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by Ray Simmons

        A recent article in a local weekly newspaper, The Beacon, centered around meetings being held to discuss the preservation of the Cahaba river. There was talk about the Cahaba watershed and steps that need to be taken within that watershed to clean up the Cahaba or see that it isn’t polluted any further. We see such “watershed” meetings being held all across the nation, just as we saw “visioning sessions” a few years back and sessions on the educational “goals 2000” a few years before that.

A closer look reveals that more often than not some of the same consulting firms get involved in these meetings regardless of where they are being held. Whether in Birmingham, Alabama or Guilford County, North Carolina or some place in California the same names are likely to pop up. Local taxpayer dollars, often in the hundreds of thousands, are being paid by elected officials for so-called studies to determine the best approach to saving mother earth. (I refuse to make a god of mother earth by capitalizing the title.)

Many people, when they hear of such meetings or read about them in their daily newspapers, tend to think they apply to someone else and will have no impact on them personally since they do not live near the river. Because of this they are prone to ignore what is being planned.

WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT YOU LIVE IN A WATERSHED! No matter where you live, the water that falls on your property works its way into a stream somewhere. That stream then winds its way to a river. Most likely in the Birmingham area and its environs that river will be the Cahaba or the Black Warrior. In North Carolina it could be the Catawba (visit UCRLA web site at: www.ucrla.org/), wherever you live there’s a river close by, and when regulations are issued to residents within the watershed — that means YOU.

Citizens in and around Birmingham are already paying a “rainwater” (or stormwater) runoff fee that is being added to their annual property tax. For the moment it is relatively minor for homeowners but some businesses are being hit pretty hard. In some places (Greensboro, North Carolina for example) this is a quarterly fee added to their utility bill and is virtually equal to the amount they pay for water. These fees are supposedly to pay for repair of the pollution caused by the water running across one’s property on its way to the river.

Each state is having to collect some kind of fee because of regulations from Washington accruing from the “Clean Waters Act.” As of now the states have leeway as to how they manage this and the state regulations will vary from state to state. Nevertheless, the edict did not originate within the states but came down from the federal government. The federal government, not so incidentally, was responding to requirements established through one or more United Nations treaties.



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