (DRWMP) was recently published by Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. This plan uses scientific analysis and input from all types of stakeholders, residents, businesses, MAWSS, environmental organizations (including Dog River Clearwater Revival and Mobile Baykeeper) and others within the Dog River Watershed to show the issues impacting the watershed. It also provides clear strategies to reduce pollution and improve water quality.
The wetlands proposed to be filled are part of a vital area of wetlands recommended to be preserved by the WMP.
More generally, the WMP recommends acquiring and preserving existing natural wetlands and creating constructed stormwater wetlands...not filling them. The plan states “The overall health of the greater Dog River Watershed depends upon the existence of its wetlands.” And goes on to say that the watershed has suffered from a drastic loss of wetlands and highlights that the greatest loss of wetlands in the Watershed has occurred as a result of filling wetlands for development.
“Although the loss and conversion of habitat is challenging and expensive to reverse, it is critical to protect and preserve remaining areas of ecological significance such as forests, wetlands, and stream floodplains, which provide a natural filter for pollutants, pathogens, sediment, etc. Failure to protect these wetlands, shorelines, marshes, and forests will exacerbate negative impacts described throughout this WMP.”
-Dog River Watershed Management Plan
The evidence in the Watershed Management Plan makes it clear why additional wetland fill in the Dog River Watershed will have serious negative effects on water quality and the safety and resilience of communities, infrastructure, and resources located within the watershed.
Mobile Baykeeper's main concerns include:
The location of the proposed project is a major concern. The Dog River Watershed is plagued with several issues including flooding, storm surge, shoreline erosion and water quality degradation; any amount of wetland fill will worsen these problems. Furthermore, the proposed wetlands to be filled are considered highly ecologically important to the watershed as a whole.
To fill wetlands you must show that there are no other practical alternatives. Houses do not have to be built in wetlands and, in the case of this application, it is clear that the applicant hasn't done everything practical to avoid wetlands.
If this application is approved:
Mobile Baykeeper urges the Corps to require the applicant to fund restoration and preservation projects identified within the Dog River WMP to fulfill the mitigation requirements. When wetlands are filled, the developer is required to mitigate (lessen) the harm caused by this wetland fill. The Dog River WMP clearly spells out needed restoration and preservation projects in the watershed. If these wetlands are filled, the harm that is caused by that fill can be lessened, or mitigated, by funding these critical projects.
Mitigation should preferentially seek to restore nearby wetlands. Performing required mitigation nearby helps ensure the least negative impact to water quality in the watershed.
Appropriate protection measures should be clearly demonstrated to ensure red clay doesn't fill Halls Mill Creek and Dog River during construction. For protection of the watershed and nearby residents, we strongly encourage the incorporation of Low Impact Development practices into the project to the maximum extent.
- To minimize negative impacts, inspections should be conducted - at least twice a week and after any rainfall of 0.50 inches or greater and a comprehensive plan be created to lay out best management practices and monitoring activities for the project.
The Dog River Watershed Management Plan was created to be an active guide for policy makers, watershed resource managers, and decision makers to strategically manage and protect the watershed. We rely on the health and beauty of Dog River for swimming, fishing, boating, delicious seafood, property values, and so much more.
Mobile Baykeeper urges the Corps to not dismiss the concerted effort made in the WMP and adequately consider it when evaluating this application. Given the above concerns, Mobile Baykeeper recommends denial of this wetland fill application.
Want to write your own letter to encourage these wetlands be protected and not filled?
We've spelled out our main concerns in the pre-drafted letter below. Feel free to edit it until it fits your concerns or just hit send to send your own letter to the Corps and ADEM recommending that they follow the Dog River Watershed Management Plan and protect these important wetlands!