Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Save Cypress Creek" Meeting

Our Series on Jennifer Hampton will continue tomorrow.

The newest environmental group in Florence is Save Cypress Creek, and they want you to join them in spirit, in person at Tuesday's meeting, on facebook, and in accomplishing something for future generations. From their press release:

On Tuesday, November 24, Shoals Environmental Association will host a public meeting to inform the public about some of the issues involved and to discuss strategies for stopping the proposed expansion of the Florence landfill.

The meeting will be at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, in the conference room.

5:00 pm: refreshments, informal discussion & informational tables.

5:30-7:00 pm: meeting, including a presentation and a group discussion for formulating an action plan.

For more details about the meeting, call Charles Rose at (256) 366-1937.

SEA members were among the many who protested the landfill expansion at the Nov. 17 Florence City Council meeting. Despite the large turnout in opposition, the council approved the city's purchase of the Florence Golf & Country Club property for the proposed expansion.

Florence Golf & Country Club is situated on 157 rolling acres along Cypress Creek, a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, tube floating, swimming, birding, and fly fishing. The Florence landfill lies just to the south of the country club property.

David Cope, a University of North Alabama math professor, Charles Rose, president of Shoals Environmental Alliance, and John Crowder, an environmental consultant, have recently called attention to what they think are serious problems with both the present landfill and the old landfill in West Florence.

They say the limestone karst terrain in this area is a poor choice for siting a landfill.

Storm water runoff from the landfill has silted Cypress Creek, creating a large gravel bar.

Cope and Rose have evidence that leachate from the landfill is entering the groundwater and polluting seven springs along a 1,000 ft. stretch of Cypress Creek.

Cope, Rose, and Crowder say that expanding the landfill will just compound these already existing problems. They fear that pollution from the landfill could despoil the creek and harm aquatic species.

There is another polluted spring flowing into Cypress Creek at the site of the old West Florence landfill.

Residents along the creek are concerned that property values will decline if the landfill expansion takes place.

Scott Ruffrage and other residents near the present landfill already complain about offensive smells and noise.

A grassroots group, Save Cypress Creek, was formed Nov. 15 when about 80 people, mostly Florence residents, met to organize opposition to the landfill expansion. The meeting, organized by Scott Ruffrage and Adrienne Freebairn, was also attended by Elizabeth Salter, Watershed Organizer with Alabama Rivers Alliance, and Barbara Evans, Organizing Coordinator with Wild Law, an environmental law firm in Montgomery.

Save Cypress Creek members, who made up the majority of the landfill opponents at Tuesday’s council meeting, are currently circulating petitions in opposition to the landfill expansion. They will be in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. They say they are determined to put a stop to what they think is a disaster in the making.

On August 11 of this year runoff from the landfill created a huge silt plume in Cypress Creek. The runoff also created a huge unnatural-looking gravel and silt bar in the creek.

Excessive silting means death for many aquatic species, including snails and mussels.

A species of special concern, the Warty Rocksnail, is known to inhabit Cypress Creek and has been found right at the point of the landfill runoff.

The state has given this snail its highest rating of “S-1”, meaning “Critically imperiled in Alabama because of extreme rarity…especially vulnerable to extirpation from Alabama.”

There are also reports that the Eastern Hellbender salamander has been observed in the creek. It is a species of high conservation concern, listed as “Endangered” in many states, and “Threatened” in many other states.

Landfill expansion opponents are hopeful that Cypress Creek can be protected, for the conservation of these species and for the enjoyment of Shoals area residents, their children and grandchildren.