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You can get involved in watershed planning

By: Christian Miller / Published: Dec 11,  2014

Locally, a collaborative effort is underway to develop, and implement, watershed plans for all of the coastally influenced watersheds in Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama. The very nature of watershed planning designs a process that is open and transparent and encourages participation from all parties.

There are many ways you may become involved in this effort. Local watershed and grass-roots groups are prevalent in coastal Alabama, always looking for volunteers and are active in the development and implementation of planning efforts within their watersheds.

A watershed is an area of land that drains surface water into a river or stream. The Mobile Bay watershed, at over 43,600 square miles, is enormous, and drains much of Alabama and parts of Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. It comprises many subwatersheds which are classified numerically by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) into Hydrologic Unit Codes, or HUCs.

The Mobile Bay (or Mobile-Tombigbee) Watershed has a HUC of 0316. This watershed can be further divided into two six-digit HUCs or 18 eight-digit HUCs. For planning purposes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prefers a scale of 12-digit HUCs, which is the smallest geographical area classified in the USGS watershed schema.

A watershed is an ecosystem with complex interactions among both its natural and human components.

Understanding what is going on within watersheds is vitally important in terms of improving the quality of water that flows through them and any critical habitat they may contain. Watershed planning is a systematic and science-based approach which allows us to set a clear path forward for managing the resources within a watershed. These planning efforts involve everyone that has a stake in the watershed, including businesses and residents, and allows us to determine which issues are most important and the best ways to manage resources within a watershed.  A group engineers and state and city employees look at restoration plans in the Joe's Branch watershed in Alabama.

There are 98 12-digit HUCs in Alabama’s two coastal counties which drain into receiving waters, like Fowl River and Fish River, and each one of these watersheds is unique.

If you are interested in learning more about watershed planning in coastal Alabama and ways in which you may be involved, give me a call at 251-438-5690 or send me an e-mail at Christian@auburn.edu.  

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