MAGNOLIA SPRINGS – The Magnolia Springs River Committee held its first meeting six months ago, when the members created the committee’s objective: “As members of the Magnolia Springs community, we are individuals concerned about the Magnolia River. We recognize the value and significance of this river, as recognized by the state of Alabama as an Outstanding Alabama Waterway. We endeavor to protect, preserve, monitor, and revitalize the health of Magnolia River and its watershed.”
To forward the committee’s intent on protecting and maintaining Magnolia River, many steps have been taken over the past year, such as the town’s sponsorship with Mobile Baykeeper to keep the waters tested and bacteria levels checked as well as the town’s support and work with Casey Fulford, Baldwin County Conservation District Watershed Management Coordinator.
Fulford is working alongside the committee members to obtain signage for the Weeks Bay Watershed, as well as seeking grants to help with the river.
“If acquired the grant is to look at about two and a half miles of the Magnolia River, doing 12 different transects looking at the sedimentation,” said Fulford.
If the grant is obtained, Committee President Ben Dykema hopes the sedimentation survey will help identify areas of the river to be dredged, as well as shoring up erosion problems causing the sedimentation in the river.
Fulford will also be working to obtain grants for the Weeks Bay Watershed similar to the grants recently received by the City of Foley for the Bon Secour Watershed project.
“I would hope that one day this would be us,” said Dykema, referring to the Bon Secour Watershed. “I think this is where we’re wanting to be in the future, that this is the end game, because obviously the runoff from Foley that comes down Magnolia River is one of our biggest concerns and we need to have more holding ponds to slow that down.”
The Weeks Bay Watershed was created to include both Magnolia and Fish Rivers, and hiring Fulford was just one of the first steps in the program.
Along with Fulford is Cade Kistler with Mobile Baykeeper, who has been helping to test Magnolia River for nearly a year.
“I’m still very excited that the Town of Magnolia Springs decided to fund the SWIM test here at Devil’s Hole,” said Kistler. “The town sponsored the site where Mobile Baykeeper tested weekly throughout the summer for bacteria, specifically the type of bacteria that could make you sick or ill and issued alerts.”
The tests take place during swim season, or April through September, and can extend longer depending on weather. The tests are lessened from once weekly to once monthly during winter months. The tests and released results allow people to make risk-informed decisions on whether or not they’re going to swim depending on the bacteria level in the water. According to Kistler, Magnolia River had moderate levels through 2018 but were not astronomically high. When results come back higher than normal, Mobile Baykeeper will then do a retest immediately to check if the levels are coming back or if a bigger problem is persisting.
“This summer Mobile Baykeeper is going to test Devil’s Hole as well as the Cold Hole,” said Dykema. “We’re also working on ways for them to help determine how much of the pollutants in the water are animal based, how much are human based, and then we’re going to try to trace them back to their source to give us an idea of what’s happening and how to fix it.”
For these tests, Mobile Baykeeper must operate out of house and their teams are working on ways to obtain funding sources to support the project.
The committee works outside of meetings to protect Magnolia River, with members attending the Alabama Water Rally at Camp Beckwood, taking place this March.
“This should be a good motivator for us to get us going in the right direction that we need to be going, and show us how to organize our projects,” said Dykema. The camp will feature several speakers as well as advice and tips on protecting waterways.
To learn more about the River Committee and the Town of Magnolia Springs, visit their website at www.townofmagnoliasprings.org.
Anyone can sign up for the Magnolia Springs e-newsletter as well as the Mobile Baykeeper e-newsletter for updates on bacteria levels in the water.