The Planning

Public participation is an important step in the watershed management planning process. Not only is the community afforded the opportunity to voice concerns regarding known issues within the watershed, but it also has an opportunity to prioritize issues of concern and recommended potential management measures to address them. By inviting the community to participate in the planning effort, local residents have ownership in the planning process; therefore, they are more willing to participate in the implementation of recommended management measures designed to meet a project’s goals and objectives. The Watershed Management Team devoted considerable attention to implementing a comprehensive public participation strategy for the WMP for the Bon Secour River, Oyster Bay, and Skunk Bayou.

The first step in the public participation strategy was the formation of a 16-member Steering Committee comprising public and private sector community members. Steering Committee members included local, state, and federal agency representatives; homeowners’ association representatives; and community business representatives. This committee was designed to guide the public participation program and planning process. Opinions regarding issues of concern vary across the watershed communities in South Baldwin County. To adequately solicit stakeholder involvement, the Watershed Management Team organized a series of community meetings intended to align efforts in the Bon Secour River, Oyster Bay, and Skunk Bayou watersheds to find one mutually
beneficial goal—improving watershed conditions.

The main focus of these meetings was to present stakeholders with the known issues of concern identified during the first round of meetings and to obtain their input on prioritizing the issues and potential management measures to address them. The Watershed Management Team created an online survey for stakeholders to complete, provided a link to the online survey for meeting attendees, and encouraged their participation. A total of 246 surveys was received.

The online survey results provide a clear picture of public perceptions and overall understanding related to the WMP. For example, the Watershed Management Team learned that habitat protection for wildlife and public recreation were citizen priorities. The Little Point Clear Unit within the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, in particular, was reported to be of great importance. The final survey results also suggested a majority of watershed residents are unlikely to volunteer personal time to monitor water quality; however, many watershed residents indicated an interest in clean-up days and educational workshops. In fact, more than 44% of survey respondents (107 people) said they would participate in a local watershed group.