Rain Barrel Program Teaches Coastal Residents How to Reduce Stormwater Impacts

Alabama Current Connection Newsletter, Summer 2017 Vol. XI, Issue1 
By Christian Miller, Watershed Management Coordinator, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

Coastal Alabama receives more than five feet of rain per year. In urban areas, most of this water washes across hard, or impervious, surfaces, picking up and carrying pollutants into our waterways. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers stormwater runoff to be the greatest threat to water quality in the United States. As more people continue to move to coastal areas, impervious surfaces and, therefore, volume and velocities of stormwater runoff continue to increase.

Rainwater harvesting, the practice of collecting and storing stormwater runoff from roofs and other hard surfaces for future use, is one practical way to reduce impacts associated with residential stormwater runoff. An inch of rain falling on a typical 1,000-square-foot roof yields over 600 gallons of water. Installing a rain barrel at your home is an inexpensive way to capture and store some of this water for later use. With a rain barrel, you'll not only help reduce stormwater runoff, but you'll also have a supply of free, non-chlorinated, soft water for washing your car, watering plants, and many other household uses.

Although rain barrels can be purchased through many retail outlets, they are generally expensive and don’t offer much in the way of education for the consumer.  Through an ongoing series of workshops, residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties have been learning how to construct and set up low-cost rain catchment systems at their home, along with other ways to conserve water and protect water quality along the coast. These workshops are continuously scheduled throughout the year, in coordination with partners in both coastal Alabama counties, and last approximately two hours.

The success of the program has been due in large part to the partnerships that have been formed. Local municipalities, including the cities of Daphne, Fairhope, Foley, and Mobile and the Town of Dauphin Island have all hosted rain barrel workshops. “These workshops have been a great help to us on the local level,” said Ashley Campbell, Environmental Programs Manager with the City of Daphne, “They provide an opportunity to inform the public of the issues we are facing related to stormwater management on the coast.”

The Prichard Drainage Study, funded by the MBNEP for Mobile County, and hydrologic modeling by Latif Kalin and Enis Baltaci at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences analyzed conditions in the Toulmins Spring Branch Watershed, a subwatershed of the greater Three Mile Creek Watershed, and examined impacts of stormwater runoff in the Bessemer community of Prichard. These studies recommend the installation of Low Impact Development features, including strategically located rain barrels, as a means of alleviating chronic urban flooding in the area. Follow-up outreach in the community also indicated a strong willingness to receive and use rain barrels at home. Currently, plans are underway to work with partners and homeowners on a pilot project to install approximately 30 rain barrels at homes and local residences around Toulmins Spring Branch. If successful, this project could be expanded throughout the community to significantly reduce the impacts of localized flooding throughout the subwatershed.

Posted on 03/19/18 at 02:35 PM Permalink

Baldwin County Soil & Water Conservation District seeks Watershed Management Coordinator

Watershed Management Coordinator

Job Overview:

The Watershed Management Coordinator has three primary responsibilities:  1.) Oversee all aspects of implementation of Watershed Management Plans (WMP) in Baldwin County including but not limited to project identification, acquisition of funding, contracting, project management, community engagement coordination; and other services in support of WMP implementation; 2.) Coordinate a Watershed Implementation Team (WIT) to carry forward the work necessary to prioritize site-specific projects, work with governmental entities within Baldwin County, and locate the funding necessary to implement the management measure s recommended in WMPs; and 3.) Educate target audiences about issues including, but not limited to, those affecting the Alabama coast and activities being undertaken to mitigate stress on water quality and natural resources.

Job Requirements-Experience/Education:

Job requirements include a minimum of a B.S. in Environmental Sciences or related fields (Ecology, Biology, or other related focus) coordinating restoration programs, land use planning, etc.; ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing to a wide range of individuals and groups; field oversight/supervisory activities; experience in the use of geographical information systems is a plus; experience in watershed management is a plus; and ability to work with minimal supervision.

Salary and Position Details:

The Watershed Management Coordinator initially will be a contracted employee and will report to the Baldwin County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.  The position’s salary range is between $40,000 and $50,000 per year commensurate with experience.  The position is currently funded for one year and continued employment is contingent upon demonstrated success of WMP implementation and securing additional funding.

To Apply:

Send a resume, cover letter, and names and contact information for three references to Rhonda Bryars, District Administrative Coordinator, Baldwin County Soil & Water Conservation District, 207 Faulkner Drive, Ste 107, Bay Minette, AL  36507 or by email:  baldwin@alconservationdistricts.org.  For more detailed job description and responsibilities please request by email or by visiting the Baldwin County Soil & Water Conservation District office during the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Posted on 02/22/18 at 01:54 PM Permalink

New Osprey Platforms Installed in Alabama

New Osprey Nesting Platforms Installed in Alabama

Finding a suitable place to build a nest can be a challenge for osprey that live along the Alabama coast. Thanks to an early restoration project approved by the Trustees in late 2015, osprey now have five new nesting platforms to choose from in Mobile and Baldwin counties. The Osprey Restoration in Coastal Alabama project provided these additional locations to increase the nesting success of osprey and help mitigate the injuries they suffered due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The large poles and platforms have been installed by the Alabama Coastal Foundation at Delta Port Marina (Coden), Penalver Park (Dauphin Island), Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (Baldwin County), Mo’s Landing (Gulf Shores), and Gulf State Park (Orange Beach).

As we work along the coast, it is the Trustees’ responsibility to comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including preservation of historical artifacts in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act. To ensure we’re meeting those responsibilities, we increased the project budget by about $5,000 to support archaeological monitoring and inspection during installation of the large nesting platforms.

We’re very excited the installation of the platforms has been completed and hope to see osprey using them during nesting season this spring. Please watch our web page for additional updates.


If you know someone who might be interested in information about the Gulf Spill Restoration effort, forward this email to them and ask them to sign up for our updates.


Posted on 01/19/18 at 08:31 AM Permalink

MBNEP Receives $488,711 Grant to Implement Trash-Free Waters

Rick Frederick, Community Relations Manager
Mobile Bay National Estuary Program

Mobile Bay National Estuary Program Receives $488,711 Grant to Implement a Comprehensive Strategy to Create Trash-Free Waters in the Three Mile Creek Watershed

The EPA’s Gulf of Mexico Program has awarded the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) $488,711 to improve water quality, protect, enhance, and restore habitat, and provide environmental education and outreach in the Three Mile Creek (TMC) Watershed. Three of the five stated goals of the Three Mile Creek Watershed Management Plan, published in 2014 and conforming to EPA’s nine-key elements, are addressed in this proposed project: Improve water quality; Protect and improve the health of residents, fish, and wildlife; and restore heritage and cultural connections between the watershed and the community.

The project will be undertaken in two phases-

Phase 1- Reduce the amount of stormwater-borne trash and litter by 4,800 lbs. by utilizing the newly-developed and tested “Litter Gitter” small stream trash trap to tactically intercept floating litter at optimum points of entry downstream of high-volume stormwater outfalls to TMC waters.

Engage a group of 10 workers to remove legacy trash from areas throughout the Watershed not suitable for deploying community volunteers during clean-ups. Since many of the areas burdened with legacy litter require a higher level of training, effort to access, and competency in working in potentially hazardous situations, a single pass “hazard” cleanup will be undertaken to remove the inestimable quantities of existing legacy trash and litter from waterways.

Implement a trash and volunteer monitoring program at each Litter Gitter site. Once a month, students from Vigor High School (located in the TMC Watershed) will conduct water quality monitoring using Alabama Water Watch (AWW) test kits and protocols, conduct windshield surveys to assess nearby habitat condition, and upload data to an improved Water Rangers online database (which connects to the AWW).

Phase 2- Implement an alternative packaging incentive program, targeting five businesses identified as trash sources, to increase use of more environmentally-friendly alternatives. The MBNEP will use data collected to perform targeted outreach in an effort to change business practices.

Conduct at least one outreach event to raise awareness and encourage behavioral changes towards Creating a Clean Water Future for the Three Mile Creek Watershed. The formation of a TRASH MOB, at a large public gathering at which (previously choreographed) participants will “spontaneously” perform a dance to a catchy song with an anti-trash message will be organized to raise awareness and promote better behaviors to “pick it up.” The TRASH MOB song/dance sequence was developed as part of a Coastal Alabama Conservation Corps initiated by the MBNEP. In addition to the Trash Mob, presentations will be delivered to at least 200 community leaders at local service clubs to share trash capture accomplishments and cultivate sponsorship of Litter Gitters in TMC to sustain Litter Gitter operation past grant period.

Project background and details:

As the City of Mobile, Alabama, focuses on returning Three Mile Creek waterways (converted over time to stormwater conveyances) back to their former glory, litter, new and legacy from recent rains or decades of stormwater runoff, is the toughest challenge. Reductions in litter in this watershed will require a comprehensive approach that includes changes to business practices to reduce waste streams; increases in community awareness to change personal behaviors; a concerted effort to remove legacy trash from streambanks, wetlands, and creek beds; and affordable installation and maintenance of devices strategically deployed to capture litter carried to waterways by stormwater runoff. Successful implementation of these measures will have the greatest impact on Three Mile Creek’s downstream area, home to a large percentage of low-income, underserved, minority neighborhoods, some of which are, for the first time, getting acquainted with this resource, literally located in their backyard. Not only will this effort result in healthier habitats for fish and wildlife and better water quality for flora, fauna, and humans, it will reconnect Mobilians and others to what was once the life blood and drinking water source for the City, improving aesthetics, property values and economic opportunities for all.

The Watershed. Three Mile Creek (TMC) drains a relatively small (29 sq. mi.), largely-urban area that stretches 14 miles from its headwaters near Cody Road across northern portions of the City of Mobile and southern portions of the City of Prichard, before spilling into Mobile River near the Alabama State Port Authority (maps shown in Attachment 2). The Watershed is a significant part of the fabric of this region. TMC was the original source of drinking water for the City of Mobile and a cultural center of the community until impacts of increased urbanization in the mid-20th century forced City leaders to turn to Big Creek Lake as an alternative source of drinking water. 

Posted on 12/05/17 at 01:28 PM Permalink

Love of Coastal Living is Draining US Disaster Funds by Christopher Flavelle

Welcome to Alabama's Dauphin Island, where it floods all the time. Read more...

Posted on 09/01/17 at 08:06 AM Permalink

Fowl River Watershed Management Plan Case Statement

In 2014, Goodwyn, Mills, and Cawood were contracted by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program to develop a comprehensive Management Plan (Plan) for the Fowl River Watershed, a process made possible by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. The purpose of this Plan is to protect the chemical, biological and cultural integrity and customary uses of Fowl River and its associated waters and habitats to support healthy populations of fish, shellfish, wildlife, and recreational uses. Completed in April 2016, the 500+ page Plan already has recommended measures being implemented. For example, in September 2016, a volunteer water quality monitoring program was established, and soon a comprehensive study of marsh health in the brackish zone of Fowl River will begin. To learn about the watershed and Plan goals and objectives the MBNEP is pleased to release a Plan summary, The Fowl River Watershed: Charting a Course for Preservation. 

Fowl River Watershed Management Plan Case Study

Posted on 08/15/17 at 04:48 PM Permalink

The Movers & Shapers of Mobile County

Movers & Shapers, June 2017, Spotlight on Mobile County. a Business Alabama news article

Posted on 06/09/17 at 10:14 AM Permalink

Governor Ivey Announces Christopher Blakenship as Acting Commissioner

Governor Ivey Announces Christopher Blakenship as Acting Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources


Posted on 06/01/17 at 03:11 PM Permalink

Smart Growth and Watershed Protection: tools for stormwater management

Announcing a short course:

Smart growth and watershed protection: tools for stormwater management

Thursday, June 22, 2017
9:00AM to 11:00AM
Spanish Fort Community Center Multipurpose Room at City Hall
7361 Spanish Fort Blvd., Spanish Fort, Alabama


Increasing land development along the Gulf coast has created concerns about stormwater runoff and resultant flooding and water quality issues in local bays and bayous. Smart growth strategies can offer solutions for local governments and the development community.

We’ll explore alternative patterns of development that include more compact neighborhoods, diversity in land uses and accompanying stormwater solutions. Site, regional, and watershed scale issues are discussed, along with ordinances, codes, education, and funding recommendations. Many regional examples from the Gulf coast are used to demonstrate better methods of accommodating growth with effective stormwater management. Join us for light breakfast and coffee/tea during this 2-hour lecture and discussion, then carry on with your day feeling inspired to consider innovative smart growth strategies in your field of work that can help create more resilient coastal communities and waterways where we live, work, and play. Whether you are a city planner, engineer, developer, watershed or floodplain manager, elected official, restoration practitioner, coastal resource manager, business or community member – come learn how all of our roles in community stormwater management are connected. Registration is required for this free event.

About the presenter: Christian Wagley is principal of Sustainable Town Concepts, a consulting firm working under the premise that one of the most environmentally-beneficial things we can do is to build healthy places for people. Christian is a certifying agent for the Florida Green Building Coalition and an accredited member of the Congress for the New Urbanism. He works with builders, architects, developers, and communities to create homes, buildings, and landscapes that use less energy and water and are beautiful and durable.

Questions? Please contact Michael Shelton at michael.shelton@dcnr.alabama.gov or 251-928-9792 or Jacqueline Rose at gulfcoastaltraining@gmail.com or 251-929-8466.

Please share with others interested in attending. For more information and to register follow the link -https://gulfcoastaltraining.wordpress.com/workshops/smart-growth-and-watershed-protection-tools-for-stormwater-management/.

Posted on 05/30/17 at 10:01 AM Permalink

EPA Awards Grant to Mobile Bay NEP

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program will receive approximately $344,000 in the form of a federal grant appropriated by Congress to conserve and improve working waterfronts and preserve fishing communities, within its 71,500 square mile watershed. Click here to view the full press release.

Did you know the Mobile Bay watershed is one of 28 estuaries designated as an estuary of national significance? The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program has successfully leveraged its EPA funding of $600,000 per year into $20,000,000 of investment in Alabama’s coastal restoration activities. This represents a return on investment of eight dollars for every dollar invested, a level of credibility in the community and across the State as a trusted agency of science based action, and a key partner for the State of Alabama in planning for and implementing Deepwater Horizon related restoration activities. Thank you, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for recognizing “a healthy Mobile Bay is vital to the environmental and economic health of America,” and we appreciate the continued support of Congressmen Byrne and other local leaders.

Posted on 05/15/17 at 03:23 PM Permalink