Advocacy

Proposed Rule Threatens Important Protections for Wetlands and Creeks

Proposed Rule Threatens Important Protections for Wetlands and Creeks

A proposed rule change was announced today that would strip the Clean Water Act of important protections. Allowing this proposed rule change would let industrial facilities, sewage plants, and developers impact many previously protected creeks and fill wetlands without restrictions, harming our local economy and way of life.

Mobile Baykeeper Comments on Proposed Wetland Fill in Dog River Watershed

Wetlands fill both sides of this photo of Dog River. These vital areas protect from storm surge, flooding, shoreline erosion, and stormwater runoff pollution.

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:

A map based on National Weather Service models shows storm surge potentials in the Dog River watershed. Filling more wetlands will only make these storm surges more severe.

  • 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.

In Summary

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!

Mobile Baykeeper Files Lawsuit Against Daphne Utilities for Clean Water Act Violations

Mobile Baykeeper Files Lawsuit Against Daphne Utilities for Clean Water Act Violations

The utility has failed to comply with its permit by falsely reporting, failing to report, and underreporting sewer spills into local rivers, creeks, and bays. 

Mobile Baykeeper Submits Comments on Bayou La Batre Sewage Permit

Mobile Baykeeper Submits Comments on Bayou La Batre Sewage Permit

Significant problems have plagued oyster harvesting in Portersville Bay for years and water quality remains a major issue in the area. ADEM now has the opportunity to solve many of the problems facing Portersville Bay and its water quality issues affecting oyster harvesting. This can only take place if ADEM works with other agencies, local businesses – especially the seafood industry and aquaculture – and local citizens and includes all relevant studies and data in the permitting process.

Mobile Baykeeper Submits Comments on Road Projects Affecting Wetlands

Mobile Baykeeper Submits Comments on Road Projects Affecting Wetlands

Mobile Baykeeper recently commented on two road projects proposing to fill wetlands and negatively impact local streams. Across Coastal Alabama, we have lost many of our wetlands and streams due to irresponsible growth, which is why we need you to take action. 

Alabama Sewage Permits Become More Protective of Citizens

Alabama Sewage Permits Become More Protective of Citizens

Due to the efforts of water advocacy organizations throughout the state, sewage plants will not have to meet tighter limits for E. coli bacteria to make it safer to swim and fish in Alabama waterways. 

New Tools to Alert You of Sewage Spills

New Tools to Alert You of Sewage Spills

Thanks to those who took action and wrote letters demanding better public notification of sewer spills, ADEM has made two new tools available to the public that begin to help address the issue of notification.

Mobile Baykeeper Comments on Millard Maritime Expansion Activities

Mobile Baykeeper Comments on Millard Maritime Expansion Activities

Citizens living on Hollinger's Island are concerned about current operations at Millard Maritime. Concerns include the facilities storage of up to 40,000 tons of fertilizer on the site and the potential for the fertilizer to impact nearby air and water quality.

The facility now plans to expand those operations. Mobile Baykeeper has submitted comments on behalf of our board, officers, staff and more than 4,500 members regarding two separate permits for the expansions proposed by Millard Maritime.

Working for a Clean Water Future

Working for a Clean Water Future

Our members know that the Coastal Alabama’s waterways are integral to our economic vitality, our community strength and our success. If you think environmental protection laws need to be protected, enhanced and/or strengthened, please consider calling our elected officials and decision-makers.