FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 16, 2018
For More Information: Kelly Marshall 205-322-6395, [email protected]
STATEMENT CONCERNING THE WATER MANAGEMENT REPORT SUBMITTED TO GOVERNOR IVEY
BIRMINGHAM, Ala — More than a year after requesting it, the Alabama Rivers Alliance has obtained a draft copy of the water management report submitted to the Governor’s office by the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group (AWAWG).
The report, titled “Next Steps in Alabama Water Resources Management: Focus Area Panel Reports and AWAWG Recommendations,” is a summary of reports that resulted from numerous stakeholder focus panels. A diverse set of participants convened over several months in multiple meetings to discuss the key aspects of a comprehensive water plan. Despite the completion of the report in 2017, forward progress in the development of a plan stalled, prompting numerous calls, letters and emails from concerned citizens to Governor Kay Ivey. After more than a year, ARA obtained a copy at a recent meeting of the Alabama Water Resources Commission.
In January of this year, Governor Ivey issued a letter (also recently made available to ARA) to the Director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) which houses the Office of Water Resources (OWR). Her letter reiterates her disbanding of the AWAWG and asks OWR and its advisory commission, the Alabama Water Resources Commission, to review the AWAWG reports and “develop a roadmap that includes recommendations on next steps, proposed timelines and estimated funding needs to produce a water management plan.”
“Alabama citizens’ voices have finally been heard and our state leaders now appear to be moving forward with efforts to develop an Alabama Water Plan,” Cindy Lowry, executive director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance, said. “We must continue to ensure that this is not just lip service. The agency and commission should not merely redo the work that has been done over the past five years by the AWAWG and other stakeholders. After years of detailed work and significant amounts of taxpayer money, it is now time for Alabama to adopt a strong water management plan.”
The draft report from the AWAWG explicitly calls for the development of a comprehensive water management plan. The Governor’s request for a roadmap for next steps should be a simple task considering the report makes several recommendations for how to proceed in developing a plan.
“Alabama is well behind our neighbors in the Southeast and much of the country in having almost no meaningful way to manage water in times of drought or in cases of competition for limited water,” said Sarah Stokes, an attorney in the Birmingham office of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is an important step forward, but the state needs to see it through to the finish line. Not having a plan puts Alabama at a disadvantage in interstate water fights.”
The Alabama Water Resources Commission, a 19-member appointed advisory body, appears to be taking this task seriously. They have reformed their Water Resources Subcommittee and in recent weeks have held two meetings to discuss how they will develop the roadmap and how they will address funding needs, and will report to the Governor by January of 2019. At the meetings, which ARA attended, the subcommittee laid out its directive and reviewed AWAWG reports as well as informing the entire Commission at an April 10 meeting.
During the meeting, the Commission Chair, Buddy Morgan of Montgomery Water Works, spoke very highly of the work of the AWAWG and pled with all of the Commissioners to read the materials and get up to speed on this important work. He further stated the importance of moving forward now and the opportunity that has finally arrived after nearly 30 years of having this responsibility.
“The Alabama Rivers Alliance staff and our partners have attended these meetings and we still have concerns about what the Commission plans to do,” Curt Chaffin, Policy Director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance, said. “There are no environmental voices on this commission, and half of the subcommittee represents industries that seem very comfortable with the status quo.”
ARA and SELC will continue to follow the process closely and encourage all citizens of Alabama to stay engaged as these important decisions are being made about the future of our water. You can learn more, including the necessary elements of a water plan, and sign up for updates at www.AlabamaWaterPlan.com.
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Copies of the draft report and the Governor’s letter to ADECA are available upon request.
ABOUT THE ALABAMA RIVERS ALLIANCE
Alabama Rivers Alliance is a statewide network of groups working to protect and restore all of Alabama’s water resources through building partnerships, empowering citizens, and advocating for sound water policy and its enforcement. For more information, please visit www.alabamarivers.org
ABOUT SOUTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. For more information, please visit www.SouthernEnvironment.org
ABOUT THE ALABAMA WATER PLAN
Alabama Rivers Alliance advocates for the development of an Alabama Water Plan that will keep our rivers and streams healthy to protect our drinking water and our way of life. By protecting the amount of water flowing in our rivers and streams, a Water Plan will reduce the pollution and ensure the quality of Alabama’s drinking water. For additional information about an Alabama Water Plan, and what ARA would like to see included in that plan, please visit www.AlabamaWaterPlan.com