Environmental groups gather at 14th annual Alabama Water Rally

Environmental groups gather at 14th annual Alabama Water Rally

This year’s theme a celebration of Alabama’s environmental movement and the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

FAIRHOPE, AL: Nearly one hundred environmental leaders and concerned citizens gathered at Camp Beckwith on Weeks Bay last week to celebrate, learn, and network at the 14th Annual Alabama Water Rally hosted by the Alabama Rivers Alliance. This conference brought together people from dozens of different communities and watersheds, and over fifty organizations from all across the state.  Additionally, expert speakers came from as far away as Portland, OR and Washington, DC to share information about endangered species, water supply planning, community organizing, advocacy strategies, Gulf restoration projects, social media, and much more.

Friday night keynote speakers included Judy Haner of the The Nature Conservancy of Alabama sharing about the exciting 100/1000 Restore Coastal Alabama oyster restoration project, and Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water.

Stoner spoke about the importance of clean water and the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  In her statement, she reminded us that, “Forty years ago our waterways were dumping grounds.  We have made great strides, but we still have a long way to go.”  She reported that communities across the country are starting to face major challenges with water supply and two-thirds of the states are predicted to face shortages in the next few years.  She also referred to a recent report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that concluded that by 2020, the US will have fallen $84 billion short of the investments needed in our critical water systems. However, she also referred to a report from Green For All, released in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute and the Pacific Institute, which found that an investment of $188.4 billion spread equally over the next five years would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million jobs. This report concluded that now is best time in a generation to tackle our water infrastructure investment gap for three key reasons: water infrastructure investments would create jobs now, when they are most needed; the cost of financing this investment is at historic lows, and the current economic climate can reduce the costs of infrastructure projects. Stoner reminded conference attendees, “Each of us can be an ambassador for clean water by spreading the word, and most importantly, teach the next generation about clean water so they can also be a part of the solution.”

Other highlights of the weekend event were the annual River Celebration Awards.  This year’s award recipients are as follows:

  • Watershed Group of the Year – Save Our Saugahatchee and Friends of Chewacla and Uphapee Creeks from the Auburn area
  • Best New Group of the Year – Coosa Riverkeeper, based in Riverside
  • The James Lowery Volunteer Service Award – Jenn Patterson, Program Director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, based in Birmingham and West AL
  • Beyond Rivers Partner of the Year – The Nature Conservancy of Alabama, working statewide
  • Business Partner of the Year – Good People Brewing Company

Receiving special recognition were the three individuals named River Heroes, a lifetime achievement award reserved for individuals who have spent the better part of their lives working to protect Alabama’s waterways.  They go above and beyond the average calling to ensure that all Alabamians can enjoy clean, heathy water and that government and industry are held accountable for enforcing water policies and polluting our waterways. The 2012 River Heroes were as follows:

  • River Hero – Michael Mullen, the Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper based in Troy
  • River Hero – Bill Deutsch, Director of Alabama Water Watch, based in Auburn
  • River Hero – Casi Callaway, Mobile Baykeeper, based in Mobile

Alabama Rivers Alliance Executive Director Cindy Lowry stated, “Alabama’s waterways and people are fortunate to have such dedicated, knowledgeable individuals and organizations working to protect clean, healthy water in our state.  It is our honor to be able to present these awards as a small token of our appreciation to their tireless efforts.”

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