LITTLE RIVER WATERKEEPER

ALABAMA FISH CONSUMPTION WARNINGS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        

August 22, 2019

For more information, contact Bill Shugart wyshugart@littleriverwaterkeeper.org 

ALABAMA RELEASES FISH CONSUMPTION WARNINGS FOR 2019

 State agency deems more than 60% of the tested water bodies in Alabama as dangerous and in need of a warning

BIRMINGHAM – Last month, the Alabama Department of Public Health released its annual fish consumption advisories, which high-light the state’s recommended limits on the consumption of different types of fish found in Alabama’s rivers and streams. 132 advisories were issued across 98 waterbodies in Alabama. NONE of these advisories were listed on the Little River.

According to the 2019 report, the state tested fish at 214 locations in 152 different bodies of water. 132 of those locations (across 98 different water bodies in the state) were deemed dangerous and included an advisory on the consumption of fish on those rivers and streams. In total, there are 196 of these health advisories across the state. More than half (53%) of the advisories are for largemouth bass — the most sought after game fish in Alabama and the official State Freshwater Fish of Alabama.

After catching and testing certain types of fish, the state issues these advisories to warn anglers not to consume fish that are contaminated with dangerous pollutants like polychlorinated bi-phynels (PCBs) and methylmercury. Many of the advisories warn the public not to eat any fish from the water bodies, while others recommend limiting exposure to one or two meals per month.

Our partners at Coosa Riverkeeper have updated their popular FISH GUIDE program to include the 2019 advisories. FISH GUIDE was developed over several years as a response to surveys conducted with more than 125+ fishermen on the Coosa River to educate fishermen throughout the state and alert them to the fish consumption advisories in their watershed. In addition to providing fishermen with supplementary information about the fish consumption advisories each year, the program also features a toll-free hotline for fishermen to immediately hear the advisories throughout the State.  That hotline has now been updated with the 2019 advisories. Anglers can simply call 1 844-219-RISK to hear the current fish consumption advisories on all the water bodies throughout Alabama. “I know many of you fish Lake Guntersville and Nickajack on the Tennessee and Lake Weiss on the Coosa. This is good information to know.” Bill Shugart 

“These advisories serve as a reminder that our backyard is polluted and potentially dangerous,” Curt Chaffin, policy director at the Alabama Rivers Alliance, said. “The state provides a vital public service by warning folks not to eat our contaminated fish, but we must understand this is a public safety issue. Fishing is a way of life in Alabama — generations of us have made countless memories and supported local economies from getting out on the water. We will always fish in the River State; we just need to make sure Alabamians have the information needed to do it safely.”

To learn more about the toxins in our fish and rivers, and for more information about FISH GUIDE, please visit www.CoosaRiver.org/FishGuide or www.AlabamaRivers.org/FishGuide

Our Mission is to Foster and Protect the pristine resource of Little River through education, awareness and monitoring. 

July River Voice

River Voice –

Work has started on the Southern Exposure Film about Little River!

As you may know, Southern Exposure is sponsored by the Alabama Rivers Alliance and made possible through the support and partnership with environmental and conservation groups across the state. Southern Exposure Film Fellows who are selected for the program create captivating films that give viewers a sense of how much Alabama has to offer and the importance of protecting its resources.

Just recently, Billy and I met up with Southern Exposure Filmmaker Jeb Brackner and his colleague Matt Grcic, on what was the most perfect 1st day of summer that can be imagined at our favorite spot on Lookout Mountain, The May’s Cabin, which overlooks DeSoto Falls. (It might be our favorite spot because we were married there.) 

The main topic of the Southern Exposure film will be the process of getting Little River Listed as Wild & Scenic. It will be ready to screen this fall. Little River Waterkeeper has teamed up with the Little River Canyon Center to present this year’s debut of Southern Exposure on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at 6:00 PM. Please mark your calendars. We hope you can join us for this inspiring and informative annual event. 

About the film makers. 

JEB BRACKNER is a filmmaker whose roots in Alabama stretch from his childhood as a Montgomery native to his education in film and psychology from the University of Alabama. Nature is one of Jeb’s leading inspirations, and he is very passionate about environmental justice, especially throughout his home state. Cinematic storytelling, whether it be narrative or documentary, is another of his passions, and he hopes to make a career out of it through a production company he’s creating with two of his college colleagues.

Matthew J Grcic is an award winning filmmaker and a photographer who participated as a film fellow for the 2016 Southern Exposure Films and since then moved to Birmingham, Alabama to work for Alabama Public Television. He volunteers his time to assist Southern Exposure Film Fellows during their internship. What I really like about Matt is his love of environment. I am hoping to learn how to tell stories with film from Matt.

Over the next 6 weeks, we will explore in and around the Little River Watershed to document how this amazing river has impacted the community historically, culturally, and economically to build the case for why Little River should be designated as a Wild and Scenic River. If you have a great story about how Little River is a part of your life, please email us at wyshugart@littleriverwaterkeeper.org. We would love to hear it. We will choose a couple of lucky submissions to be interviewed for a spot in the film!  

Why Wild & Scenic? 

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 (Public Law 90-542; 16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.) to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act safeguards the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.

A Wild and Scenic designation would further protect the river’s scenic and recreational values as the surrounding area grows. It would ensure that the experiences and economic benefits Little River provides today will be there for future generations.

Little River Swim Club 

Weekly Water Tests from 9 favorite swimming spots have been consistently clean this summer with only a few exceptions. Last week, we observed a spike in e-coli tests on the East Fork of Little River at Lake Lahusage that registered >2419.6 col./ 100ml, Dangerously high and over the maximum number the test can detect. The EPA and State level for “Do not Swim” is 235 col/ 100ml. LRW continued to monitor the spike as the lake returned to safe levels over the next week. The cause of the spike was undetermined. Subsequent tests confirmed the spike was not a testing error. You can find weekly test results on Little River Waterkeeper’s website. https://littleriverwaterkeeper.org. Become a member of Little River Swim Club. Your $10 donation directly sponsors one e-coli test and we give a shoutout on social media to you!   

Alabama Summer Recreation Season Starts

Alabama Summer Recreation Season Starts As Sewage Threats Persist

For Immediate Release: May 1, 2018

Contact: Bill Shugart Little River Waterkeeper (256)-516-2877

This Post was Modified with permission from Charlie Scribner of Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s original post.

Alabama – Alabama’s new summer recreation season starts today, after being officially extended from four months to six.  Millions of Alabamians are ready for outdoor recreation, but their nearby sewage treatment facilities may not be.  Alabama still lacks comprehensive regulations for minimum standards of public notification when sewage spills occur.

In 2015, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Choccolocco Creek Watershed Alliance, Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Coosa Riverkeeper, and Logan Martin Lake Protection Association convinced the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to increase the legally defined summer recreation season by 50%, adding May and October.  ADEM had previously included May and October in the winter season when sewage plants are allowed to discharge higher levels of harmful bacteria and other pollutants.

The Environmental Management Commission (EMC), which oversees ADEM, adopted that suggestion to lengthen the legally defined summer recreation season in December of 2016.  Additionally, the E. coli limit during that season was lowered 40% from 487 col/100mL (colony growing units of E. Coli bacteria per 100 milliliters of water) to 298 col/100mL. The improved regulations went into effect on February 3, 2017, but health threats remain for Alabamians due to inadequate public notifications when sewage spills occur.

In March of 2017, Waterkeepers Alabama (Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Coosa Riverkeeper, Hurricane Creekkeeper, Little River Waterkeeper, Mobile Baykeeper, and Tennessee Riverkeeper) worked with Alabama Rivers Alliance to file a petition for rulemaking with the EMC.  The petition sought to improve the minimum requirements imposed on sewage treatment facilities for public notification of sewage spills.

Although the Commission denied the petition, they agreed to work with ADEM and the public to determine the need for additional notification rules.  In May of 2017, ADEM launched an opt-in email sewage spill notification system which Waterkeepers Alabama and the Alabama Rivers Alliance requested.  The water advocacy groups relayed their appreciation for this progress while continuing to promote their petition’s additional suggestions for protecting Alabamians from sewage overflows.  That effort continues because ADEM’s sewage notification tools are limited to email and only as effective as the information supplied by local wastewater system operators.

Unfortunately, Alabamians continue to see lag time in reporting or even no reporting from some sewage system operators.  Waterkeepers Alabama and the Alabama Rivers Alliance contend that ADEM’s tools do not relieve the local sewage treatment systems of their obligation to notify the nearby public in harm’s way.  The groups believe that notification must contain a local component to reach those Alabama citizens who do not have access to email and the internet or who may not know about ADEM’s notification program.

Waterkeepers Alabama and the Alabama Rivers Alliance have again asked the EMC to amend their regulations to supply this critical local component.  The groups want to ensure that every person who uses the river, every swimmer and fisherman have the best information available to make informed decisions enabling them to stay safe.  The petitioners, therefore, continue to pressure the EMC to amend its regulations to provide minimum standards regarding public notification, including these items from their petition:

~12 hours to notify public if the spill is “notifiable sanitary sewer event”

~Physically post site, affected areas (defined) after the sewage spill

~Social media and news media notification

~Opt-in list for email, text and/or telephone notification

~An enforceable response plan to incorporate these requirements

“Alabamians will not be able to make informed decisions about water recreation until Alabama has a sewage spill notification system that combines state and local components with a clear, detailed, and enforceable plan,” said Eva Dillard, staff attorney, Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

River Voice – Sept. 2019

Hello, River Family!

It’s another day in paradise. As I am reflecting on the incredible summer that is fading fast, I feel really encouraged about the condition of Little River. At the end of August, SwimGuide Season came to a close. Over 15 weeks, we collected 172 water samples at Eleven strategic points each week, throughout the Little River Watershed. We do all of this to help keep you aware of the water quality and reinforce the fact that Little River is an amazing place to explore and enjoy.
Let’s recap… Y’all, June was WET! It seemed like we stayed drenched the first 4 weeks of water testing. This wasn’t a bad thing. (Personally, I loved it.) Because of the rain, we were able to observe stormwater runoff and how it is linked to higher Escherichia coli (E. coli) levels. We found that higher e.coli levels usually returned to safe levels within 24 to 48 hours after a rain event. We also found that cloudy water usually had higher e.coli levels. Out of all 172 e.coli test, only 7 were dangerously high. And 9 were moderately high. That means, overall, Little River Looks Really Good!
July and August warmed up and dried up. My wife, Angie and I love to go testing together, but sometimes work pulls us in separate directions. I caught myself hurrying through the testing day to see how efficiently and accurately I could perform the routine. As the temperature got hotter, that approach lacked the same fun appeal. So, I got my youngest daughter, Ellie to go with me. She was a great help and great company. We could not, not have some fun too so, Ellie and I took the opportunity to cool off in the water at Martha’s Falls and the Canyon Mouth. If you haven’t visited these areas, they are absolutely awesome places to swim. An annual pass to Canyon Mouth is $35 and really worth it. The NPS folks are doing a great job with the park and we proudly support them.
Clean Water calls for a celebration! Starting 5:00 on Friday, August 30th at Roadside-Que in Fort Payne, Justin and the gang will have a band on the back porch! Come on and throw down with your river family. Roadside will donate a portion of beer sales from the night to LRWK! We hope you will come out and Raise A Glass to Little River! Cheers!
Another incredible opportunity we had this summer was to be a part of the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship. “Something About Little River”, was produced and directed this summer, in Mentone by an emerging filmmaker, Jeb Brackner. The short documentary film will tell an authentic, engaging stories about Little River and the people who cherish it. This film will not only highlight our incredible waterway but help with our Wild & Scenic Campaign. Alabama Rivers Alliance will premiere the films on September 12th at the Altamont School in Birmingham and The Little River Waterkeeper will host a FREE SCREENING on Thursday, September 26th at the JSU Canyon Center at 6pm. We hope that everyone in the community will come out and support this exciting event!
The Little River Waterkeeper held their annual board retreat last month on the river in Mentone. We completed work on a strategic plan for the next three years. Martha Hunter with the Alabama Rivers Alliance facilitated the two day meeting and did an excellent job of guiding us through the process. We remembered where we have been as an organization and set clear goals for where we are going. We had great food, laughed a bunch and this goes without saying, we had a cool down swim in Little River. The result from planning will bring about some positive changes in the organization. Our goal to evolve Little River Waterkeeper into a stand alone organization will reflect our mission to foster and protect the pristine resource of Little River through education, awareness and monitoring. Another goal, high on our agenda is to nominate Little River for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic River system. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Little River and our area. Our tests have proven that Little River has had GREAT water quality for the last several years and confirms that your Little River is one of the cleanest rivers in the water rich state of Alabama. We are excited to launch this campaign with our partners at Alabama River Alliance.
Our last Full Moon Kayaking Adventure of the season will be on Saturday, September 14th from 7:00-10:00pm. This is a fun and easy event with great views of the rising moon. We launch on beautiful Lake Lahusage just before dark and paddle out to the old washed out dam and talk about the days gone by. Experiences like these make a lasting impact on participants. The evening adventure is a $40 donation that includes your sit on top kayak rental. Spaces are limited. Send Angie an email at angie@oneworldadventureco.org and let her know you want to join the fun!
Have a sense of pride about your river. It’s really special!
In the words of Clean Water Future “Trash Blows – Stow it!”
Maybe we have “Little River Fever.” If that’s so, we hope you catch it, too. We would love your support on all of our upcoming projects and events!
For more information about Little River Waterkeeper, visit our website at www.littleriverwaterkeeper.org
For more information about Southern Exposure Films, visit southrnexposurefilms.org
Cheers!! To Little River!

August River Voice

Little River Waterkeeper 

August, 2019

In late Summer, the waters of Little River begin to turn darker due to dissolved organic matter and brown algae. As vegetation decays, tannins leach into the water making it darker in color and more acidic. The brown coloration of the water is similar to what happens when we make tea. This does not necessarily mean it is dirty or unsafe for swimming.  Leaf litter is one of the most abundant contaminants resulting from stormwater runoff. Each fall, millions of deciduous trees put on an amazing show of autumn color and then drop all their leaves. Some savvy gardeners turn them into mulch and compost, but much of that biomass is captured by the forest floor where it decomposes giving nutrients back to the soil. However some of it gets washed or blown into the ditcwhes and storm drains, then into our creeks, rivers and lakes. When all of that biomass hits at once the nutrient load is high. Aquatic plants thrive on nutrients but when the load is too high, explosive growth can occur which is then followed by rapid decay at the end of the plant’s growth cycle which results in depleted oxygen levels. Like most living things aquatic animals die without oxygen. Soil Erosion is another problem that also depletes O2 levels. Silt fills spaces in between and under rocks destroying habitat for small aquatic animals that are critical food source species for larger aquatic animals.  Soil erosion and high nutrient loads are issues we see in the Little River Watershed. At times we see large amounts of soil erosion or sediment pollution due to land development, logging and county roads that haven’t been maintained properly. Because most of Little River has a shallow riverbed and because rare and endemic aquatic and plant species live in this unique habitat, pollution from erosion can create severe and irreversible negative impacts. 

Rains bring higher E-coli levels
It is half-way through our SwimGuide Season and the water in Little River is MOSTLY really clean!! Our waterlogged selves can also attest, the water is perfect!! Samples have been collected during varied weather conditions. Because of this, we have seen some high E. coli levels as a result. This is a result in stormwater runoff. Lookout Mountain has seen some gully washers over the past few weeks! This large amount of rain in a very short amount of time can result in some very turbid (muddy) water! The runoff can carry animal droppings on the ground into local streams, causing elevated E. coli concentrations. The soil can also contain bacteria and other contaminants that can make you sick. The E. coli Bacteria is killed by sunlight (UV specifically), so having low water clarity reduces the chances that bacteria in the water will be exposed to sunlight and die. With that said, please use caution when swimming within a 24hr period after a rain event, especially if you have open cuts or a compromised immune system. We encourage local camp owners and staff along with other Little River users to follow our weekly updates on littleriverwaterkeeper.org or TheSwimGuide.org to make sure your area is safe to swim in. 

Little River Wild & Scenic Designation

Alabama has approximately 77,242 miles of river, of which only 61.4 miles of one river is designated as wild & scenic—less than 1/10th of 1% of the state’s river miles. The West Fork of the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River is located in the Bankhead National Forest and shockingly, is the ONLY Wild & Scenic River in our water rich state of Alabama. The Little River Waterkeeper is working with the Alabama Rivers Alliance in order to nominate and designate parts of Little River as Wild & Scenic. We feel that creating the argument will be somewhat easy however, it will take an official act of the US Congress to make it a reality. Little River spans the Dekalb and Cherokee County borders along Lookout Mountain and is the perfect choice for the region’s next Wild and Scenic River. Thousands of visitors each year come to Lookout Mountain because of Little River. It is home to many rare and endemic flora and fauna. Because of the growth that is projected to take place in our region over the next 35-40 years, there is not a better time than now to protect this Wild & Scenic worthy landscape. Public land managers of Desoto State Park and the Little River NPS along with other natural resource managers from Fish & Wildlife and US Forest Service would be charged with protecting the river’s scenic and recreational values, and new dams would be forever prohibited. Designation would not affect private property and would ensure that the experiences and economic benefits Little River provides today will be there for future generations. This effort requires enthusiastic local and regional support. We are in the process of identifying key river stakeholders and community partners. Over the next several months, we will begin reaching out to stakeholders asking businesses and individuals to endorse the nomination. We invite you to join the movement to protect Little River!    

Southern Exposure Film Update!        Jebb Brachner has been in the area shooting some great footage of Little River for the 2019 Southern Exposure Film Fellowship. We had the good fortune to take he and his colleagues to some of our favorite places along the river, from the headwaters to the mouth. I believe it was a good experience for them. They enjoyed meeting so many great members of the community while in town. The film is currently being edited to reflect the phenomenon that is Little River. It will tell a story of why people flock here and why the folks that live here are the heart of Lookout Mountain. It will remind us just how important the river is to this community and how protecting it is vital for future generations.
The Little River Waterkeeper will host the Southern Exposure Film on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at the Little River Canyon Center. Mark your calendar! We will send out more details in the coming months. 

Designations Don’t Protect Rivers. People Do.

River Voice

Little River Waterkeeper is a licensed member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a growing 350 plus member international organization dedicated to Clean Water, Clean Air and Healthy Communities. Little River Waterkeeper is the legal voice for your Little River located on Lookout Mountain in Northeast Alabama. The Little River Watershed is in the northeastern portion of the Upper Coosa Watershed and has a drainage basin of approximately 199 square miles. The headwaters of the Little River and its East Fork and West Fork tributaries are in Dade, Walker, and Chattooga Counties, Georgia. Then Little River flows southwesterly, then, easterly through DeKalb and Cherokee Counties, Alabama into Weiss Lake. The majority of the watershed is located in DeKalb County with Little River flowing through Desoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve. Little River attracts more than 4000,000 visitors each year. The river supports abundant plant and wildlife and gives us crisp, cool waters to enjoy during the summer months. Clean water is a resource we can all be thankful for. Even though we consider it a basic human right, not everyone has access to clean water.  The Little River Waterkeeper monitors and patrols regularly to ensure this right for all users and stakeholders.

Earlier this month, Little River Waterkeeper, Bill Shugart, met with the Executive Director and staff from Alabama Rivers Alliance to plan for three exciting opportunities. ARA’s policy director Curt Chaffin, is working with Bill to designate Little River as a “Wild and Scenic River.” Our amazing resource currently holds the highest designation given by the EPA; Outstanding National Resource Water that protects it from degradation. By adding the Wild & Scenic title, Little River will be recognized as possessing outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, and cultural values. We would like to thank Curt and ARA for the work they do to protect rivers in the hydrologically abundant state of Alabama. Please take a minute and look at all of the great work Alabama Rivers Alliance is doing by visiting www.alabamarivers.org.

The next point of our meeting with ARA is really exciting. As many of our supporters know, Little River Waterkeeper hosts Southern Exposure Films each year to bring awareness of Alabama’s amazing biodiversity and the issues we face. The innovative Southern Exposure summer fellowship brings emerging filmmakers from across the country to tell authentic, engaging stories through short documentary films about Alabama’s environment — and the people who cherish it — from the mountains to the coast. This summer, Little River was chosen as a film topic! And, even better, the fellow chosen to make this film grew up going to the Little River all the time, so is very familiar and VERY excited to be assigned this topic. Part of the film will include our effort to designate Little River as Wild and Scenic. Filming will take place in June and July and a special premier screening will take place in Birmingham at the Altamont School on September 12, 2019. The Little River Waterkeeper will also hold a Southern Exposure Film Festival in October that will highlight the film about Little River along with films from other fellows.

Strategic Planning

The third point if the meeting with ARA was strategic planning. As part of our organization’s mission to deliver quality programs to the community we serve, Alabama Rivers Alliance will assist the Little River Waterkeeper in a strategic planning session in August. This important planning process will help us determine the course of the organization for the next three years. If there is a direction that you would like to see your Little River waterkeeper include, we encourage feedback from you, our supporters who know and love Little River as much as we do. Please send your suggestions to Bill Shugart by email at wyshugart@littleriverwaterkeeper.org.

SwimGuide

“Know before you go!” is the slogan we use for our summer SwimGuide program. May 22nd kicked off a season of weekly water testing in 8 popular swimming locations throughout the Little River Watershed and will continue through Labor Day Weekend. A list of the test sites are listed below. It is our commitment to everyone who rely on clean water for swimming and other forms of recreation to make sure water quality standards are being met in Little River. What is the problem with swimming in water that doesn’t meet water quality standards? Primary contact with water containing high levels of faecal bacteria and other pollutants can lead to disease, infection, and rashes. Swallowing contaminated water can lead to gastrointestinal infection such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. More serious diseases and illnesses may also be contracted in heavily polluted waters including typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, and dysentery. Each Thursday, test results will be published on TheSwimGuide.org, LittleRiverWaterkeeper.org and our Facebook and Instagram pages in an easy to read map with red or green flags, no or go. If you are like us and love water science, volunteer to grab weekly water samples. Contact us for more info!

List of test sites

Lake Lahusage

Taylor’s Ford

Mentone Bridge

DeSoto Falls

Indian Falls

Blue Hole

Martha’s Falls

Canyon Mouth Park

Join the Little River Waterkeeper Swim Club!!

Little River Waterkeeper’s Swim Club is a membership campaign tied directly to Swim Guide water quality monitoring program. People can donate $10 to join Swim Club and sponsor a sample. In return we write the donor’s name on one of the Swim Guide samples, take a photo of that sample in the field, and post it on social media and tag the donor. It’s a really direct way to connect the donation with our work.

As always, thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement! Have a wonderful summer. We hope to see you on the water!

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