Alabama Gulf Coast
Coastal Alabama is a dynamic, complex system of white-sand beaches, dunes, marshes, bays, rivers, streams, oyster reefs, and barrier islands. The Mobile Bay watershed is the nation’s fourth-largest in terms of water volume and the sixth-largest river system in area. It serves as the terminus of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Complex, which is the second largest river delta in the U.S.
Nonetheless, coastal Alabama is confronted with a myriad of serious challenges, as urbanization, hydrologic modifications, erosion, and invasive species have resulted in poor water quality, altered salinities and sediment loads, habitat loss, and reduced biodiversity.
Why Should You Care?
If you hunt or fish, this coastal crisis should matter to you:
- Mobile Bay is home to more than 335 species of freshwater and saltwater fish.
- Wildlife tourism-hunting, recreational fishing and bird watching-on the Alabama coast generates over $2 billion in spending every year.
- The region’s thriving seafood market supports more than 10,000 jobs and a $1 billion recreational and commercial fishing industry.
Clearly, ecosystem restoration benefits Alabama sportsmen AND the economy.
Priority Projects for Alabama Coast
Ecosystem restoration projects should emphasize:
• restoring and strengthening estuarine health by revitalizing critical shorelines and wetlands,
• reconnecting key water flows,
• reestablishing oyster reefs and sea grass beds,
• protecting valuable coastal habitats, and
• improving water quality.
The five restoration projects identified below prioritize these challenges to restore, protect, and promote the ecologic and economic health of the Alabama Coast. View the full explanation of these projects in NWF’s latest report.
100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama
Mobile Bay has experienced significant loss of oyster reefs, coastal marsh and seagrass beds. However, the Bay has enormous potential for comprehensive ecological restoration, including replacement and enhancement of these lost habitats, due to the size of the estuary, historical distribution of oysters in the bay, high natural oyster recruitment potential and warm water for fast growth. This project proposes to build 100 miles of intertidal oyster reefs and promote the growth of more than 1,000 miles of coastal marsh and seagrass beds.
D’Olive Creek Watershed Restoration
The D’Olive Watershed is located within the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and provides critical nursery habitat for fish and wildlife. Surrounding development has degraded nearly 12 miles of streams in the watershed. The project involves restoring watershed hydrology through stormwater management measures.
Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge Land Acquisition
The Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which lies along the Mississippi/Alabama border, was established to protect one of the largest expanses of undisturbed pine savanna habitats in the Gulf Coastal Plain region. Refuge marshes provide wintering habitat to waterfowl and support recreationally and commercially important fish species. The project involves protecting and restoring important habitat.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Land Acquisition
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge provides important habitat for several endangered or threatened species of wildlife and plants as well as migrating birds, sea turtles, and other flora and fauna. The project would add 488 acres of ecologically valuable coastal lands to the Refuge.
Dauphin Island Parkway Salt Marsh, Finfish and Shellfish Habitat Restoration
Dauphin Island Parkway links Dauphin Island and mainland Alabama. Wave action, other erosive forces such as ship wakes and structural shoreline protection have resulted in eroding salt marsh, loss of oyster reefs and seagrass beds, a decrease in water quality, and moving the current shoreline more than 400 feet landward. The project would reduce erosion and stabilize the shoreline by creating 18,000 feet of segmented breakwater and restore 115 acres of salt marsh and 30 acres of oyster reefs.
Investing fines and penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in Alabama’s waters, wetlands and fisheries will improve our economy and will preserve our coastal heritage for our children and grandchildren. Unless hunters and anglers speak up, this money may well be spent on unrelated efforts that will not benefit the coast and could even harm it.