DAPHNE – An Eastern Shore waterway has been removed from the Alabama 2020 List of Impaired Water Bodies.
Joe’s Branch, a tributary to D’Olive Creek was first listed in 2008 for siltation based on a 2007 sediment loading analyses by the Geological Survey of Alabama. The stream was removed from the list by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
The D’Olive Watershed Management Plan, published in 2010, recommended comprehensive stream restoration in Joes Branch to slow sedimentation caused by stormwater runoff and stream bank erosion. These sediments threaten the seagrass beds and fisheries habitats of D’Olive and Mobile bays.
The first recommended restoration project of the Plan repaired a deeply incised tributary to Joes Branch along US 31 at Westminster Village in Spanish Fort, using “rock step pools” to slow the energy of stormwater flow. Then the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program secured funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to undertake comprehensive restoration of affected streams across the rest of the watershed, including the Joe’s Branch, D’Olive Creek and Tiawasee Creek subwatersheds. Since the sediment delivered by Joe’s Branch represented the greatest loads of any water body ever monitored by the GSA, the first order of business focused restoration efforts on Joe’s Branch and its tributaries.
The Joe’s Branch restoration effort spanned six years, from 2012 until 2018, with restoration of five discrete stream reaches (totaling 4,000 linear feet) and flood plains (totaling 25 acres) and construction or repair of two detention ponds. Post-restoration monitoring of Joes Branch revealed sediment load reductions by a more than 90 percent. These data were evaluated by ADEM, which published a Final Delisting Decision for Joe’s Branch in April.
The delisting of an impaired water body by ADEM is recognition of a job done well. The MBNEP and its partners, the cities of Daphne and Spanish Fort, the Baldwin County Commission, ADEM, the Alabama Department of Transportation, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, took part in the effort. The NFWF-funded stream restoration efforts will continue with a Weeks Bay Watershed Management Plan-recommended restoration in the Marlow community of the Lower Fish River Watershed soon.
The 2010 D’Olive Watershed Management Plan, the blueprint for the stream restoration effort, is currently being updated, and stakeholder input is extremely important to plan development. A Community Engagement Meeting is scheduled for July 14 at 5:30 p.m. at Daphne City Hall. Participants can attend in person or remotely. Anyone wanting to provide input and to stay up-to-date on the latest plan development, can take a brief survey that can be found at, https://bit.ly/DOliveWMPSurvey1.
The mission of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is to promote the wise stewardship of Alabama’s estuaries and coast by using the best available science to measure status and trends, to restore ecosystem functions, build local capacity for environmental management and community resilience, and grow the number of citizen stewards across our coast and beyond.