D'Olive Creek watershed plan to be updated


DAPHNE – The D’Olive Creek watershed that runs through Daphne and Spanish Fort has seen major improvements after earlier erosion problems, but the region and other areas still face challenges, organizers working on updates to the management plan said.

The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program held a community engagement meeting on Tuesday, July 14, to allow residents to discuss the progress and problems with the water system that covers much of the north end of the Eastern Shore. The program is part of an effort to update the watershed management plan for the D’Olive Creek basin.

Almost 20 years ago, erosion and sedimentation were major problems in the area, but efforts to control the damage have paid off, Roberta Swann, Mobile Bay NEP director, said.

“We have been working in the D’Olive watershed since 2006,” Swann said. “That’s when we started trying to figure out where all the dirt was coming from and here we are today so, 14 years later, we have implemented one watershed management plan, 10 years, we actually have a success story to tell, which is the delisting of Joe’s Branch.”

In May, Joe’s Branch, a tributary of D’Olive Creek, was removed from the Alabama List of Impaired Water Bodies. The stream had been on the list since 2008.

Swann said the improvements show that the efforts of a few people can result in a major accomplishment.

“I think the D’Olive watershed management plan and implementation process is a testament to what a community of people can do together, so we’re real excited about this updated watershed plan and how we can take this to the next level,” Swann said. “This watershed planning process, the D’Olive watershed, Daphne and Spanish Fort, we have held them up as beacons to the entire coastal community on this is the way you need to manage your environmental resources.”

In discussions of the updated plan held as a video conference, residents praised the work done so far, but said more work must still be done.

Ashley Campbell, Daphne environmental programs director, said participants in her discussion group felt that education programs need to be improved.

“They think we need to do a little bit better job of reaching the citizens with what we’ve done, the consequences of not doing it and just kind of brag on what has been done and what we can look at doing in the future with the new plan,” Campbell said.

Jason Kudulis, Mobile Bay NEP restoration programs manager, said one of the biggest issues he heard from citizens was growth.

“Long range planning, regulations and oversights and tied into that would be the detention, retention capacity, thinking about the responsibility of long term management, getting that information out there, making sure that homeowners associations do understand their role in that and just thinking about beyond those political boundaries too as this watershed continues to grow,” Kudulis said. “How are we going to manage that in a responsible way so we’re not just having these same issues spring up again in 10 years?”

John Peterson with the architectural company Mott MacDonald, said siltation is still a problem in places such as the lake at Lake Forest in Daphne.

“We’ve got the lake is silting up,” Peterson said. “Over the years, Lake Forest Lake has received a tremendous amount of silt load and sediment load and now it’s to the point where it’s losing the capacity to treat the stormwater.”