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Celebrating 10 years of Coosa Riverkeeper 2010-2020

Hey Y’all, float down memory lane with us!

Ten years ago, a small group of river rats decided to put their heads together to give the Coosa River a voice in court rooms, classrooms, and town hall meetings. Since then, so much has changed— but the core of our mission is the same: to protect the Coosa, the families who love it, and the wildlife who rely on it.

Flip through our virtual scrapbook to enjoy pictures and articles highlighting our accomplishments since 2010 to defend the Coosa, ranging from field investigations to kayak fishing tournaments. Over the past ten years, every aspect of our organization has experienced growth to meet the ever growing needs of the 220 miles of river we work to protect, restore, and promote. Folks like you keep us afloat in good times and bad. Thank you for investing in our work to patrol the waters, educate the public, and advocate for the river. Cheers to you— and to the Coosa!

-Justinn Overton, Executive Director

Coosa Riverkeeper's mission is to PROTECT, RESTORE, and PROMOTE the Coosa River and its tributaries in Alabama.

We work tirelessly to uphold our promise to the public everyday, working to defend YOUR source drinking water, favorite fishing holes, and where you make memories. We hope you enjoy our 10 year scrapbook and can reflect on this precious body of water with us.

- Coosa Riverkeeper Staff, 2010-2020

2010

Our original logo!
Our first office in Riverside, Alabama on Logan Martin

Picture: Our Founder, Frank Chitwood, on our first patrol boat "The Olive" - named after the boat in "Popeye," whose creator was inspired by the Coosa!

from our founder

When we founded Coosa Riverkeeper, we wanted to protect the watershed from further degradation and pollution that could impact families who enjoyed swimming, boating, and fishing in the Coosa. Looking back ten years, it’s been really incredible to see what a small group of concerned citizens can accomplish over a common goal- a cleaner Coosa!

-Frank Chitwood, Founder of Coosa Riverkeeper

2011

  • Created the Coosa Riverkeeper Board and created the organizational structure of Coosa Riverkeeper
  • Created the Coal Ash in the Coosa Valley video to educate folks about coal ash
  • Created our first comprehensive compliance assessment for all polluters in our watershed
  • We got an updated logo that was with the organization through 2019
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

-Margaret Mead

2012

  • Named "New Group of the Year" by Alabama River Alliance
  • Coosa Riverkeeper rejects ADEM proposed action for PCB Pollution
  • Submitted a Notice of Intent to Sue to ADCNR for discharging waste into Hillabee Creek
  • Featured in Discover The Essence of St. Clair for Big Canoe Creek
  • Hosted 1st Coosa Canoe & Kayak Fishing Tournament
Jack at his first Coosa Canoe & Kayak Fishing Tournament
PCB pollution article from the Summer 2012 newsletter

FROM THE BOARD PRESIDENT

"I had the pleasure of meeting the staff at Coosa Riverkeeper late in 2017. As an avid angler on the Coosa, I was aware of the organization, but not intimate with the mission or the staff. After looking back at the 7 years of service to the River, I was blown away with the mission, passion, and success. The combination of their goals and objectives combined with the unwavering commitment from the staff ignited a desire to help serve the mission. It is evident that every minute or dime is directly donated to the cause. My goal is to live the mission of Coosa Riverkeeper daily and help share the message. I look forward to 10 more years of success with the Coosa Riverkeeper team.

-Chuck Graham, Board President 2019-2021

2013

  • Hired Justinn as Executive Director
  • Hosted our first Cheers to the Coosa beer dinner working with local farmers to highlight the food-water connection
  • The Coosa Riverkeeper Office moved from Riverside to Shelby County
  • Successfully advocated for the removal of Goodwin's Mill Dam
R to L: Justinn, Frank, and Doug (Director of the Board) celebrating the successful removal of Goodwin's Mill Dam on Big Canoe Creek

Rocky Shoal Spider Lilies on Hatchet Creek, a tributary to Lake Mitchell on the Coosa River in Alabama

2014

  • Patrolled the river 29 times with 63 guests- covering 220 miles of river
  • Added the Coosa Riverkeeper Truck and our second patrol boat, the Laura Moore II - named after the only steamboat to ever navigate the Coosa
  • Filed Notice of Intent to Sue Childersburg's Bailey Branch Lagoon for 1,844 violations of the Clean Water Act on Lay Lake
  • Commented and presented technical arguments on the proposed limestone quarry in Vincent
  • Established a partnership with Birmingham-Southern College and UAB School of Public Health for internship opportunities
Frank and Justinn with the new patrol boat, the Laura Moore II.

More from 2014...

Frank very excited about the new brochure and map!
Colors of the Coosa Benefit in Springville, Alabama
Doug, the first Director of the Coosa Riverkeeper Board, celebrating his birthday on the Coosa!

2015

  • Launched Swim Guide, a recreational water quality monitoring program - in 16 weeks, 14 sites were monitored and issued 12 water quality alerts
  • Executive Director Justinn Overton was named a "Women of Worth" by Southern Living
  • Patrolled the river 41 times, traveling over 11,000 miles
  • Frank spoke at the "Water Rights in the Eastern United States" panel at the University of Virginia Law Symposium
  • 3 Major TV spots, 3 radio interviews, and the "Fishermen's Right to Know" film released
  • Conducted creel surveys of fishers on the river for the first time and created a report called "Healthy Fish, Healthy Communities"
  • Established a partnership with Talladega College's McNair Scholar's Program to conduct a water quality study on Choccolocco Creek
Riverkeeper Frank being interviewed by Fox 6.

More from 2015...

Justinn advocating and talking to fishers at a dam on the Coosa River during our first creel survey.
Tabling at an event with interns in Wetumpka, Alabama.
Justinn featured in Southern Living's "Women of Worth"
Justinn out surveying a fisher on the river and discussing fish consumption advisories during a creel survey effort on Logan Martin Dam's public fishing pier
Cheers to the Coosa: Farm and Field was a huge success thanks to our partnership with Chef Miguel Figueroa
The first summer of Swim Guide's recap- it was a huge success!

2016

  • Filed a lawsuit against Oxford Wastewater Treatment Plant for discharging high levels of E. coli in Choccolocco Creek
  • Worked with Logan Martin Lake Protection Association to voluntarily adopt stricter E. coli standards for their sewage plant
  • Patrolled the river 55 times, traveling over 12,000 miles
  • Issued 21 water quality alerts throughout the summer in our Swim Guide program
  • Delivered 210,000 swimming recommendations via social media and 490+ text messages to subscribers.
  • Fish Guide program published in UAB's magazine and Justinn was featured in the University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences in "Celebrating Excellence" (pictured below)
Justinn featured in University of Alabama's "Celebrating Excellence" magazine

More from 2016...

Coosa Riverkeeper Board at our 2016 Board Retreat on Lake Mitchell
Justinn and David Butler from Cahaba Riverkeeper collecting Swim Guide samples. This summer was the start of a multi-year collaboration in our Swim Guide and Riverkeeper Patrol programs.
"Who Owns Alabama's Coosa Riverkeeper? Citizen's Impact on the Tri-State Water Wars Muted by Private Ownership of Riparian Rights," written by Frank Chitwood and published in the University of Virginia's School of Environmental Law Journal.
UAB Service Learning Students after a clean-up on Logan Martin Lake
Coosa Volunteer, Board Member, and Staff at Alabama Outdoor's Party on the Porch
Check out our new shirts by Board Member, Richie Gudzan, featuring a bass from the Coosa

2017

  • Selected as the "2017 Group of the Year" by Alabama River Alliance
  • Earned Standard of Excellence accreditation for our excellence in transparency in organization, financials, and programs
  • Launched our Fish Guide Program to educate folks about fish consumption advisories
  • Successfully petitioned for sewage spill right-to-know, which resulted in an electronic notification system
  • Successfully advocated for stricter bacteria limits to protect swimmers
  • Patrolled the river over 40+ times
  • Reached 672,000 people in Swim Guide alerts

More from 2017...

Justinn and Myra from Cahaba Riverkeeper at The March For Science
Justinn accepting the 2017 Group of the Year award by Alabama River Alliance
Frank with Samford University Service Learning intern from the School of Public Health
Justinn with Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies while paddling down the Coosa

2018

  • Named "2018 Organization of the Year" by Alabama River Alliance
  • Swim Guide grew by adding a third route to monitor more sites
  • Issued 69 water quality alerts and collected 468 samples
  • Reached 500,000 people through Swim Guide social media updates
  • Launched our Citizen Science Initiative through Fish Guide, where citizens are incorporated into data collection
  • Gained permission from state agencies to post fish consumption advisories at major boat ramps on Lay Lake
  • Patrolled the river 50+ times
  • Secured impairment listings for Choccolocco, Big Wills, and Shirtee Creeks due to high levels of PCB and E. coli pollution.
  • Hired a Program Manager, making our third staff member at Coosa Riverkeeper
  • Updated Member Info Video

More from 2018...

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2018 at Avondale Brewing Company
New Coosa Riverkeeper Merch! Pictured on Karli, Justinn, and Stella Blue with our ever-popular Coosa Riverkeeper trucker hats
Our Riverkeeper friends from Black Warrior Riverkeeper & Cahaba Riverkeeper at the Waterkeeper Alliance Regional Retreat in Alabama! (L to R): Nelson Brooke, Frank Chitwood,, Dr. Myra Crawford, Justinn Overton, David Butler, Karli Riley, and Charles Scribner
2018 Swim Guide Summary
2018 Fish Guide Summary
2018 River Patrol Summary
Coosa Riverkeeper featured in Lakeside Living magazine

2019

  • Filed a Notice of Intent to Sue a developer for construction stormwater violations prompting corrective action
  • Monitored 28 Swim Guide sites all summer long, issuing 51 water quality alerts for high E. coli readings
  • Purchased a new patrol vessel that helped us expand sampling efforts
  • Drafted the Fishermen Right to Know legislation to protect fishers across Alabama
  • Forced significant plant improvements through the settlement of two lawsuits against violations of the Clean Water Act
  • Hired a Patrol Member to support our Riverkeeper Patrol Program
We got a new boat and dang, ain't she purdy?

Watch Justinn discussing groundwater pollution at the Gadsden coal ash pond in this news clip!

More from 2019...

Riverkeeper and Founder Frank Chitwood being designated the 2019 River Hero by Alabama Rivers Alliance. In 2019, Frank decided to set sail on a new adventure with his wife by living full-time on a sailboat.
Eyanna, our South Route Field Technician, was all smiles (rain or shine) as she collected water quality samples from the Lower Coosa basin.
Our newsletter discussing groundwater violations surrounding both coal ash ponds on the Coosa
Tucker, our Lab Technician turned AmeriCorps Patrol Member, analyzing water quality samples for fecal coliform in our in-office laboratory
Summary of the 2019 Swim Guide season

2020

  • Celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Coosa Riverkeeper
  • Patrolled over 50 times, addressing over 90 citizen complaints
  • Earned Standards for Excellence for the SECOND time!
  • Defeated an unnecessary Toll Bridge development that would have disturbed settled PCBs in Lay Lake
  • Advocated at multiple public hearings, including Gaston NPDES, Gadsden CCR meetings, multiple toll bridge hearings, and against Biosolid applications
  • Advocated for Local Amendment 2 in Talladega County to stop the spread of septage near Logan Martin Lake
  • Wrote technical comment letters on coal ash closure permits, NPDES permits, and EPA remediation plans for Choccolocco Creek
  • Monitored water quality in 30 locations all summer and issued 120 water quality alerts through the Swim Guide program
  • Hired a Fish Guide Coordinator, Victoria, and Development Coordinator, Abby!
  • Fish Guide was the star in the Southern Exposure Film, "Fishers Right to Know"
  • Surveyed over 250 fishers about fishing habits and knowledge of consumption advisories
  • Presented at EPA Region 4 Contaminated Sediment Technical Advisory Group about control methods for fish consumption advisories and the need for remediation of PCB's on Logan Martin Lake and Choccolocco Creek
Justinn & Charlie on "Talk of Alabama"
Our special 10th Anniversary logo

more from 2020...

Members of our Board of Directors and their families at Kellypalooza 2020!
Our unofficial "Save the Skinny Water Crew" on Hatchet Creek in November
Victoria joined our team as the world's first Fish Guide Coordinator. This year she surveyed over 250 fishers to better understand their fishing habits and understanding of the 35 fish consumption advisories on the Coosa.
Our first (ever) Development Coordinator, Abby, holding up Rocky Shoal Spider Lilies about to be planted during a restoration project on Hatchet Creek with the Birmingham Botanical Gardens
We spent a lot of time advocating for the river at Coal Ash Hearings throughout 2020 at Gaston Steam Plant on Lay Lake & Gadsden Steam Plant on Neely Henry Lake
Justinn advocating against septage application in Talladega County with CBS 42, this amendment passed by 70%! A great win for Logan Martin Lake!
Jake, our North Field Technician, taking a water quality sample around Neely Henry Lake. Later in 2020, Jake started working with us full-time as our Patrol Member!
2020 Swim Guide Interns enjoying the Coosa below Jordan Dam!

Thank you for sharing a trip down our river with us. The Coosa River is a special place and we fight for it every single day. However, we can't do it alone.

If you have the means, please swim over to CoosaRiver.org to help us protect, restore, and promote the river for many years to come.

the past 10 years have been incredible, and we can't wait for many more decades of coosa riverkeeper.