This article appeared in the Sunday, July 10 edition of The Montgomery Advertiser. Click here to read it on their site and see their video from the day!
Alabama Rivers Alliance paddles for a cause
The Alabama Rivers Alliance took to the Alabama River Saturday for the fourth annual #DefendRivers Paddle to send a message to the state: let the rivers flow.
Program Director Mitch Reid said he is concerned with some of Alabama’s vestigial dams that continue to block river flow despite not being used for hydroelectricity.
“Actually changing the way rivers flow and operate is causing the rivers to lose their functionality. It’s harming the ecosystem and our ability to not only enjoy the rivers, but rely on them for clean and safe water,” Reid said.
In addition, Reid and the ARA continue to advocate for a statewide river management agency. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management tests for pollution, but does not handle river flow problems.
Reid pointed to the recent pollution of the Tennessee River and north Alabama water systems as an example of what poor river flow can allow to happen.
“The drinking water problems that have come up because of pollution being dumped into the river is because of the pollution, but the problem is that pollution was within permit limits for the most part. It just doesn’t move on and filter out,” Reid said. “Alabama is the river state. It’s 132,000 miles of rivers and streams. They’re all important, and this place is a great place to bring the message to our state leaders about river protection.”
It’s a cause many Alabamians could paddle behind.
People from around the state met at Capitol Oyster Bar before putting kayaks, canoes and paddleboards into the water and setting off for an hour-long float down to Powder Magazine Park.
Besides being a quasi-political event that Reid and the rest of the alliance hopes will translate to positive change for rivers and river management, it was also a day to simply enjoy the Alabama River for the 100 or so paddlers in attendance.
Many arrived with kayaks or canoes. Autauga Creek Canoe Trail brought 28 kayaks for those without.
Once on the water, kayakers squirted each other with water guns. A few paddlers threw some fishing lines in the water. Reid and his family stopped the canoe to splash in the shallows, and a drone flew above the flotilla capturing the fun.
Ken Hyche and his wife have participated almost every year, and Hyche said he enjoys the event, because of the cause they’re paddling for.
“We’ve always enjoyed it. That’s the nice thing. All these people show up, because they care about the river, not just to paddle,” Hyche said.
In order to solve the river flow problem, Reid said somebody needs to do a cost analysis of dams not being used to determine which should be removed either for river flow or navigation purposes.
Reid lauded the removal of dams on the Cahaba River and the Chattahoochee River as examples of successful river restoration.
For the sections of river where dams must remain in place, Reid said pollution permit limits need to be reduced to preserve those more stagnant waters.
In short, Reid wants to let the rivers flow.
“Dams block people from being able to use the rivers. If we’re not using them for what we built them for, then we need to take them out,” Reid said.