Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Senator Richard Shelby & His River of Lies

Recently the US Fish and Wildlife agency proposed a major expansion of the Cahaba River Preserve, one of Alabama's most bio-diverse, but imperiled rivers that would expand the size from its current 3,600 acres to more than 200,000. Rapid development in the Upper Cahaba River watershed threatens not only the quality of the water, but also the unique species that exist in this region--the rare Cahaba Lily among them;
The current refuge includes the largest known stand of the Cahaba lilies, also know as the shoals lily. The river has 64 rare and imperiled plant and animal species, 13 of which are found nowhere else in the world. With 131 species of fish, the Cahaba has more species than any other river its size in North America.
Cahaba Lillies by Beth Maynor Young
But the habitat on the river, even in the protected refuge, is being battered by siltation and pulse floods resulting from development and paving in urban areas upstream. 
"Development is our number one problem," said Steve Miller manager of the refuge. "We are trying to do what we can where we can to attenuate some of those impacts. Something will have to occur if we are going to have an effect on water quality and water quantity in the Cahaba."
It would take decades to achieve this acquisition and it is important for the quality of this river that the process begin as soon as possible.

From an August 2000, 86 page report by Robert E. Pitt PhD, P.E., DEE University of Alabama Bham.
Upper-Reach Cahaba River Conditions
The most serious water pollution problems in the upper reaches of the Cahaba River, in possible order of importance, are as follows:
· Toxicants exceeding the human health criteria (especially the carcinogens arsenic and the organic PAHs, plus mercury which always exceeded the EPA criteria, plus likely frequent violations of cadmium).
· Nuisance conditions, especially eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) caused by high phosphorus concentrations. Increased nitrogen discharges will dramatically worsen eutrophication conditions. Other nuisance conditions frequently occur caused by high iron content in drinking water and frequently turbid water.
· Aquatic life problems caused by toxicants (especially cadmium, lead, and possibly zinc), high temperatures during spawning periods, sedimentation because of localized high erosion, and infrequent low dissolved oxygen concentrations.
· Swimming problems caused by periodic exposures to pathogenic micro├Ârganisms (as indicated by high populations of fecal coliform bacteria).
The above problems are quite widespread and do not appear to be associated with specific locations, or times, although many of the toxicant problems are worse further upstream
Other problems identified (especially for chlorides and ammonia) are likely infrequent and were probably associated with intermittent (illegal?) industrial discharges. 
Some problems are also likely associated with more continuous discharges from improperly operated facilities (such as a landfill slightly above the Birmingham Water Works Board pump station, upstream mines, and poorly operated wastewater treatment facilities).
Mid-Reach Cahaba River Conditions
The current high concentrations of several heavy metals in the Cahaba River indicate the need for serious further investigations.  
Numerous and large violations of the EPA arsenic and mercury human health criteria (fish consumption) were observed for previously collected Cahaba River samples. These criteria were violated by every sample collected at West Blocton and Centreville. These criteria exceedences signal the need for comprehensive fish (and other organism) tissue analysis to quantify the threat to human health.
This report was done 6 years before the legislation to establish a preserve was passed. That is a long time considering the seriousness of the issues in the report and we can think of no logical explanation for such a long delay other than it was not high on the priority list for any state official or agency. But what has been high on the list is rampant development, a weak state regulatory agency and indifference by all of them regarding the water quality of the Cahaba--they have ignored the known problems with this river which supplies the metro Birmingham area with their drinking water.

The mindset is that pollutants and toxicants can just be "filtered out" and the developers scream "no-growth zealots" to anyone who points out to them that drinking water supplies should be clean at their source. In their twisted minds they believe its acceptable to degrade our drinking water supplies in the name of  "jobs and economic growth." This attitude is pervasive with BARD and big business including our legislators who are beholden to both.

The BARD bad boys who are always up to their usual no good, have been one of the main proponents for developing in this watershed which is why they wanted their floodplain ordinances adopted by Jefferson County, Alabama.
(page at footer of site "New Business Alliance")

One of their members, Drummond Coal, the subject of two previous postings, is at the top of the contributor list for Senator Shelby and we suspect that the difference in the Senator's stance on the Cahaba River Preserve in 2006, and now may have something to do with the coal and natural gas reserves that lie under the proposed expanded acreage.

Senator Shelby is firmly against this expansion and is citing revenues and jobs lost among his reasons:
"While we all agree on the importance of preserving this ecological treasure, this is a major expansion of the Refuge, which will not only cost millions of dollars in federal funds for land acquisition, but will also take a large portion of the tax base away from the state," Shelby wrote in a Friday letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Salazar is the go-to-guy for big oil and gas interests, go ask the Mustangs that are left in the West, if you can find any, what a good friend Salazar's DOI and the Ruby Pipeline have been to their environment. Another one of Shelby's big contributors, the Forestry Association, provided their own results to Shelby to use in his letter to Salazar asking for an extension on the public comment period (read: They need time to figure out how to put the brakes on this.);
The Alabama Forest Owners Association, using an economic impact study that looks at forestry, wood products, paper products and wood furniture industries, says moving the acreage from private to public ownership will cost $22.8 million in payroll contributions annually, $778,958 in state tax contributions each year, and 702 jobs. Shelby cited those statistics in his letter to Salazar.
What a difference a few years and a lot of cold, hard cash from big business makes.
From 2006:
 Press Release
Senate Passes FY 2006 Interior Appropriations Bill Conference Report
Contact: Virginia Davis (202) 224-6518
Friday, July 29, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced Senate approval of the conference report to accompany the Fiscal Year 2006 Interior Appropriations Bill. The FY 2006 Interior Appropriations Bill will now go to the President’s desk, which he is expected to sign into law.

1. Important Environmental Programs Receive Federal Funding
Last week, before leaving Washington D.C. for its August recess, the U.S. Congress passed Interior Appropriations, Energy and Highway legislation.  Here is a list of environmental programs that will benefit from these new laws.
Interior Appropriations - (for more details )

Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge - $421,000 - Championed by Rep. Spencer Bachus, the Refuge will add 350 acres, thanks to the Land Water and Conservation Fund.

Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge, $421,000 - The Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge was established in the 106th Congress, and the land that it encompasses is home to 32 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act. 
These funds will allow for the acquisition of 264 acres within the Refuge in Bibb County. 
Map showing current (2006 legislation) and the 2010 proposed expansion. The area in red is the current reserve which is a very small area and the proposed expansion areas in green and yellow show the proposed reserve sought by the USFW.  Senator Shelby and Congressman Bachus did the bare minimum for this river in the 2006 legislation-- the map speaks for itself.
Senator Shelby said, “I am pleased that the Senate approved these funds for the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. This environmentally-diverse, pristine land must be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Flip flop or flim flam, which is it Senator Shelby? You admit that this area is "environmentally diverse" and "must be protected for future generations" which is exactly what the USFW is proposing to do with this expansion, but you resist it and cite lost revenues to the state and the "spending of millions of federal dollars" to validate your opposition.

You certainly should know a thing or two about spending millions of federal dollars because it is something you do on a regular basis for your own earmarks and pet projects.

“Senator Shelby, like Representative Murtha before him, takes trading earmarks for campaign dollars to a level most members of Congress can only dream about,” as reported in a recent Politco article from July 2010. Records show that you steer large amounts of OUR money to your former staffers, big business and corporate "buddies" to the tune of hundreds of millions and climbing.
(LeftInAlabama.com video of Shelby's wasteful spending of federal dollars posted 9/7/2010)

We submit to you that your interest in the environment is actually non-existent and your big donors are not happy at the prospect of not being able to rape the land in the area of the Cahaba for their own ill gotten gains--you're only too happy to accommodate them and to hell with "future generations" of Alabamians and the Cahaba River.

Someday a viable candidate will run against you and when that day comes Alabamians will turn out in waves and flood you and Bachus out of office-- that day can't come soon enough for Alabama's environment or the Cahaba River. That is, if it survives the crimes that are continually perpetrated upon it by men like you and your big business environmental villains.

Update September 8, 2010
Shelby and Bachus are both in the fight now against the expansion and are stirring up landowners with distortions of a "federal land grab" despite the fact that the UFWS has said they would buy land from "willing sellers." Steve Miller the Cahaba Preserve manager said "The service never intended to use eminent domain and the reason such a large area was proposed was to expand the pool of owners who might be willing to sell." Landowners would be able to put their land into conservation easements and sell their development rights to the USFW.

         Cahaba River near the Shoals Jefferson County, Alabama
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  1. How's that shovel up against the 'haid feel Shelby man?
    Whomp! There it is.

  2. The comment that drinking water should be clean at its source raises, yet again, the issue of the Birmingham Northern Beltline. It is to be constructed right through the headwaters of the Cahaba, but does that bother Shelby and Bachus? Not one whit!

  3. Political posturing is not unusual, neither is a politician lying we have come to expect that from the "kingdom." What is reprehensible is the double speak going on here and the convenience of appearing to have "done good" for our natural resources.
    Mr. Shelby and Mr. Bachus have some explaining to do at the the least since their current positions directly oppose their previous ones.
    The evidence of either ignorance and or "undue influence" is alarmingly clear and they should be questioned about their turnabout positions.
    Perhaps turncoat is the appropriate term, yes, I think it is.

  4. 4aJustSustainableCommunitySeptember 9, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    Perfet pictures, above.

    How do we best support the protection of the river and its watershed while making sure that the needs of Bibb Countians are met? It is cynical to dangle 'jobs' and 'development' in front of people when the industry is extractive and the quality of life it supports is not sustainable.
    Transparency also demands we know who benefits most.


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