Friday, April 23, 2010

Smith Lake Residents Embrace Watershed Management

By: Eric Reutebuch
The seeds of watershed planning have been sown over the past several years in the Smith Lake Watershed at the annual ‘State of the Lake Address’ sponsored by Smith Lake Environmental Preservation Committee, or SLEPC. Alabama Water Watch (AWW) staff annually evaluate volunteer monitor data collected by the five active monitoring groups in the Smith Lake Watershed and look at long-term trends in the data to see if the water quality in sections of the lake is getting better or worse. The five water monitoring groups include SLEPC (on Ryan Creek), Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Inc., or WCSLAI (on Crooked, Rock, Brushy and Sipsey Fork), Camp McDowell (on Clear Creek), Smith Lake Civic Association, or SLCA (on the lower lake), and Cullman County Soil and Water Conservation District, or CULCO (on streams throughout Cullman County).

AWW has trained and certified 64 citizen monitors in Water Chemistry and/or Bacteriological Monitoring in the Smith Lake Watershed. They monitor over 60 sites on the lake and its tributary streams, and have contributed over 1,700 water quality records to AWWs statewide database (for more information, see

Along with evaluation of lake conditions, AWW encourages citizen monitors to put their data to work. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management, or ADEM, provides funding through their Nonpoint Source 319 Grant program to implement on-the-ground improvements, primarily targeting impaired streams. Citizen monitors of the Rock Creek Watershed became interested in going beyond monitoring, and partnered with AWW in pursuing an ADEM grant to develop a watershed management plan for the Rock Creek Watershed. The Rock Creek Watershed is one of several around the state that has stream sections that have been deemed impaired (polluted) by ADEM, and is therefore a prime candidate for a 319 grant to improve the landscape and clean up the creek.

AWW personnel began meeting with various stakeholder groups in Winston and Cullman counties in the summer of 2009. Several meetings with key stakeholders (municipal leaders, resource managers, county officials, local residents, to name a few) were arranged by the president of WCSLAI, LaVerne Matheson. LaVerne was keenly interested in educating children in the local schools about environmental issues and the value of protecting our natural resources. Many others residents have become involved with the watershed management planning process through meetings and expanding water monitoring efforts.

Watershed-level bacteria monitoring was initiated earlier this year on a brisk February day. This type of monitoring is being initiated in other watersheds around Alabama, such as Lake Wedowee (see, and the Saugahatchee Watershed (see and click Activities).

In the Rock Creek Watershed and greater Smith Lake Watershed, the bacteriological training and monitoring supplies are provided by an EPA-funded project, the Global Water Watch-Gulf of Mexico Alliance, or GWW-GOMA. This ‘blitz’ sampling gives a valuable snapshot of water quality of the whole watershed. The February Blitz of Rock Creek Watershed was accomplished through the assistance of 24 certified volunteer monitors who monitored 43 sample sites on Smith Lake and its tributaries. Results indicated unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria at four sampling locations (see map for details). To date, this is the most comprehensive snapshot of the watershed health, relative to bacterial contamination, of the Smith Lake Watershed!

A second bacteriological monitoring blitz was conducted in April 2010, and 22 monitors from four water watch groups sampled at most of the February Blitz sites. Surprisingly, even though the weather and water temperatures were significantly higher than those of blitz #1 (no sleet/snow this time around), unsafe levels of E. coli were found at only one sampling location. Repeated watershed-level sampling will be extremely valuable in evaluating the watershed and prioritizing resources for implementing best management practices – a major goal of the watershed management plan.

The GWW-GOMA project will fund seasonal bacteriological blitz sampling for two years. The data and information collected from this sampling will be of great value in focusing stakeholder watershed protection activities where they are most needed to reduce pollutants flushing into the lake.

Volunteer monitoring has provided a solid foundation for citizen involvement in the watershed management planning process. Citizens who become trained in water monitoring also become knowledgeable in watershed processes and water issues. As Winston County Extension Agent, Mike Henshaw put it, it has been a “learning by doing” experience. They also become empowered and encouraged to be a part of watershed management in their local watershed. Participation from residents, members of citizen groups, municipal government officials, county government officials, resource management agencies (Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, National Forest Service) in the development of the Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan over the past several months is laying the foundation for long-term, sustainable resource management in the watershed. Good job, Rock Creek Stakeholders!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rock Creek Project and Spring Bacteria Blitz Updates

First of all we would like to say that we enjoyed being a part of the WCSLAI Annual meeting. It was great to hear about all of the wonderful things that are going on with the organization. Thanks for having us! Here are a couple of updates of interest.

The Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan meeting on April 8th was very successful. Several community members (including WCSLAI members) and representatives of local government and agencies came out to give feedback about the plan. The plan is being completed, but there will be one more opportunity for you to check it out and provide input on April 29th, at 7pm in Addison at the Traders and Farmers Bank. We encourage you to come and participate in the ongoing planning process!

The Spring Bacteria Blitz was also a success! There were around 30 sites tested throughout the Smith Lake Watershed. About 1/3 showed signs of E.coli bacteria. If you would like to hear more, come out to the meeting in Addison on April 29th, where we will briefly discuss the results.

Hope to see you soon!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Clean-Up

Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc.

Join us for the Annual Winston County Smith Lake
Spring Clean-Up

April 21 and 22
Volunteer help is needed to keep Smith Lake clean & beautiful!

Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc. and the Renew Our Rivers team need your help for one or two days to remove Styrofoam and litter from Smith Lake in Winston County. Volunteers are needed to work on our boats on April 21 and 22. Volunteers with boats may bring Styrofoam and litter to the collection site. Land-loving volunteers are needed each day to assist in unloading. The clean-up will begin at 8 AM each of the 2 days.

Focus areas this year include:
Rock Creek, Crooked and Little Crooked Creeks and White Oak

The collection site will be Jim Kings Boat Dock yard
Directions: Co. Rd. 22 to Co. Rd. 4006 to Co. Rd. 222 “go to dead end”
We will be working out on the point

Boathouses and swim platforms will be accepted at another site but you must call for instructions and directions prior to pulling in structures. The number to call is 205-387-9999.
Linda (205) 387-9999 for information on the clean-up, for Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Group, Inc. membership information, and to
sign-up for the clean-up

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Please Join Us!

Please remember the Rock Creek Watershed Management Project Meeting that will be on Thursday April 8th at 7pm in Addison at the Traders and Farmers Bank Building.

We will be presenting a draft of the Rock Creek
Watershed Management Plan, and would really appreciate your help with putting on the finishing touches!

We are also having a Spring Bacteria which will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 9-10th.

If you are interested, and haven't already done so, please reply to this email or call me at (251) 282-9998 to coordinate the materials pick up and plate turn-in. Hope we can count on you!

There will be no training workshops during this trip, but we hope to plan another one soon.

Thanks and hope to see you soon!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Advocacy's accomplishments and projects

Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization which was formed in 2006. Our very active board of directors consists of a President, Vice-President, a Secretary/Treasurer and 9 additional directors.

Since WCSLAI was formed volunteers have removed 150 truckloads of Styrofoam from the lake and along the shores of Smith Lake in Winston County. In addition, over 130 boat docks, boathouses and other platforms that had been abandoned (and in some cases, found floating on the Lake) were removed. Other debris, filling many dumpsters, has been removed.

WCSLAI is currently working on a project to fabricate and install signage on creeks and branches on Smith Lake in Winston County. 33 sites have been identified and each location will have 2 signs, each at a different approach to the slough/creek. Funding is being provided by Northwest Alabama Resource Conservation and Development Council. WCSLAI is most grateful to RC&D and to the Winston County Commission for all their efforts in support of the signage project. Labor to install the signs will be provided by Board members and interested volunteers. Once the signs are in place and various creeks and branches are more identifiable, navigation of the lake in Winston County should be safer and easier for boaters.

We are working with Alabama Water Watch on a watershed improvement program for the Rock Creek Watershed which includes Crooked Creek and White Oak Creek. Our group is assisting with the part of watershed that is in Winston County. This is a very complex project requiring the cooperation of many people from various organizations. We already have involvement of the Winston County Commissioners, ADEM, Mike Henshaw-County Extension agent, Wade Hill-Alabama Soil and Water conservation, Mayors from Arley and Addison and others. We have visited with many of the cattlemen and farmers in the area, who appear to be in favor of this project. The goal is to have the specified area removed from the EPA’s 303D list which designates contamination. The ultimate goal would be to put a program into place that would allow Smith Lake to continue to be known as one of the cleanest lakes in the US.

WCSLAI members are developing a PowerPoint program about the Warrior Watershed, with all pictures having been taken in Winston County. We are seeking funding for a projector and screen to use when presenting this program to the biology, science and FFA classes in all the high schools in Winston County. This program will also be made available for other civic organizations to view. We feel the need for our youngsters and other residents of Winston County to be aware of, and to promote, the importance of the watershed and how its “health” contributes to the economic future of Smith Lake and surrounding areas.

We have sponsored several water testing classes taught by members of Alabama Water Watch from Auburn University and we now have 18 qualified water testers and 15 active water testing sites on Smith Lake in Winston County.

We have participated in the FAWN (Forestry Awareness Now) program for the last 2 years, with 2 of our qualified water testers demonstrating to area youngsters the importance of and the method used in testing the water each month. One question the testers ask is how much water one gallon of used oil could contaminate in Smith Lake. There are all kinds of guesses, but when the answer of 1 million gallons is revealed, the students are quite shocked.

One WCSLAI director is presenting a class on” water” to elementary students. We stress to everyone we meet the value and importance of taking care of the water that we are all so blessed to have in North Alabama.

WCSLAI now has a 24 foot pontoon boat and a 26 foot barge that we can attach and push (both thanks to generous donors), which allows us to promote clean-ups by homeowners in their own immediate areas. They furnish the manpower and we furnish the boat/barge and equipment. 2 locations on the lake allow us to unload Styrofoam anytime and the county will dispose of the Styrofoam for us.

Our mission continues to be securing even more cooperation from additional county, state and government agencies and to educate more residents of the care needed to preserve our own Smith Lake in a pristine condition. Future generations will then be able to enjoy this beautiful lake as we have.

Mission Statement: The mission of Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy is to preserve and protect the environmental quality

of Lewis Smith Lake and its tributaries through education of the public and the promotion and implementation of sound environmental practices.

For further information on how you can do your part, call us. 205-387-9999