FEMA halts stormwater debris cleanup

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) was supposed to begin cleanup in the waters in south Baldwin County Monday, July 7, 2014. Fox 10 News has found out that didn’t happen because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has delayed it due to environmental concerns.

Historic flooding in April left a wake of destruction in its path. Fish and Magnolia
Rivers which feed Weeks Bay and Wolf Bay were all inundated with debris washed downstream
by floodwaters. Surveys were done, reports filed, bids sent out and cleanup was set to
begin Monday. FEMA put a halt to that around mid-mo0rning.

“They wanted a more defined area other than just saying Weeks Bay and Wolf Bay. They
wanted a more defined area to bring it down smaller to get the federal concurrencies with
the environmental agencies,” explained Chief Engineer for ADCNR, Terry Boyd.

The concern arose over sea life that could call some of the affected areas home. The Gulf Sturgeon, Green Sea Turtles and Kemps Ridley Sea Turtles were the three that made the list.
FEMA wants to take a closer look at what impact the cleanup might have on the habitat before giving the all clear. In the meantime, Boyd and his staff are continueing to survey affected areas. They are broken into four zones to include parts of the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.

“The eastern shore which is in our zone three, for about a three or four mile stretch is a
bunch of two by fours, two by sixes, all kinds of dock materials, coolers, chairs that were
on docks,” Boyd said.

The most concerning areas are the rivers and Weeks Bay where submerged hazards pose a real
danger. So until the cleanup is done, officials want to warn boaters and water skiers to be careful because there’s still a lot of submerged debris on all the area waterways.

“There’s a lot of submerged stuff, especially on Weeks Bay so I’d be careful when you’re
skiing or tubing or diving on Magnolia and Fish River because there’s lots of things in
there,” Boyd warned.

That debris will be there until FEMA gives the go-ahead to get it out. The state hopes to get the green light to begin as early as the end of the week. Once they start, Boyd said the job should take between three and four weeks.

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