UPDATE ON HB577 FROM MITCH REID – May 19, 2017
Happy Friday, River Defenders!
We are so close to the end of the 2017 Legislative Session! Your work and enthusiasm has had a real impact this session and we are starting to see some recognition of the issues facing our rivers at the State House.
Most importantly, thank you all for your support, advice, and participation this week as the Alabama House Committee for Agriculture and Forestry took up Representative Todd’s Alabama Water Conservation and Security Act (HB577).
Wednesday’s hearing was a great success. The meeting room was packed to capacity with as many standing as seated and latecomers forced to wait in the hallway. In addition to Representative Todd’s introduction of the bill, we had five participants who signed up to speak in favor of the legislation.
I explained the basics of the bill and connected it to the dewatering of Patton Creek in Hoover last fall. Joe Jenkins, a Master’s student at Auburn University, told the story of a dewatered stream in the Tennessee watershed that led to the demise of hundreds of fish, mussels, and snails. Beth Stewart from the Cahaba River Society described how protecting flow was a safeguard to Alabama’s drinking water supplies and recreational economy. Sarah Stokes from the Southern Environmental Law Center explained how the bill would help Alabama account for its water needs in the ongoing negotiations with our neighboring states. And, Jonathon Meeks chair of the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club and professional horticulturist explained how the bill’s conservation credits would protect those in industry that are already implementing water conservation and efficiency measures on their own. Additionally, Beth Galloway from Birmingham reminded the committee that protecting water quality must factor into any future decision making. No one spoke in opposition although some lobbyists delivered written remarks.
All in all, the committee was extremely responsive. While we knew going in that the bill could not move this session, the committee chair, Representative Sessions from Grand Bay (Mobile Bay Watershed), spoke to the importance of this topic to the people and economy of the state. Many of the other members were quite engaged and came prepared with questions about the status of current regulation and how the bill would address specific issues that had been brought to their attention during the drought and run up to the hearing. Specifically, Representative Grimsley from Newville (Choctawhatchee and Chattahoochee Rivers) expressed strong appreciation to Representative Todd for bringing a bill to address an issue that was having real impact on people in the state; Representative Faust from Fairhope (Mobile Bay watershed) wanted to understand how these flow protections would have played into the impacts that the Bay and Delta experienced; and both Representative Chesteen from Geneva (Choctawhatchee River) and Representative Lindsey from Centre (Coosa River) expressed a keen interest in following up after the session to discuss how Alabama can better balance water uses and flow protections.
As a follow up, I would encourage you to send a note or call the members of the Committee (link here) to say “thank you” and to see if they have any questions that we should circle back on. I would also encourage everyone to continue to engage all of the legislators in your watershed to let them know how important this discussion is for the long term protection of our rivers. Please let them know that we will be working over the summer and fall to get the bill ready to be re-introduced early in the 2018 legislative session.
Once again, thank you all for helping us build momentum on this issue and stay tuned for more updates as we roll into the summer. As always if you have any feedback or questions please send them along.
Great Job and #DefendRivers!
Alabama Rivers Alliance
UPDATE: The hearing has been moved to May 17 at 10 am! Please join if you can!
Anyone interested is welcome to attend. We will be there to speak and would love to have your supportive faces in the crowd. Read below for more details!
River defenders, your voices are being heard and our work is paying off!
With your help and support, the Alabama Rivers Alliance is still moving the ball forward towards an Alabama Water Plan. Representative Patricia Todd filed a bill in the Alabama House, the Alabama Water Conservation & Security Act (HB577), that will improve Alabama’s system of water management to better protect our rivers and streams!
If Patricia Todd is your representative, please thank her for taking this important step.
Since it is late in the session, we are focusing on the following legislators who are members of the House Agriculture Committee. If one of these committee members is your House member, please call or write them and tell them to support this important bill – The Water Conservation & Security Act – HB577!
ALABAMA HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Donnie Chesteen (District 87)
Richard Lindsey (District 39)
Will Ainsworth (District 27)
KL Brown (District 40)
Randy Davis (District 96)
Joe Faust (District 94)
Bob Fincher (District 37)
Dexter Grimsley (District 85)
Tommy Hanes (District 23)
Reed Ingram (District 75)
Artis McCampbell (District 71)
Jack Williams (District 102)
ALABAMA HOUSE LEADERSHIP
Alan Boothe, Chair of the Rules Committee