judy palfrey

Judy Palfrey

Did you realize how blessed we are in Alabama with our natural resources? And I don’t mean oil and gas. This state has the beautiful white beaches in the South and the hills in the North.

Alabama has 1,438 miles of navigable rivers, 132,000 miles of streams, 3.6 million acres of wetlands and 560,000 acres of ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Did you know 10% of the freshwater in the continental U.S. originates in or flows through Alabama? The Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers form the Alabama in Wetumpka and join the other rivers to form the Mobile Basin. This basin drains 44,000 square miles and it is the sixth-largest drainage basin the U.S. in area and the fourth largest in mean flow according to USGS, 1998 (Alabama Water Watch).

We have 12 watersheds in Alabama: Tallapoosa, Coosa, Cahaba, Warrior, Tombigbee, Tennessee, Conecuh, Mobile, Choctawhatchee, Perdido, Escatawpa, and the Chattahoochee. All of these eventually drain into the Gulf of Mexico. The Alabama, Black Warrior, Cahaba, Coosa, Tallapoosa and Tombigbee form the Mobile Basin.

Not only are we blessed with lots of water which many states do not have, we have some of the most diversity of critters. According to Bill Deutsch, retired from Auburn University, Alabama is a biodiversity hotspot with more than 4,000 species of plants, 850 species of vertebrates and nearly 350 species of snails and mussels. In fact, Alabama is No. 1 in total biodiversity among the states east of the Mississippi. Alabama is blessed with 330 species of fish — more than any other state in the U.S. Mussels, the clam-like critter are bivalve mollusks and clean the water. We have 60% of the 300 known mussel species and 84% of the genera found in the U.S. and Canada. Some are found only in Alabama.

Why is this important? This beautiful lake has built up so much; I hate to get on it anymore. There are too many people who don’t seem to care about the area because if you drive around you see problems — sediment from construction sites, fertilizers from lawns and fields causing algae blooms, and trash all over the place. 

While driving around, look at Sandy Creek and the mud. Look at Saugahatchee Creek that flows into the embayment. Look at all the house construction. Doesn’t anyone care about silt fences being entrenched or is it just me? We do have an inspector, but he cannot be everywhere. There are turbidity curtains for spills, grass or sod can be used to retain the soil, and riprap helps in some locations. People with these big boats that love to make waves are major problems for the landowners. 

And, with all the house building, nitrogen from lawns can cause algae blooms. These blooms take the oxygen out of the water once it rots. 

Fish need oxygen and this lake is blessed with plenty of fish, according to the fishermen. However, people want beautiful lawns to show off. Don’t overwater it or don’t fertilize before a heavy rain. Pollution comes from many sources but this is nonpoint source and we cannot say who is doing it, but it is there and shows up. 

Lake Martin Resource Association president and community cleanup advocate John Thompson and others are trying to keep Lake Martin clean. On Saturday, weather permitting, they have cleanup days. When I was monitoring the water at Union boat ramp the other day, I picked up five grocery-sized bags of trash. I have noticed more trash on the sides of the roads since this virus came upon us. Can people not keep their trash to themselves? Good grief! Beer cans all over, dirty diapers, toilet paper where someone had to stop and go and food wrappers from all the fast food joints are all over the roadsides and along the shoreline. Come on folks, are you slobs at home? 

This lake is beautiful and Alabama could be also. My mom came up from Florida and she always mentioned how much trash is all over this state, but a couple of years ago she stated it had improved. This year, however, she wouldn’t say it. We have to pick up trash at our driveway almost every day. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The state has a label: Alabama the Beautiful — nope… trash state is more like it. Dump on Alabama, they don’t care. When you see someone trashing, please get the tag number.

Let’s make Alabama and Lake Martin beautiful again.


Judy Palfrey is a Dadeville resident and guest columnist for The Outlook.