Analyzing Costs and Benefits

Analyzing public policy involves weighing costs and benefits to an action and then making a determination as to the course of action which benefits the largest number of stakeholders. It is time to weigh the costs and benefits of the Eastern Bypass with an eye to our entire community.

Is the Eastern Bypass plan "green infrastructure development" which ushers our city into the 21st century? Or is it just a good, old-fashioned pork barrel project?
A natural park and watershed is a natural gift when benefits all community members. Who will most benefit from the bypass?
What are the reasons for rejecting the 4 alternate routes which would preserve Hurricane Creek Park?
How will the 5 bridges built over the creek affect specific species of local wildlife in the area? What local wildlife will or will not be affected?
How will building bridges in floodplains lead to wise policy-making and emergency management? 
What rare, endangered, and threatened species currently live at Hurricane Creek? How do we know? How was this determined? When?
Is the purpose of this bypass to reduce local traffic congestion? If so, how does that qualify for federal highway funds? 

The most recent comments submitted to the last ALDOT public forum on the Tuscaloosa Eastern Bypass Project.

posted Jul 22, 2012, 8:01 PM by Friends of Hurricane Creek


posted May 23, 2012, 9:58 AM by Friends of Hurricane Creek


       Dec. 17- Tuscaloosa News editorial 


July 24- "Hurricane Creek preservation will keep wilds intact", Editorial,Tuscaloosa News

July 24- "250 acres of Hurricane Creek to be park", Jason Morton, Tuscaloosa News

April 27- Letter to the editor, Jim Shaddox, Tuscaloosa News


Dec. 19- "Concerns about Hurricane Creek deserve attention", Editorial, Tuscaloosa News


July 13- "Thanks for Hurricane Creek series" John L. Wiley,Tuscaloosa News

April 26- "Hurricane Creek belongs to us", Mary Jo Modica,Tuscaloosa News


June 18- "Hurricane Creek can be saved", Hazel Brough, Tuscaloosa News


Aug. 2- "Hurricane Creek dam investigated", Staff Report,Tuscaloosa News

June 10- "Hurricane Creek will be destroyed", Anna Keene,Tuscaloosa News 


July 29- "Hurricane Creek gets a hand", Editorial, Tuscaloosa News 


Sept. 2- "The wonder of Hurricane Creek's path", Hazel Brough, Tuscaloosa News

June 7- Hurricane Creek Art Show Tuscaloosa News


Feb. 6- "Hurricane Creek a favorite of kayakers" Anna Thibodeaux,Tuscaloosa News


Aug. 22- "Covered bridge" history, Staff Report,Tuscaloosa News


posted May 23, 2012, 9:49 AM by Friends of Hurricane Creek


posted May 23, 2012, 9:26 AM by Friends of Hurricane Creek   [ updated May 23, 2012, 9:34 AM ]

    The Black Warrior River Watershed Management Plan, a formidable creation of the Alabama Clean Water Partnership and ADEM, offers an inspiring example of what can be accomplished by communities dedicated to longterm, sustainable use of water resources. In fact, as document, it teaches you more about our river than anything else I've come across. Here are a few excerpts with data and information relevant to the Hurricane Creek Watershed:

On urban runoff
Waters associated with federal or rural watersheds, whether pristine, sensitive, or impaired, often flow to urban or suburban areas where other human-caused activities can affect water quality. The population in urban areas is increasing faster than in rural areas, resulting in increasing water quality concerns. Urban and residential areas can affect the quality and quantity of water resources by altering the physical hydrology and by adding waste products to water bodies. As urbanization increases, the amount of impervious area increases, thus decreasing the amount of water that would naturally infiltrate into the soil. Increased runoff can alter the magnitude and timing of storm peaks, increasing the likelihood of localized flooding. Urban runoff also can transport large nonpoint-source loads of sediment and inorganic and organic constituents from paved surfaces, parks, lawns, and golf courses. Point sources of contamination from urban areas can include sewage-treatment facilities, industrial discharges, landfills, and leaking underground storage tanks. (p.72)

On the Eastern Bypass
    Eastern Bypass - Hwy 43 Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa's Eastern Bypass, under construction in the eastern part of the county, and will receive $10 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, through the efforts of Senator. Richard Shelby and Congressman Spencer Bachus. The bypass is designed to alleviate traffic on U.S. 82 passing through Northport and Tuscaloosa.  From a bridge being built over the Black Warrior River the bypass will stretch northward to Interstate 20/59. Then southward it will go to the Airport Industrial Park. The Eastern Bypass Bridge, which will connect Jack Warner Parkway and Rice Mine Road, is set to open in December 2003. (p.75)
    The project has gathered criticism from environmental activists, who argue that the planned route will ruin the scenic beauty and affect imperiled species of Hurricane Creek near Holt.  On Tuesday (July 30), a report was released by the national Sierra Club, listing the Eastern Bypass in Tuscaloosa County as one of the 26 "wrong-way" projects nationwide. The bypass received it's low marks from the group because of the impact the highway will have on the cliffs of Hurricane Creek. (p.75)

Commute time for citizens in surrounding cities
    Commute time for most of the workers in the watershed, at 66.4 percent, is less than 30 minutes. Commute times are consistent throughout the subwatersheds. (p.85)

Why river and stream health matters economically
    Water pollution clearly degrades environmental quality, but it also diminishes recreation and economic opportunities and poses clear threats to public health. The health of the watershed affects the aesthetic value of land and therefore, the economic potential of communities. While some towns may wish for their land to be developed in order to raise the tax base and improve their cities, many citizens realize that it is important not to forfeit their valuable natural resources for the sake of development (Hall, 1992). As streams become undesirable for municipal,
industrial, agricultural, or recreational use, property values along the streams are substantially reduced. (p.101)
    Rapid development and associated construction without the proper application of construction best management practices affect both the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff, which in turn has impacts on water quality. By enhancing and
channeling surface drainage in favor of natural drainage systems, impervious surfaces like asphalt, concrete, and roofing increase the volume, velocity, and temperature of the runoff, and can result in flooding, erosion, and permanent alterations in stream form and function. In addition, by blocking the infiltration of storm water and its associated pollutants into the soil, impervious surfaces interfere with the natural processing of nutrients, sediment, pathogens, and other contaminants, resulting in degradation of surface water quality. (p. 101)
    A growing body of scientific research is finding a direct relationship between the amount of impervious surface in a watershed and the water quality of the watershed's receiving streams. Many studies find that without nonpoint source management of some kind, stream water quality becomes increasingly degraded as impervious levels climb above 15 percent; in highly sensitive streams, degradation can begin when as little as 8 percent to 10 percent of the watershed area has impervious cover. (101)

Nonpoint sources for trace elements and their effect on streams
    Trace elements also have nonpoint sources in urban areas and are associated with runoff from urban centers. Nonpoint sources for trace elements in urban areas include batteries, ceramics, wear of automobile parts, pigments, and fossil fuel combustion. Many trace elements do not easily dissolve in stream water. Instead, these materials tend to accumulate in streambed sediments and aquatic organisms. Both acute and chronic exposure to these materials can adversely affect the health of aquatic organisms and, depending on the concentration and the duration of exposure, can be lethal or sub-lethal. Once in the food chain, these materials can affect terrestrial organisms, such as fish-eating wildlife (herons, otters, and kingfishers), and potentially humans. (124-125)

ARA study in 2000
    A study conducted by the Alabama Rivers Alliance in 2000 found high concentrations of metals and low pH in areas of the Hurricane Creek Watershed. This agrees with previous samples performed by ADEM and EPA. 40 percent of the samples contained iron concentrations higher than 1.000 mg/l with concentrations as high as 46 mg/l found in the headwaters of Weldon Creek. 32 percent of the samples including all of the samples collected in Weldon Creek headwaters exceeded a concentration of 0.106 mg/l for zinc. 21 percent of the samples [Weldon Creek] exceeded the 0.158 mg/l of nickel. 79 percent of the samples contained aluminum concentrations greater than 0.09 mg/l. High concentrations of manganese were also found in the watershed, particularly in Weldon Creek and Blanchet Branch. (125-126)

Metals and low pH in Hurricane Creek
A study conducted by the Alabama Rivers Alliance in 2000 found high concentrations of metals and low pH in areas of the Hurricane Creek Watershed. This agrees with previous samples performed by ADEM and EPA. (129)

Habitat fragmentation
    One of the primary causes of the precarious status of many of the Watershed's species is habitat fragmentation. Manmade structures such as dams, locks, levees, and other channel modification projects have separated and fragmented the aquatic habitats of many species that depend on free-flowing rivers. This habitat fragmentation has resulted in the elimination of many riverine species from extensive portions of their former range. Most of the Watershed's imperiled species now live in small and isolated populations. (143-144)
    These isolated populations, in turn, are made even more vulnerable to changes in land use that affect their habitats. Without the natural ability to move unrestricted up and down a river, the loss of populations and the genetic codes they contain cannot be replaced. The surviving populations are then forced to face the gradual and combined effects of surface runoff (nonpoint source pollution) from common activities such as construction, agriculture, silviculture, urban activities, and other land use practices. Nonpoint source runoff can be toxic or cause sedimentation (siltation) and nitrification (excessive nutrient input.)
    Each imperiled species within the Watershed is unique in some aspect of its life history and habitat requirements. But two factors are shared by all: the adaptation to their natural fluctuations of a free-flowing riverine habitat and the dependence upon the stability of that environment, including substrate (river bottom materials) and
water quality. While the detrimental effect of any one source of impairment or land use activity may be insignificant by itself, the combined effects of land use runoff within a watershed may result in gradual and cumulative adverse impacts to isolated populations and their habitats. (144)

Fish sampling 10 years ago at Creek
    Fish sampling was conducted on three stations in the lower reaches of Hurricane Creek in 1998 and 2000. Fish IBI's at these stations indicated poor biological condition of the fish assemblage. Micro invertebrate assessments on Hurricane Creek indicated a change in condition from good (1996) to impaired in 2000. Fish sampling in the Middle Hurricane Creek Watershed was conducted in the 1980's and in 1998/2000. Fish IBI's in 1998 and 2000 upstream of the Little Hurricane Creek confluence indicated poor biological condition. Microinvertebrate assessments on Hurricane Creek below the confluence with Kepple Creek indicated a slight decline in the benthic community from good (1996) to fair (2000). Macroinvertebrate data in 2000 on Kepple Creek indicated fair condition at the mouth and significant impairment upstream. The benthic Macroinvertebrate community was rated as severely impaired in both the 1996 and 2000 assessment on North Fork Hurricane Creek. (157) (Source: Wentzel, M. Beth and Duncan, William W. Hurricane Creek Profile. Alabama Rivers Alliance. November 2001.)


posted May 3, 2012, 2:29 PM by Friends of Hurricane Creek   [ updated May 3, 2012, 2:30 PM ]

You can access this article online at the Tuscaloosa News page. Here it is in its entirety:

Changes in bypass route requested

By Dana Beyerle 
Montgomery Bureau Chief
Published: Sunday, December 17, 2006 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 16, 2006 at 11:00 p.m.
MONTGOMERY | Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby have asked Gov. Bob Riley’s office to consider moving the proposed route of a Tuscaloosa bypass to accommodate an upscale development.

The state Department of Transportation is amenable to moving the proposed route of the so-called Eastern Bypass to accommodate the development called Townes of North River just northeast of the Tuscaloosa city limits.

But the willingness to consider a new route has an environmental group seeking the same consideration from the DOT over the bypass’s route south of the Black Warrior River in order to prevent physical and aesthetic damage to the “M" Bend of Hurricane Creek, a popular canoeing and recreation area.

“If they move any of it, they have to move all of it," said John Wathen of Friends of Hurricane Creek.

Maddox in June told the DOT that Tuscaloosa’s growth potential is to the north and northeast of Rice Mine Road, north of the Black Warrior River.

Because of that, he said, a substantial development that is important to Tuscaloosa may necessitate changing the route of the road, which might not be built for 20 years or more.

“We asked for the state to look at the long-term picture of where we’re trying to grow residentially and commercially," Maddox said in a recent interview.

Townes of North River is a 500-unit development on a 162-acre tract just east of the eastern boundary of Munny Sokol Park and a half-mile north of the intersection of Rice Mine Road and New Watermelon Road.

But Townes of North River is in the path of the proposed $227 million bypass that eventually will connect Interstate 20/59 to U.S. 82.

The development by Chris Dobbs and Chris Hayslip was planned after the DOT drew a preliminary route for the bypass.

Last year DOT Division engineer Dee Rowe said it was unlikely the route would be changed to accommodate the development and that Hayslip was aware of the route.

“We do not have any reason to think that moving the bypass is a possibility," she said in 2005. “He is taking his chances that the location of the bypass will be moved."

Dobbs said he’s proud of the project, which is underway with its $250,000 to $750,000 homes, and believes it will be good for Tuscaloosa.

His attorney, Bryan Winter, said the city and the DOT worked together to solve the road issue by suggesting bypass alternatives.

“I guess the answer is we’ve got a situation where we’ve got the road 20 years down the road and there’s an opportunity to build beautiful homes in Tuscaloosa," Winter said. “It’s a public policy decision."

He said the development went through the city’s permitting process and the city and DOT were aware of the project. “The state never said to us they’d like to buy the property," he said.

Winter said a western jog to the bypass apparently was agreed on by the city and the DOT.

“The city knows about it, the state knows about it and the state and the city are working together to resolve an issue," he said. “I don’t know why they’d want to put a road through a subdivision."

DOT officials told the city last week in a letter that it received conflicting signals on how to proceed with a new look at the bypass and Maddox responded.

Construction of the bypass south of the Black Warrior River is to be completed well before the northern section. “And we also felt necessary to give our view that the city of Tuscaloosa’s portion (of the bypass) from the Paul Bryant bridge back to the interstate is critical," Maddox said.

Commercial and residential growth is important to the city and should be accommodated with a route change because the northern leg’s development is far in the future, unlike the southern leg, the mayor said.

He said the city wants to annex the development.

Anna Keene, coordinator for the federally funded AmeriCorps VISTA Watershed, said Friday that money appears to be more important than preserving semi-wild urban areas like Hurricane Creek, which will be skirted by the southern leg of the bypass.

“What definitely bothers me is they would stick up for development rather than natural areas," Keene said. “Maybe we need to get with city officials and talk about it."

She said she believes preserving natural areas has an economic benefit, too. “People are catching on, maybe the government is slow," she said.

In 2001, Friends of Hurricane Creek asked the DOT to move the proposed route away from the “M" bend of Hurricane Creek, “one of the creek’s most pristine areas."

Wathen, river keeper for Friends of Hurricane Creek, said developers apparently “have a lot more say than the common citizen."

“If there’s any movement in this bypass (route) then an environmental statement has to be done," Wathen said. “They cannot start rerouting it because of fat cats and their money and leave us out of it again because there will be possible repercussions and possible litigation."

Riley’s legal adviser, Ken Wallis, who was contacted by Maddox and Shelby, turned the issue over to the Department of Transportation. Riley’s office had no immediate comment.

Shelby’s office said his involvement is due to his interest in a bypass that will ease traffic.

Shelby spokeswoman Katie Boyd said the final route will be determined by the DOT but the state should be good stewards of taxpayers’ money.

“To that end, in a recent conversation with (Wallis), the senator followed-up on concerns expressed by the city of Tuscaloosa regarding ALDOT’s pursuit of more expensive bypass routes rather than considering less costly alternatives available," Boyd said.

DOT Chief Engineer Don Vaughn said rerouting will cost millions of dollars in state and federal taxpayers’ money mainly because delays result in higher acquisition and construction costs.

The bypass was slated to cross Hurricane Creek near a waterfall, skirt the creek and then cross it again below Stone Creek.

William Adams, design engineer for the DOT, said local concerns were addressed and “we’ve essentially already shifted because of Hurricane Creek to the extent that we already can."

Adams said the route was moved slightly away from Hurricane Creek but not by one-quarter mile so the road couldn’t be seen as requested by Friends of Hurricane Creek.

“We would have had more residential disruption," he said. “We’re trying to accommodate the areas of concern and still maintain the approved route."

Adams said the DOT is ready to start buying right-of-way for the bypass south of the Black Warrior River and any change might require a new Environmental Impact Statement.

“It’s possible it could be redone," he said. “It’s not desirable."

He said any major route change would reopen the EIS process, “which will get everyone involved to be heard."

Vaughn said the DOT only wants clear direction from the city on “which way we’re headed."

“We had an approved route for several years ... and the mayor came over and said that subdivision was important to Tuscaloosa," Vaughn said. “We agreed to look at the line or shift it and how that impacted the subdivision."

A DOT map shows an eastern jog around the proposed development but that wasn’t initially acceptable to developers, Maddox said, so Tuscaloosa transportation director Joe Robinson told the DOT to proceed with original plans. “Joe was right at the time," Maddox said.

Maddox said developers had second thoughts and now propose realignment “along the western boundary of Townes of North River." Maddox said while the decision is up to the DOT, he believes a western realignment is preferable.

DOT spokesman Tony Harris said the DOT was unaware of a proposal for a western jog around the development and produced a map only with a potential eastern realignment.

Adams said the western jog could be a problem because the road must completely miss Munny Sokol Park, which is state property.

“We can’t go across the mental health property," Adams said. “We could make a major shift but the western part you’re talking about is his property and the park’s and they almost join at Watermelon Road and we have an interchange at Watermelon Road ... there might not be room."

Wathen is unmoved by explanations. “No one offered to help us," he said.

Added Vaughn, “We can’t start, stop and change directions."

(Dana Beyerle is Montgomery Bureau chief for the New York Times Regional Newspapers.)


posted Apr 24, 2012, 5:55 AM by alina coryell

Since we've received a number of requests for contact information for public officials and legislators, we figured we would go ahead and make it available to everyone online for future and present use.

Local officials involved in the Eastern Bypass Project
  • Mayor Walt Maddox is Tuscaloosa's mayor. He also serves on the West Alabama Regional Commission, which decides and votes transportation plans into place. Email him at
  • Mayor Bobby Herndon is the Chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization. He is also the mayor of the city of Northport.  
  • Robert Lake is the Executive Director of the West Alabama Regional Commission. His contact information is not currently readily available.
  • Hon. Hardy McCollum is Tuscaloosa's probate judge.  He is also the Chairman of the Tuscaloosa County Commission. He can be contacted at 556-5333.
  • Sheriff Ted Sexton is a voting member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, though this does not seem to be reflected on the website. He can be contacted at
  • City Councilman Bobby Howard can be contacted at
  • City Councilman Harrison Taylor can be contacted at He chairs the Community Development Committee.
  • City Councilwoman Cynthia Lee Almond can be contacted at
  • City Councilman Lee Garrison can be contacted at
  • City Councilman Kip Tyner can be contacted at
  • City Councilman Bob Lundell can be contacted at
  • City Councilman William Tinker, III can be contacted at
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way to contact the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee by email. This is the group chosen by the West Alabama Regional Commission to represent your interests and needs. You can express your concerns about this matter to David Norris at

State officials involved in the Eastern Bypass Project


Sen. Gerald Allen (R, 21st District) is a State Senator who represents Tuscaloosa. He can be contacted via email at
Sen. Greg Reed (R, 5th District) is a Senator who represents Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas. Sen. Reed currently does not have an email address available online.
Sen. Bobby Singleton (D, 24th District) can be contacted via email at


Rep. Richard Baughn (R, 14th District) represents parts of Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas in the legislature. He also serves on the Transportation Committee. He can be contacted via email at
Rep. Christopher England (D, 70th District) represents Tuscaloosa in the House. Email him at 
Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R, 25th District) is the Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Email him at
Rep. Danny Boman (D, District) a House Representative for Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas. Email him at
Rep. John Merrill (R, 62nd District) is a House Representative for Tuscaloosa. Email him at
Rep. Bill Poole (R, 63rd District ) is a House Representative for Tuscaloosa. Email him at
Rep. Alan Harper (R, 61st District) is a House Representative for Tuscaloosa and Pickens County. He serves on the Tourism and Economic Development Committee. Email him at
Rep. Victor Gaston (R), 100th District) is the Vice-Chair of the House Transportation Committee.

National officials involved in the Eastern Bypass Project


posted Mar 20, 2012, 11:37 AM by Friends of Hurricane Creek   [ updated Mar 30, 2012, 12:49 PM by alina coryell ]

This is one of the questions that will be addressed in the forthcoming ALDOT Reevaluation of the 1998 Environmental Impact Statement. FOHC has tried to create a brief comparison of evidence for both sides of the argument so we can learn more about how the park (or "not park") figures into the Eastern Bypass planning process.

PARA lists it as a park on its foundation and donation webpage.

As of March 18, 2012, Hurricane Creek Park is listed as a "park owned by PARA" on the PARA website.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper describes the sale of this land to PARA for the creation of a 250-acre nature reserve and park in 2008 newsletter.

PARA considers it a park and recreation facility in 2009 Annual Report.
“These properties include walking trails, a multipurpose arena, boat landings, ball fields, garden plots,playgrounds, indoor and outdoor swimming facilities, picnic shelters and pavilions, the Veterans Memorial Park, the M-Bend Area of Hurricane Creek, the best municipal golf course in the state and Tuscaloosa’s only First Tee chapter.”

The Trust for Public Land made its purchase and deed with the understanding that the M-Bend would be a public park.

The sign which reads "Hurricane Creek Park" right off Hwy 216 names the area as Hurricane Creek Park.

When you call the PARA Park Ranger, he includes Hurricane Creek Park as among his parks and work sites.

The PARA 2011 Summer Guide says the following:
"The “M Bend” at Hurricane Creek offers a natural swimming hole just downstream from the bridge on Highway 216. Even on hot summer days, the water in this Appalachian Mountain Chain stream stays cool and refreshing. Surrounded by trails and ideal for canoeing, anyone can enjoy its beautiful scenery and cool water. The “M Bend” is located at the Alabama Hwy 216 Bridge, which crosses Hurricane Creek in the Peterson community.”

ALDOT refuses to grant a permit to PARA or FOHC for the creation of a parking lot for the M-Bend Park. It can't be a park without a parking lot.

PARA does not list M-Bend under parks in its 2010 Annual Report.

The current route for the Eastern Bypass bisects the creek at several locations. This route would not be likely to receive funding under the FHWA's 4(f) rules for parks, so it must not be a park.

The M-Bend Area is a nature preserve, not a park. It was purchased by the Freshwater Land Trust as a nature preserve, and PARA intends to keep it as a nature preserve as well.

It is not yet officially a park. Instead, it is in the process of becoming a park. According to Experience Tuscaloosa, the website of the Chamber of Commerce:
“Hurricane Creek is noted as the place in the eastern United States where the Appalachian Mountains meet the gulf coastal plain. It is unique in that geography representing each ecosystem occupies the same niche. Indigenous plants include three different species of native azalea, rare plants such as the silky camellia tree, along with ferns and wildflowers. PARA recently acquired 249 acres in this environmentally sensitive area known as the "M Bend" with plans to protect the area by establishing it as a park.”

The fact that PARA documents refer to Hurricane Creek Park as "the M-Bend area" rather than Hurricane Creek Park means that it is not a park. Instead, the M-Bend area is something that looks like a park, has rangers like a park, has a park sign, has park rules, has public visitors, has trash receptacles. We are hoping that the confusion is a sign that Hurricane Creek Park is a park in the process of becoming a better park.


posted Mar 13, 2012, 5:44 PM by alina coryell

Here is a list from the Final Draft of the EIS providing information about the "dominant vegetation" to be impacted.


posted Mar 13, 2012, 1:28 PM by Friends of Hurricane Creek

This excerpt offers a list of those scientists, engineers, and companies involved in the preparation of the current Eastern bypass plan. 


posted Mar 13, 2012, 1:23 PM by Friends of Hurricane Creek

This excerpt includes pps. 127-130 from the Final Draft of the Environmental Impact Study for the proposed Eastern Bypass. It is the only reference to public comments in this extensive document.

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