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Renew Our Rivers has cleaned up 16 million pounds of trash since 2000

Renew Our Rivers was started by the Alabama Power Company in 2000. The national, award-winning campaign has since grown into community cleanups on rivers, lakes and creeks across four Southeastern states.

Since its start, thousands of volunteers have removed more than 16 million pounds of trash and debris from waterways. In 2023 more than 2,900 volunteers removed 123 tons of garbage from rivers and lakes across the state of Alabama.

(Jodie McGirt/Lake Martin Resource Association)

Mike Clelland is the ROR coordinator in Alabama Power’s Environmental Affairs group. Clelland worked alongside the volunteers in 29 of the 31 cleanups this year.

“Renew Our Rivers is a well-oiled machine,” said Clelland. “It’s been a great season and we accomplished so much. It makes everyone proud to see how good the lakes look after each cleanup.”

This year’s campaign began in Jefferson County on March 4 with the Valley Creek Spring Cleanup.

Here are all the locations they’ve cleaned up this year:

  • March 4: Jefferson County – Valley Creek Spring Cleanup.
  • March 11: Chattahoochee River in East Alabama.
  • March 17-18: Lake Eufaula on the Chattahoochee River.
  • March 25-April 1: St. Clair and Talladega Counties (Lake Logan)
  • March 25: Mulga Loop in Jefferson County.
  • April 1: Lay Lake at Plant Gaston on the Coosa River.
  • April 14: Smith Lake in Cullman County.
  • April 15: Bankhead Lake on the Black Warrior River.
  • April 22-29: Lay Lake on the Coosa River.
  • April 27-28: Smith Lake in Winston County.
  • April 29: Weiss Lake.
  • May 6: Lake Jordan on the Coosa River.
  • May 13: Lake Mitchell on the Coosa River.
  • May 16-17: Smith Lake in Walker County.
  • June 10: Holt Reservoir.
  • August 12: Valley Creek in Jefferson County.
  • September 8: Smith Lake in Cullman County.
  • September 14-15: Smith Lake in Winston County.
  • September 20-21: Smith Lake in Walker County.
  • Sept. 25-30: Neely Henry Lake on the Coosa River.
  • September 30: Village Creek in Jefferson County.
  • October 3: Dog River in Mobile County.
  • October 4-5: Mobile River near Plant Barry.
  • October 7: Lake Mitchell on the Coosa River.
  • October 12: Plant Miller area near Locust Fork.
  • October 13-14: Lake Demopolis.
  • October 24-26: Lake Harris and Lake Wedowee on the Tallapoosa River.
  • Nov. 3-4: Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa River.

Volunteers removed 5 tons of junk from Lake Martin alone.

The refreshed, pristine shores and sparkling clean waterways “owe a debt of thanks” to the thousands of dedicated ROR volunteers who come out year after year to help in cleanup efforts, said Clelland.

(Jodie McGirt/Lake Martin Resource Association)

The Renew Our Rivers team encompasses members of lake homeowner and boat owner groups as well as groups, such as local Boy Scout troops, neighborhood and college organizations. Many individual volunteers also come, including many Alabama Power employees participate in the cleanup. Before every event, Clelland supplies volunteers with ROR T-shirts, trash bags and grabbers.

Clelland said that in the Nov. 3 and 4 event on Lake Martin, members of the Lake Martin Resource Association (LMRA) removed 5 tons of refuse from the watershed.

LMRA President Jodie McGirt said that more than 240 volunteers showed up to help.

“It’s one of our biggest efforts and our best partnerships with Alabama Power that we have as an organization,” said McGirt.

“Our biggest thing is we love the partnership and we love the support we get from Alabama Power Shoreline Management to help us maintain the shorelines and the waterways, because our focus is to preserve, protect and promote Lake Martin and the community surrounding it. So, this effort really plays into our strategic direction and our mission.”

Clelland said that he and many partnering organizations are already planning for next year’s cleanups, when the Renew Our River campaign will celebrate its 25th anniversary.

There are 350 species of freshwater fish in Alabama – roughly one third of all the species in the United States. More turtle species live in Alabama than any other river system on Earth. 32 species of crawfish live in Alabama – more than any other state.

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