Groups File Appeal to Permanently Protect Land Held by Birmingham Water Works Board
For Immediate Release: June 14, 2021
Beth Stewart, Cahaba River Society, [email protected], 205-532-3080
Myra Crawford, Cahaba Riverkeeper, [email protected], 205-410-7163
Emily Driscoll, Southern Environmental Law Center, [email protected], 404-641-8108
Birmingham, AL—Cahaba River Society and Cahaba Riverkeeper, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, have filed a notice of appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court in ongoing efforts to enforce a settlement agreement intended to protect land crucial to safeguarding a major source of Birmingham’s drinking water.
The appeal follows a Jefferson County Circuit Court’s decision earlier this month to grant motions to dismiss filed by the Birmingham Water Works Board and the Attorney General’s office in response to the groups’ challenge.
The groups maintain that the 6,000 acres of land, paid for by ratepayers, should already have permanent protections under the 2001 settlement agreement. However, the groups remain concerned because the Board did not record a valid conservation easement and has already sold a parcel of the land for a gas station and marketed additional parcels for sale.
“The need to keep the Birmingham region’s drinking water clean and water rates affordable, today and into the future, should not be dismissed,” said Beth Stewart of Cahaba River Society. “We will press forward to protect the land that our water supply depends on. We urge the Birmingham Water Board and City leaders to do more to ensure the water supply is permanently protected, to uphold the promise made to ratepayers in the 2001 settlement agreement.”
“We have a simple ask of the Birmingham Water Works Board to do what they agreed to in 2001—to create a conservation easement for the land it is tasked to protect and to have an outside organization ensuring they do,” said Myra Crawford of Cahaba Riverkeeper. “The Board decided they did not need oversight and could supervise themselves. They have not agreed to permanent protection of our primary source of drinking water, as they are allowing any purported protection to sunset in 30 years. The agreement the Board wrote breaks their promises under the 2001 settlement agreement, and does not comply with state law.”
About Cahaba River Society: Cahaba River Society leads our community to restore and protect the Cahaba River watershed and its rich diversity of life. The Cahaba is a major source of our region’s drinking water. The diverse lives depending on the Cahaba include the people of the Birmingham metro area and Alabama’s Black Belt as well as the River’s globally significant biodiversity of freshwater life. CRS is an educator, expert resource, and collaborative partner for science-based, practical solutions. We inspire river stewardship by connecting people with the Cahaba for education, recreation, arts and volunteerism, and have served over 39,000 youth with education in the river. We restore the river by promoting green Infrastructure and advocating for better policies and practices for clean water, natural flows, and diverse, healthy wildlife and people. Learn more at www.cahabariversociety.org
About Cahaba Riverkeeper: Cahaba Riverkeeper was founded to defend the ecological integrity of the Cahaba River and its watershed, to ensure clean water and a healthy aquatic environment, and to preserve the recreational and aesthetic values of the river basin. Cahaba Riverkeeper is dedicated to the scientific study of the Cahaba and to ensuring that evidence-based data are readily available to the public, and to educating all citizens about the importance of clean water and how they can participate. www.CahabaRiverkeeper.org
About Southern Environmental Law Center: For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org