FOLEY – Efforts to protect the watersheds flowing into Wolf Bay are moving forward with several projects in the works.
Leslie Gahagan, city of Foley environmental director, said recent grants of more than $3 million will help fund work to fix erosion on waterways such as Wolf Creek and Sandy Creek in east Foley.
She told audience members at the Foley Senior Center that erosion, sedimentation and obstructions have affected several local streams.
Along Sandy Creek, a dam used to create a pond collapsed and caused severe erosion. Because the site was unused and in a remote location, it took some time to find the source of the problem.
“The only way we knew it blew was because of Google Earth we compared images from before the flood and after the flood and you can actually see the pond is gone,” Gahagan said. “It came out with such force that it eroded down to a white clay. When you hit white clay. It looks like your creek turns milky. So Sandy Creek with every rain was turning stark white and we couldn’t find it. There was no source and people were panicking that it sewer. Well, it was just natural clay.”
She said the restoration work should reduce flooding caused by the stream being filled in by sediment.
Another project is near Swift Church Road.
“We have another one near Swift Church Road where we’ve got 10-foot bluffs of erosion and it’s eating away at multiple homeowners’ properties” Gahagan said. “It’s where the creek is just bending because the water is moving so fast. So once we clean it up upstream, we’ll stabilize this downstream.”
Another project is on a drain north of the OWA resort that has become filled with invasive plants and deadall.
Gahagan, who is also president of the Wolf Bay Watershed Watch, said that organization has been working to develop a watershed management plan for the area. The group was one of the first in Alabama to develop a coastal watershed plan.
Wolf Bay Watershed Watch volunteers have also been working for more than 20 years to monitor water quality in streams leading to the bay. Volunteers take samples at set locations to test for bacteria levels, temperature, oxygen levels and other factors.
She said having a database showing changes in levels taking place through more than two decades is an important source of information.
“”That water quality monitoring started in 1998,” she said. “It has not stopped since then. What we were looking at keep an eye on the watershed and all the natural resources in this area through working with the local governments through advocacy and through just really being a part of the community.”
Today, the Wolf Bay Watershed Watch has more than 300 members. The group also takes part in educational activities, fundraising and environmental scholarships. More information about the Wolf Bay Watershed Watch is available at https://wolfbaywatershedwatch.org/.