History & Accomplishments

 

History of Mobile Baykeeper

Mobile Baykeeper formed in 1997 as West Bay Watch when a group of concerned citizens joined forces to fight the construction of a chemical facility at the Theodore Industrial Park, along Mobile Bay’s western shore. As we investigated the environmental implications of these plants, we discovered that for decades Mobile County’s economic leaders had focused their efforts on industrial recruiting.  As a result, the pollution amounts led the Environmental Defense Fund to rank Mobile County second in the nation for the presence of chemicals known to be cancer hazards in the Toxics Release Inventory. 

Founding member Jack Greer (left) with Bobby Kennedy (right)

Founding member Jack Greer (left) with Bobby Kennedy (right)

We expanded our mission, and in 1998 changed the organization’s name to Mobile Bay Watch, Inc. (MBW), to express the reality that air and water quality issues affect the east and west sides of the Bay equally. Our group of volunteers increased its membership to over 3,000 people.

Also in 1998, we hired our first full-time director, Casi Callaway, and received our 501(c)3 nonprofit status. The following year, we joined Waterkeeper Alliance and eventually changed our name to Mobile Baykeeper to fully encompass the goal of the organization: working for clean water, clean air, and healthy communities across the Mobile Bay Watershed and coastal communities. 

Casi Callaway with founding members and former presidents of the organization.  From left to right: Jack Greer, Edward “Skeeter” Morris, Casi Callaway, and Logan Gewin.

Casi Callaway with founding members and former presidents of the organization.
From left to right: Jack Greer, Edward “Skeeter” Morris, Casi Callaway, and Logan Gewin.

For more than two decades since West Bay Watch was first established by that group of concerned citizens, we have been forming coalitions, expanding our staff, and recruiting volunteers to fight any obstacles that threaten the health of the Mobile Bay Watershed. Our work on air pollution has led to Mobile’s first air quality standards and Environmental Study for Mobile County. Our litigation against the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System and the Alabama Department of Transportation has decreased sewage spills into Mobile Bay and changed the way Alabama builds roads. We’ve prevented Liquefied Natural Gas from threatening our communities and fisheries and helped numerous municipalities track and resolve sewage problems. We’ve helped develop and pass legislation like the Mercury Switch bill, the extension of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust, local ordinances, and the most protective waterfront oil storage tank ordinance in the nation. We’ve joined forces with local business and community leaders to ensure that the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster is being answered by long-term solutions that maintain and protect the health of our environment and economy, and to prevent any such disasters from occurring again. We are currently working on campaigns on coal ash as well as stormwater drainage and sewage spills. 

Today Mobile Baykeeper has a full time staff of 8, an Americorps team of 10, more than 2,000 volunteers, and more than 4,800 members, and we continue to grow every year. We have established SWAMP, our education outreach program that allows us to connect to local schools and teach our community how to monitor our water quality. We have established the SWIM Guide to inform citizens where it is safe to swim and fish.

Students at Vigor High School monitor water quality through our Strategic Watershed Awareness & Monitoring Program (SWAMP).

Students at Vigor High School monitor water quality through our Strategic Watershed Awareness & Monitoring Program (SWAMP).

Infrastructure & Solving Pollution Problems

We thoroughly research environmental issues across our watershed that impact public health and our quality of life. Armed with detailed information, we communicate our findings to our community and invested stakeholders. Using our expertise, input from our community, and detailed research from area experts, we find innovative solutions to address challenges affecting our Bay and all those who live, work, and play across Coastal Alabama.

Responsible Growth That Protects Our Future

We build relationships with elected officials as well as business, industry, and agency leaders, knowing that without their engagement we cannot grow responsibly. When we identify problems, we reach out directly to collaborate and implement solutions. We hold these people accountable to the communities dependent upon their leadership, either through cooperation or through the rule of law. Early engagement with regional planners helps us safeguard our community for decades to come.

Educating & Engaging Our Fellow Citizens

We educate our fellow citizens about Coastal Alabama’s waterways and the impacts every individual has on our natural resources. Empowering citizens of all ages means arming them with the tools and knowledge they need to take responsibility for their local environment. Our broad and diverse member base is invested in preserving the Mobile Bay Watershed and our coastal communities for future generations.

Apple Snail Roundups remain a popular volunteer activity for kids in the area.

Apple Snail Roundups remain a popular volunteer activity for kids in the area.

 
 

Timeline

1997

West Bay Watch is founded.

Petition Drive in the Spring/Summer begins to stop new chemical plant, Phenolchemie.

First Annual Mobile Bay Bash.

1998

Secure 501(c)3 nonprofit status to address issues on both sides of the bay.

West Bay Watch succeeds in getting the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to allow a public hearing on the Phenolchemie chemical plant proposal. 

Because of West Bay Watch, 10,000 people sign a petition, thousands of letters are sent and hundreds of people protest Phenolchemie and the expansion of Mobile’s chemical industry. However, in June ADEM grants permits for Phenolchemie without Environmental Impact Study.

Mercury found in the bass in Fowl River. The following month West Bay Watch files suit against ADEM. 

West Bay Watch hires its first staff member, executive director Casi Callaway. The name of the organization is changed to Mobile Bay Watch. Jimmy Buffet joins the Board of Directors. 

First Ozone Task Force Meeting is held, leading to the formation of GLORI – Ground Level Ozone Reduction Initiative.

First meeting of the Environmental Study Stakeholder Team to discuss doing a complete Mobile Air Quality Study for Mobile County.

Mobile Bay Watch makes first public comment in opposition to the new Highway 98 potential to impact drinking water.

Announcement of IPSCO Steel Co. with 3,300 tons of air emissions as Mobile’s “Christmas present.” Mobile Bay Watch petitions City Council, Mayor and County Commission to deny millions in tax abatements for IPSCO Steel, Inc. to no avail.


1999 

Mobile Bay Watch helps fund and create the Mobile Air Quality study to collect data to develop air quality standards in Mobile and identify what pollutants are causing Mobile not to fall below these standards.

1st Eastern Shore Bay Splash concert at Judge Roy Bean’s.

                                    Membership tops 1,000.

The State Board of Health votes unanimously to support an Mobile Air Quality Study for Mobile County.

Mobile Bay Watch joins the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program’s Human Uses Work Group and is asked to chair that committee.


2000

Mobile Bay Watch joins Waterkeeper Alliance as its 37th member.

Bobby Kennedy, Jr. attends Bay Bash 2000.

2001

Mobile Bay Watch wins court case against Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS) and stops 2.5 million gallons of sewer overflows from destroying Mobile Bay.

2002

Mobile Bay Watch helps create the state scenic byway program for Alabama in support of the Mobile Bay Causeway.

Mobile Bay Watch files lawsuit against Prichard over sewage spills.

2003

Complete first Mercury Exposure Study.

2004

Holds the Grandman Triathlon, which quickly becomes the organization’s largest fundraising event.

2005

Mobile Bay Watch officially changes its name to Mobile Baykeeper.

Mobile Baykeeper works with a coalition of local stakeholders to oppose Liquified Natural Gas facilities in our community after witnessing similar facilities cause major explosions in other communities. One onshore and four offshore open-loop LNG facilities were proposed and defeated.

2006

Construction on Highway 98 in Mobile County was causing major erosion problems leading to mud and dirt filling in Big Creek Lake, our drinking water supply. Mobile Baykeeper’s legal action against ALDOT forces the state to improve stormwater and hazardous material containment on the project and actually raises Alabama’s standards for future roadway construction.

2007

Mobile Baykeeper celebrates 10 year anniversary.

After a series of sewage spills and overflows in Bayou la Batre, Portersville Bay was closed for swimming and fishing. Mobile Baykeeper works with the City of Bayou la Batre to solve the sewage problem and build oyster reefs to restore the bay. Porstersville Bay reopens for swimming and fishing.

Mobile Baykeeper helps work on the statewide Mercury Switch Bill to reduce mercury exposure through the collection and removal of mercury switches, mercury sensors, and other mercury-added components from end-of-life vehicles in the state of Alabama.

2008

Mobile Baykeeper works with a passionate group of property owners to relocate a sewage treatment facility from Magnolia River. They form the Weeks Bay Chapter of Mobile Baykeeper and have new zoning put in place.

Receives a $300,000 grant from the Mott Foundation to fund the Alabama Urban Stormwater Project, creating Muddy Water Watch in the process.

2009

The Fowl River Chapter of Mobile Baykeeper is founded. 

2010

Mobile Baykeeper joins a response as the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster’s impact on our communities.

Mobile Baykeeper settles Bayou la Batre utility suit.

Mobile Baykeeper advocacy leads to EPA rejecting ADEM's proposal stormwater permit for small cities because it did not meet legal requirements.

First Apple Snail Roundup to combat invasive species.

2011

Mobile Baykeeper partners with organizations and hundreds of volunteers to build a 1/10-mile oyster reef on Mobile Bay through the 100-1000 Restore Coastal Alabama Partnership.

Advocacy in support of Alabama water policy development.

2012

RESTORE ACT passes, dedicating 80% of penalties related to the Deepwater Horizon spill to a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (Trust Fund) to restore and protect the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of the Gulf Coast region.  

Mobile Baykeeper launches the Swim Guide App, developed by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, to inform citizens of Coastal Alabama which beaches and swimming holes are safe for swimming.

Mobile Baykeeper, along with fishermen, hunters, conservationists and other organizations across the state, works to extend the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust for another 20 years. Three out of four Alabama voters approve the amendment.

2013

Launches the “Create a Clean Water Future Campaign” through the Coastal Alabama Stormwater Partnership to combat litter in waterways.

Starts Three Mile Creek litter cleanups through a partnership with the housing and health departments.

Launches citizen guide to coastal restoration educational program to include the community in deciding how RESTORE (BP Oil Disaster) funding should be spent.

2014

Mobile Baykeeper loses a significant battle in an attempt to block an oil pipeline from being placed over drinking water supply, but passes the strongest zoning restrictions for above ground oil storage. 

Video and photos taken by one of Mobile Baykeeper’s Muddy Water Watch volunteers capture stormwater and litter flowing into Dog River. These photos and videos are picked up by local media, highlighting the ongoing pollution to Dog River. This public attention starts a sequence of enforcement and legal action between ADEM and the City of Mobile. In 2014, the City of Mobile finally reforms its stormwater and litter ordinances leading to litter and stormwater pollution prevention and enforcement. 

Mobile Baykeeper is approached by Evonik and Bayer to discuss their proposal for an herbicide manufacturing plant at the Theodore Industrial canal, a potential major source of air pollution. Through our advocacy for more stringent controls on air pollution emissions, the Bayer facility goes from being classified as a major source of air pollution to a minor source facility.

2015

Mobile Baykeeper develops the “Sewage Spill Explorer” web tool to allow citizens to track sewer spills in Coastal Alabama in a visually appealing, user-friendly manner.

SWAMP - Strategic Watershed Awareness and Monitoring Program - is created.

Young Advisory Council is established.

First Bay Bites Food Truck Festival.

2016

Mobile Baykeeper works with local business and civic leaders to pass the most protective waterfront oil storage tank ordinance in the nation.

2017

Mobile Baykeeper celebrates 20-Year Anniversary.

AmeriCorps Members double Mobile Baykeeper’s staff size.

Files lawsuit against Daphne Utilities for ongoing sewage spills.

2018

Mobile Baykeeper releases pollution report on coal ash at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry.

Met with the Army Corps of Engineers regarding ship channel expansion and submitted comments.