Magnolia Springs renews contract with Mobile Baykeeper

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 3/27/19

FOLEY - Magnolia Springs made 2018 a productive year when it came to protecting Magnolia River. The town formed the River Committee, which meets monthly with the mission to protect the river. The …

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Magnolia Springs renews contract with Mobile Baykeeper

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FOLEY - Magnolia Springs made 2018 a productive year when it came to protecting Magnolia River. The town formed the River Committee, which meets monthly with the mission to protect the river. The council pledged funds and support for the Weeks Bay Watershed Management Program, working closely with Casey Fulford, Baldwin County Conservation District Watershed Management Coordinator. Finally during mid-summer 2018, the town sponsored Mobile Baykeeper’s SWIM Program, created to test the bacteria level in waters where people will be swimming to help them make an informed decision before they jump in.

Going into 2019’s swimming season, Magnolia Springs has renewed their sponsorship of the SWIM Program, and will be adding a second site to be tested for bacteria.

“I applaud the mayor and council for their sponsorship, it’s a really proactive step from the municipality to say, ‘we want to know what’s going on in the river and inform our citizens so they can make risk-informed decisions,’” said Cade Kistler with Mobile Baykeeper.

Mobile Baykeeper employees currently test at Devil’s Hole and release the bacteria levels to the public to show if they are below average, average, or above average.

“We don’t tell people do swim or don’t swim, we say here’s what’s going on with the bacteria levels, and if you want to swim or if you don’t, now you have the information you need to make the decision yourself,” Kistler said.

Whenever the bacteria levels come back high, Baykeeper conducts a second test the following day to check if the levels have changed at all. High bacteria can be because of heavy rainfall, though sometimes larger issues could be behind the numbers. Baykeeper keeps constant check on the levels to ensure the issue is not the latter. Included within the terms of the sponsorship are seven resamples for high test results, along with weekly tests during summer and monthly tests during winter months. There are also three tests that can be conducted immediately before holidays or high-volume swimming dates of the town’s choosing.

Council member Ben Dykema, who heads the River Committee, stated a benefit to the continued testing will be the data collected over time. Starting in 2018, a graph can continue to form showing where the river is at throughout the years, which will not only help with spotting patterns, it will help with finding solutions.

“Mobile Baykeeper’s mission is to provide the means to help protect the beauty, health and heritage of our waterways,” Kistler said. “That is our goal, and we’ve been working with Casey Fulford and the River Committee about trying to find the sources of high bacteria levels.”

Funds and grants are being researched to hopefully provide aid to the river’s protection. Another step towards preserving the river will be the additional testing spot for the 2019 season. The second site will only be an $1,000 increase from just one testing site, bringing the total of the river testing to $4,000 for the year. Kistler suggests choosing a site upstream from the current test spot in order to isolate potential sources for problems.

“I think this process helps the River Committee, and it shows that we’re committed,” said Mayor Bob Holk. “When you’ve got data that shows a problem, then it can be used to help secure grants and show the need for grants.”

Along with renewing sponsorship with Mobile Baykeeper, Dykema stated that Holk agreed to help the town join the Alabama River Alliance, which will only cost $50. Being part of the Alliance will help with securing funds and grants for the future, and progress the mission shared by Magnolia Springs and Mobile Baykeeper.

“We’re protecting Magnolia River for a long time,” Kistler said. “That’s our plan.”

To learn more about Mobile Baykeeper or to sign up to receive emails concerning bacteria levels in the area’s waterways, visit their website at www.mobilebaykeeper.org.

To sign up for Magnolia Springs’ e-newsletter, which releases bacteria levels in Magnolia River, visit their website at www.townofmagnoliasprings.org.