Birmingham City Council applauded for opposition to Cahaba Beach Road project

A canoer enjoys the Cahaba River in Shelby County, Alabama, upstream of Birmingham.  (© Beth Young)

Last week, the Birmingham City Council unanimously passed a resolution to oppose Cahaba Beach Road, a proposed project which would allow the Alabama Department of Transportation to build a road and bridge through the heart of an undeveloped area that safeguards Birmingham’s drinking water. 

Along with numerous conservation organizations, local communities and elected officials, SELC and partners Cahaba River Society and Cahaba Riverkeeper have expressed serious concerns about the project’s harm to drinking water quality for the Birmingham region.

SELC has submitted several rounds of comments on the proposal, which would drastically change an area of sensitive land into a significant thoroughfare that could carry 10,000 cars per day, increasing sediment and other pollutants in both the Little Cahaba River and the Cahaba River. 

The project would cut a swath through undeveloped, forested land in the watershed around the Little Cahaba River, which brings water from Lake Purdy to the drinking water intake in the Cahaba River. The road would require public land owned by the Birmingham Water Works, bought with ratepayer money to permanently protect the region’s drinking water source.

Following questions regarding the road’s necessity and location, ALDOT itself has stated that the project will not reduce congestion on U.S. 280, the closest major highway to the proposed road.

The Birmingham City Council has expressed concerns about the risks to water quality, including the potential for accidents causing a direct hazardous spill into the drinking water source, pollution from the road, and loss of the natural forests that protect water quality for the metro area. Following the City Council’s vote, the Birmingham Water Works Board is now expected to consider a similar resolution.

As some of the last remaining undeveloped tracts of land in a rapidly urbanizing area, preserving these areas in the Cahaba River watershed provides a natural buffer to filter stormwater runoff and keeps our drinking water supply clean,” said Senior Attorney Sarah Stokes. “We applaud the Birmingham City Council in recognizing the importance of protecting this land and our drinking water, and we hope that the Birmingham Water Works Board will now follow the Council’s lead and pass a resolution to oppose this road.”

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