This article from The Anniston Star features restoration work on Choccolocco Creek, where Alabama Land Trust permanently protects more than 780 acres in the creek’s floodplain and more than 10 miles of creek frontage. We are proud of our land protection work on Choccolocco Creek and applaud the state-sponsored and Calhoun County-supported work to improve water quality by introducing hundreds of freshwater mussels into the Choccolocco Creek watershed and to other waterways in the Coosa River Basin. The water-purifying creatures will also be introduced into waterways in the Cahaba River Basin, where Alabama Land Trust protects more than 2,700 acres in that watershed.

The mussels project is being organized by the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center, a new development of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Here is the article from The Anniston Star.

Calhoun County teams up with state to purify Choccolocco Creek

“It’s our job now … to do what we can to repair the damage that’s been done to the creek.” — Calhoun County Commissioner Robert Downing 

When hundreds of mussels began disappearing from Choccolocco Creek in the late 1970’s, no one noticed at first.

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star Calhoun County Commissioner Robert Downing wades in Choccolooco Creek on Tuesday. The Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries has started a project to help purify the polluted water.The tiny, shelled animals have water-cleansing abilities. They live along the creek bed where they are easy to forget, but as their numbers dwindled, their absence began affecting the creek’s water quality.

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Today, only a handful of the 38 species that once thrived there remain, but that could soon change if a state-sponsored project aimed at restoring them is successful.

“Prior to heavy development it was a pristine waterway and so it’s our job now, and our responsibility I think, to do what we can to repair the damage that’s been done to the creek,” said Calhoun County Commissioner Robert Downing. “This project is an effort to do just that.”

Choccolocco received particular attention because of its history of pollution. For decades it was polluted with powerful chemicals from industrial plants, everyday pollutants in runoff water and the effects of development in the communities that surround it.

Scientists will attempt to improve the water quality naturally by introducing hundreds of freshwater mussels into the polluted Choccolocco Creek watershed and to other waterways in the Coosa River Basin. The water-purifying creatures will also be introduced into waterways in the Cahaba River Basin and some tributaries of the Tennessee River system. The project is being organized by the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center, a new development of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The center will be used solely for the study and development of the mollusks.

The program’s supervisor, Paul Johnson, studied and developed mollusk introductions on a smaller scale before coming to the Department of Conservation. He was sought out by Alabama Commissioner of Conservation Barnett Lawley.

“ This has been something that has just been overwhelming,” Lawley said. “ This will probably be the largest clean-water natural initiative in the world.”

Lawley said the project is already receiving international attention.

He has conducted interviews for news stories from as far away as Germany, Lawley said.

Currently the center has released Alabama rainbow mollusks into the creek on a trial basis.

After weeks of study, Johnson said, the mollusks, which once thrived in the creek, are multiplying.

Based on the success thus far, a larger release of the mollusks has been scheduled for the later this summer. Last month, the Calhoun County Commission committed about $27,000 to the project from its general fund.

“ This is something the state has engaged in that they really should get a lot of credit for doing,” Downing said. “We’re delighted that they have chosen Choccolocco Creek as a priority in their first major release of these animals.”

After the initial release, the center will begin a series of surveys. Next year it will conduct surveys of Choccolocco to determine which species of mollusk remain in the creek, and to determine where they can best thrive.

The restoration of the creek is about more than science, it’s about hope.

“ There are so many problems there historically,” Johnson said. “It’s a way to show folks to be positive.”

Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.

 

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