Tag: Cahaba River

Field of Streams: Reconnecting the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers Would Restore Ecosystem Lost to Dams

Dams were built across the United States from the 1920s to the 1960s with the hope they would change economies and do great things for people all over the U.S.

But there was an unintended consequence in many places, including Alabama.

“Looking back with hindsight, if they were going to build a dam below the Cahaba River, they should have accounted for maintaining the connection of the ecosystem, but they didn’t,” said Mitch Reid, director of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “We’re trying to make it right now.”

The plan from the U.S. Corps of Engineers that would build a system of canals to reconnect the Cahaba and Alabama rivers and allow fish to make their way along the river system down to the Mobile area. Read more.

Army Corps Studying Dams, Fish Flow in Alabama River

The Army Corps of Engineers is in year one of a three-year study of possible ways to get fish around two dams on the Alabama river – the Millers Ferry Lock and Dam, southwest of Selma, and the Claiborne Lock and Dam, northwest of Monroeville. “The basic idea is to restore a fish passage to the lower Alabama River and to connect the Cahaba River to allow the passage of fish naturally up the Alabama River into the Cahaba River, as was historically the case,” said Paul Johnson, program supervisor at the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center. Read more.

Water Board Asks to Change Settlement to Lighten Requirements for Protecting Land Around Lake Purdy, Cahaba River

The Birmingham Water Works Board and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall are asking a Jefferson County court for permission to change parts of a 2001 settlement agreement requiring conservation easements to be placed on board-owned Cahaba watershed lands.

This request comes just more than a month after the Alabama Supreme Court sided with environmentalist groups in a lawsuit alleging that the board had violated the settlement agreement.

The argument centers on the Cahaba River and Lake Purdy, which is a major source of Birmingham’s drinking water. Not only does development on land close to the bodies of water risk contamination, it also drives up the cost of filtering and cleaning the water, which raises rates.

Last year, the Cahaba Riverkeeper and the Cahaba River Society sued the BWWB, claiming that in the 20 years since the settlement had been reached, the board had never placed any legal conservation easement on its properties surrounding the lake and the river, despite it being a condition of the board’s purchase of the land. The board unsuccessfully tried to get that suit thrown out of court.

Environmentalists say the board’s request to change the agreement directly conflicts with its past claims of compliance. Read more.

Environmental Groups Appeal Judge’s Cahaba River Ruling to the Supreme Court

A lawsuit seeking to compel the Birmingham Water Works Board to permanently protect Cahaba River watershed lands is advancing to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Cahaba River Society and Cahaba Riverkeeper are appealing a Jefferson County Circuit Court’s recent decision to throw out the lawsuit against the BWWB they filed in March. In it, they allege the board has failed to comply with a 2001 consent decree ordering it to protect undeveloped land around the Cahaba watershed. Read more.

With Low-Impact Development, Cities Hope to Better Control Runoff

Stormwater runoff is what washes off of parking lots, roadways and rooftops when it rains. Eve Brantley, associate professor of crop, soil and environmental sciences at Auburn University, said it may sound harmless, but it has a big impact.

“I just feel like it’s the forgotten pollution,” Brantley said.

She said part of the problem is that stormwater picks up other pollutants like trash and fertilizer. The other issue is the sheer volume of runoff that is discharged into area waterways.

Cahaba Riverkeeper David Butler sees the impact on a daily basis.

“So we’re pushing so much water into the river so fast now that, you know when it rains, instead of soaking into the ground, it’s all channeled to the river,” Butler said. “So it rises really quick, falls really quick, and you get a lot more erosion like this.”

He said all along the river, large sections of the bank have collapsed, often during rainstorms. This strips away vegetation that normally acts as a buffer, leaving dirt to erode into the river and fill it with sediment. Read more.

Development Fills the Cahaba River With Sediment

Cahaba Riverkeeper David Butler often has to convince people that sediment can be a problem.

“You know rivers are remarkably resilient,” Butler says. “They can handle a normal amount of mud.”

But he said the amount of mud in the Cahaba is not normal. Walking along a section of the river in Hoover, Butler leans over and scoops up a handful of rocks.

“So if you see how much dirt there is in it,” he says, “there’s not a lot of space in between the rocks for bugs and mussels and snails to live.”

Butler said it is now more common to see large mounds of dirt and gravel that pile up in the middle of the river, the result of sediment pushed downstream. Over the years, he said, parts of the river and its tributaries have accumulated as much as 20 feet of extra sediment.

Birmingham Council Members Push Back Against Road in Watershed That Protects Drinking Water

The Birmingham City Council appears set to oppose construction of the controversial Cahaba Beach road and bridge project across the Little Cahaba River.

The Little Cahaba flows from the Lake Purdy reservoir a quarter-mile upstream from the project to the larger Cahaba River, where the Birmingham Water Works Board takes water for treatment.

A majority of council members, meeting as a committee-of-the-whole on Monday, voted to recommend against connecting Cahaba Beach Road off U.S. 280 to Sicard Hollow Road in Shelby County and to the Liberty Park development in Vestavia. The vote included a total of seven council members, President Valerie Abbott among them. A full council vote is set for Nov. 20.

Representatives of environmental groups at the meeting said the road is an “unnecessary convenience road for a few” that “should not outweigh the risks to the quality and cost of a main drinking water source for 600,000 people.”

The Alabama Department of Transportation and Shelby County engineers are pushing to extend Cahaba Beach Road across a new bridge to Sicard Hollow Road in Shelby County. Representatives of those entities did not attend Monday’s meeting.
Read more.

ALDOT Pitches Options for Little Cahaba River Bridge. Opponents Warn of Immediate and Permanent Harm to Drinking Water.

Traffic authorities seeking to extend a road across the Little Cahaba River in southern Jefferson County promised Tuesday to make it a controlled access road and prevent adjacent development in the watershed that protects metropolitan Birmingham’s drinking water supply.

But clean-water advocates poured into a public meeting Tuesday night to insist the risk of contaminating the river even from road and bridge construction outweighs the convenience of connecting Cahaba Beach Road to Sicard Hollow Road. Multiple environmental organizations are urging residents to lobby the state to drop the project.

The project would create a more direct route from U.S. 280 to future Liberty Park development and Grants Mill Road for an estimated 10,000 vehicles a day by 2025. But is not intended to reduce traffic on commuter-congested 280, according to DeJarvis Leonard, Birmingham region engineer, Alabama Department of Transportation. Read more.

Cahaba Beach Road Project: Too Dangerous for Our Drinking Water? River Advocates Say Yes.

The ongoing fight over extending Cahaba Beach Road from U.S. 280 across the Little Cahaba River will heat up with another public meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Highway engineers will present an update from a meeting a year ago concerning the project’s impact on the river. The Little Cahaba is a vital link in the area’s drinking water supply, connecting the Lake Purdy reservoir to the main Cahaba River.

Environmental groups are rallying forces with the intent of preventing the estimated $10 million to $20 million project of the Alabama Department of Transportation. The department announced it would present a modification of the plan floated a year ago. The Cahaba River Society, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Alabama Rivers Alliance and Southern Environmental Law Center have joined to object to it.

The public involvement meeting will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Liberty Park Middle School, 17035 Liberty Pkwy. ALDOT representatives and project designers will be available, with maps of proposed routes, to answer questions. Interested persons can make verbal and written comments on the project and indicate preference for a route or no route. Read more.

Proposal to Build Bridge Over the Little Cahaba Open for Comments. Opponents Fear Danger to the Drinking Water Supply, ALDOT Points to Improved Traffic

The river runs through it – the “it” being the undeveloped areas adjacent to the Little Cahaba River. But will a new road also run through this pristine watershed that protects the quality of a major source of drinking water for most residents of Jefferson and Shelby counties?

The Alabama Department of Transportation is taking written comments from the public until Nov. 1 on whether to widen and extend Cahaba Beach Road from near U.S. 280 across a new bridge and connect it to Sicard Hollow Road.

ALDOT regional engineer DeJarvis Leonard said the cut-through project would take many years to complete but would improve access between roads on either side of the Little Cahaba River and reduce travel times.

Environmentalists’ concerns include potential degradation of drinking water by the construction, traffic and potential future commercial development. They also point out the river is a prime recreation area for canoeing, kayaking and hiking. Read more.