November 2, 1999
by Casi Callaway
Mobile Bay Watch, Inc.'s Mobile BayKeeper program was officially accepted into the national Water Keeper Alliance on October 5, 1999 as their 37th member organization.
The Water Keeper Alliance is among the fastest growing of America's grassroots environmental movements and is quickly becoming a unique force for environmental change. The Keeper concept started on New York's Hudson River, where a coalition of commercial and recreational fishermen mobilized in 1966 to reclaim the Hudson from its polluters. They constructed a boat to patrol the river and used the awards they received from anti-pollution lawsuits to hire the first full-time Riverkeeper in 1983. They modeled the program after the riverkeepers of the British Isles who looked after private trout and salmon streams, usually for estates and manors and private fishing clubs.
The designation of the Mobile BayKeeper brings all the benefits of the Keeper name and history to our local water bodies. These benefits include: support from other Keeper groups, representation on national environmental issues, participation in training seminars and annual conferences, access to the Keeper internet discussion group, use of Keeper products for fundraising, and the ability to network with Riverkeeper attorneys and dozens of Keeper groups working on similar issues around the country.
The Mobile BayKeeper program will function as a subsidiary under the Mobile Bay Watch, Inc. organization. The program will be operated and controlled by that group's existing corporate structure, officers and directors. Their executive director will serve as the designated full-time Keeper, public advocate and steward for Mobile Bay and its watershed. Their environmental attorney, Trey Coale, will serve as the general counsel for the Mobile BayKeeper program and is responsible for environmental compliance/enforcement as well as project development.
The Water Keeper Alliance provides guidelines for successfully protecting Mobile Bay and its watershed while affording the flexibility to design a program best suited to the area's particular environmental needs. It is generally a Keeper's job to advocate compliance with environmental laws, respond to citizen complaints, identify problems which affect his or her body of water and devise appropriate remedies, serve as a living witness to the condition of the ecosystem, and be an advocate for the public's right to protect and defend the environment.
The goals of Mobile BayKeeper were developed in keeping with the local needs of the community and the general Keeper guidelines. A major concern for Mobile Bay and its watershed is the exposure to pollutants from the heavy concentration of industrial facilities. Therefore, Mobile BayKeeper's primary mission will be to address and control the adverse impacts of industrial pollution releases into the Mobile Bay watershed. Implementation of this primary mission will include the following initiatives:
The Mobile BayKeeper has also identified a need for further organized citizen participation in large-scale local and regional projects directed at protecting the resources of Mobile Bay and its watershed. To this end, the Mobile BayKeeper will participate in the following campaigns:
Affiliation with the national Water Keeper! Alliance is a major step forward in the growth of Mobile Bay Watch, Inc. If you have any questions, need additional information or would like to get involved, please call 665-1385 or E-mail Callaway@MobileBayWatch.org.