Dam Safety, Open Government, and Water Management Policy top the 2015 legislative priorities for river advocacy organizations from across the state
For Immediate Release: Thursday, March 5, 2015
Mitch Reid, Program Director
Alabama Rivers Alliance
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Water policy, dam safety, fishers’ rights, and open government topped the list of legislative priorities identified by Alabama’s river community.
The Alabama Rivers Alliance, a statewide network of over 60 community groups spanning from the Tennessee River to Mobile Bay, has released this year’s legislative priorities for the protection of Alabama’s waterways in their Defend Rivers 2015 Legislative Agenda.
“Alabama’s river community recognizes the important role of the Alabama legislature in the protection of our waterways for future generations,” stated Mitch Reid, program director and registered lobbyist for the Alabama Rivers Alliance. “We are excited to work with elected officials on important ongoing efforts to protect and preserve water during the 2015 legislative session.”
Alabama is the only state among its neighbors without a statewide water management plan. The Alabama Rivers Alliance has played a key role in the development of a plan over the last several years, working with the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group, led by Governor Bentley, and the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Water Policy and Management to inform and engage stakeholders in the development of a plan. It is important that every Alabama legislator be aware of this process as the state develops the details of the plan and ultimately presents a recommendation to the Alabama legislature. The legislature must ensure that the process is sufficiently funded to enable this work to procede. The certainty of water for Alabama’s future generations, businesses, communities and environment depends on the success of this plan.
Alabama’s lack of dam safety regulation for the 2200 dams across the state has been reported by multiple media sources over the past several months. This issue significantly threatens Alabama’s rivers and downstream communities and, therefore, is a natural priority for the river advocacy community. The American Society of Civil Engineers, Association of Dam Safety Officials, and their partners are leading the effort to develop necessary standards for dams in Alabama that will help protect Alabama’s rivers from the threat of dam failure.
Also chosen was the right of the public to know about the health of the fish they are catching and eating. Alabama has one of the highest rates of subsistence fishing in the United States. In 2014, the Alabama Department of Public Health issued Fish Consumption Advisories for 75 water-bodies in Alabama. This important public health issue will be a priority for river advocacy groups seeking legislative support for a program that improves public notification and awareness of fish consumption advisories.
The final priority for the 2015 legislative agenda is open government, an issue partially being addressed by Senator Cam Ward’s open meetings act bill. The Alabama Rivers Alliance supports efforts to ensure that public policy deliberations occur in open forums accessible by the citizens of the state and efforts to ensure that public records are made available to the public in an easily accessible manner. Restrictions on public access must be reviewed with an eye toward greater access and less secrecy.
“Seeking solutions for long-term, sustainable protections for our vital rivers and streams in Alabama is the primary policy role of the Alabama Rivers Alliance,” states Alabama Rivers Alliance Executive Director Cindy Lowry. “ The development of a common legislative agenda for our partners and members is a long time goal achieved and I’m looking forward to working with the Alabama legislature to pass legislation that defends our rivers and our quality of life in Alabama, states Cindy Lowry, Executive Director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance.”
The Defend Rivers 2015 Legislative Agenda is available at.
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About the Alabama Rivers Alliance
The Alabama Rivers Alliance is Alabama’s statewide, nonprofit river protection organization. Our purpose is to protect & restore Alabama’s rivers. To do this, we advocate smart water policy, organize at the grassroots level, and teach citizens how they can protect their water. We are privately funded and accomplish our mission with the financial support of people like you. Our goal is to achieve healthy rivers, healthy people, and a healthy system of government for the state of Alabama.