S.O.S. celebrates 15 years of Saugahatchee Stewardship

by Barbara and Ron Estridge

Save Our Saugahatchee (S.O.S.) celebrated the 15th anniversary of its founding at its April 19, 2012 bi-monthly meeting. S.O.S was incorporated as a non-profit in April 1997 with the mission of improving the quality of Saugahatchee Creek and educating the public about the value of the creek. The initial board of directors who incorporated S.O.S. in 1997 were Alex Bailey, Eric Reutebuch, Tom Ivers, Ron Estridge, Claude Conn, Ken Olson, and Johnny Crance. Tom Ivers served as the first President of the new group.

S.O.S. founders: Allison Teem,John Johnson, Tom Ivers, Ron Estridge, Eric Reutebuch and Ken Olson (left to right)
Since 1997, we’ve come a long way, baby!—as was illustrated by Eric Reutebuch’s presentation reviewing S.O.S.’s major activities and accomplishments over the last 15 years, and emphasizing changes that have occurred in the status of the creek as a result of the group’s efforts.
Happy 15th Birthday, SOS! Past-presidents Wendy Seesock, Bill Deutsch, Ron Estridge, Cliff Webber, and current president Gene Hunter (left to right)

As an Alabama Water Watch citizen monitoring group, S.O.S. members conduct regular chemical and bacterial testing of waters in the Saugahatchee Creek Watershed. The creek has shown significant improvement over the 15 years, especially in levels of DO and alkalinity. Two World Wildlife Fund grants have allowed us to expand bacterial (coliform) testing in the watershed. These tests have identified problems such as broken sewer lines and facilitated rapid repair. Sporadically, areas with high coliform counts continue to be detected, and these are reported to both local and state governmental agencies.

15 Years of Stewardship – Click image to see whole presentation

S.O.S.’s activities are much broader than just water testing. S.O.S. members have been active in testifying before hearings and committees of EPA, ADEM, and local governments, including municipalities. Members have worked successfully to improve streamside buffer ordinances and erosion and sedimentation control policies in municipalities in the watershed.

S.O.S. members also participated in development of the Saugahatchee Watershed Management Plan (SWaMP, see www.swamp.auburn.edu), which received two rounds of funding from ADEM to  coordinate an array of watershed activities and projects to reduce nonpoint source pollution flushing into the creek. Volunteer members are also involved in education outreach, teaching public school students about stream protection and restoration, macroinvertebrate identification, and chemical water testing in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings.

TIME LINE of MAJOR EVENTS:

1996  303(d) listing of Pepperell Branch

1997 Began testing 10 sites in the Saugahatchee Watershed

ADEM upgraded Pepperell and Saugahatchee creeks

1998  303(d) listing of Saugahatchee Creek Embayment

2005  SWaMP Phase 1 funded by ADEM & begins

2006  1000 water data records submitted to AWW online database

2007  Obtained 503(c)d tax-exempt status

Began quarterly bacterial blitzes of the watershed

2010  2000 data records submitted to AWW online database

2011  SWaMP Phase 2 funded by ADEM & begins

2012  “2012 Watershed Group of the Year” award (with CHEWUP)

11 S.O.S. monitor sites have more than 100 records submitted

Former president Cliff Webber and current president Gene Hunter (in plaid shirt) holding 2012 Group of the Year Award from the Alabama Rivers Alliance (jointly awarded to S.O.S. and Friends of Chewacla Creek and Uphapee Watershed)

Recent efforts include support for a comprehensive statewide water management plan by campaigning for folks throughout the state to contact lawmakers in support of legislation that would begin this urgently-needed plan. Much thanks goes to Cliff Webber for spearheading this effort! To learn more about this effort, click here.

For more information about S.O.S., contact Gene Hunter, President, S.O.S. (hunters56@earthlink.net) or Alabama Water Watch (888) 844-4785.