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.