FAIRHOPE – Eastern Shore residents and officials are launching plans to clean the waters of Mobile Bay.
State Rep. Joe Faust, R-Fairhope, said the group, “Clean Water Alabama,” will work to find ways to improve the waters that drain into Mobile Bay. He said residents of the Eastern Shore and other areas of Baldwin County should receive letters in February asking them to take part in the effort.
Faust said the plan began on a smaller scale, with concerns over Weeks Bay, but organizers soon realized the need for solutions was statewide.
“We started off with this thing talking about Weeks Bay,” Faust said. “You hear so many people talking about how it’s filling up with silt and so we formed this group to talk about getting Weeks Bay cleaned out. As time when on and we talked with each other, we decided we wanted to do something widespread all over Alabama because when you talk about clean water in Mobile Bay or rivers, we all think that your not going to be able to get it clean unless you want to get all five rivers cleaned up.”
The five major rivers that flow into Mobile Bay – the Mobile, Tensaw, Blakeley, Apalachee and Spanish, carry water from most of Alabama.
“Five rivers come flowing into Mobile Bay,” Faust said. “We need to get those places cleaned up. How successful we’re going to be, I don’t know. I guess we’re going to have to identify the sources first.”
Faust said improving the waters of Mobile Bay will require cleaning the rivers, which will involve much of the state. He said legislators and Gov. Kay Ivey will also be asked to help in the process, but the main effort will have to come from residents.
“I think that mainly we’re going to be stronger environmentally with our rivers and bays and Gulf when we get through with this thing,” Faust said. “We’re involving every elected official we can think of, but they’re not the ones that are going to do this, it’s the people.”
John Manelos, one of the organizers of the group, said residents have been working on the idea for more than a year, but the COVID-19 outbreak slowed the start of the plan.
“As a result of a lot of our frustration with what was happening in Mobile Bay, specifically Fairhope, we formed a group of citizens called Our Bay Eastern Shore and it was mainly formed to try to educate people in the Eastern Shore area, primarily Fairhope about what they could do to contribute to cleaner water in our bay and that has a variety of things,” Manelos said.
He said the group will be sending out a survey to residents about environmental issues and Mobile Bay. They also hope to create a website and organize an event similar to Earth Day to educate the public about clean water and the bay.
“I think what is trying to be accomplished is getting as many people committed to doing something about clean water for Alabama,” Manelos said.
“This is an issue in the fastest growing county in Alabama, the county that, other than Mobile, has the most waterfront,” Manelos added. “The water here is not only for pleasure, it’s what draws people here economically.”
Alabama Speaker of the House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, met with the Eastern Shore group. He said cleaning the bay is a statewide issue.
“There’s no doubt. When you look at the coverage of the Tensaw Delta, Mobile River watershed, it covers over 65 percent of the state so that alone is a priority for the state when we look at this,” McCutcheon said. “A lot of our issues that we’re facing here in the Mobile Bay area didn’t just originate in Mobile. It’s been carried by water down to this point. So, it affects the environmental part of our state. Clean water systems are so important to the species that grow in this area and it’s very, very important.”
Manelos said they hope to get as many people involved in the project as possible.
“We’re trying to bring everyone in this tent to say what’s missing from what’s being done now to where we can put a little more effort behind not only keeping our waters clean, but preserving it for generations to come,” he said.