The Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced a new grant program that will see up to $10 million spent to clean trash from roadways statewide.
Known as the Right of Way Program, the initiative will allow all of Alabama’s 67 counties to be fully reimbursed for up to $150,000 a year for any projects aimed at cleaning garbage alongside public roads. Costs are expected to vary greatly by county given the differences in city infrastructure, particularly when comparing the state’s urban communities to its more rural ones.
Jerome Hand, in ADEM’s external affairs office, told Alabama Daily News that counties will be required to receive approval for cleanup projects in advance, but that he expects nearly all counties to take advantage of the new initiative.
“Every county’s different, some of them have an environmental services division that takes care of garbage, some of them have sanitation departments, some of them have hardly anything, so it’s up to them to decide what they want to clean up, what needs the most attention in their county,” Hand said.
“We’re hoping it will be successful, we’re hoping it will create awareness of safeguarding our natural resources and protecting our environments. We think it’ll be good on many different levels, and hopefully we’ll get a lot of participation from the counties.”
The annual budget for ADEM has increased significantly in recent years, much of it attributable to required matches from the state in order to receive federal dollars. In the 2024 General Fund budget, lawmakers approved an ADEM budget of $25.2 million, more than double its budget in 2022 of $12.3 million, which itself was more than three times the 2021 budget of $4 million.
According to ADEM Director Lance LeFleur, the new initiative will be the most cost-effective way to target trash cleanup along public roads.
“This interagency, cooperative agreement can be a win for the counties that participate because it will allow them to do cleanup work on their road rights of way that they otherwise would not have been able to do because of the costs,” LeFleur said. “It is also a win for the people of Alabama, underscoring ADEM’s commitment to safeguarding the state’s environment.”
Hand said ADEM had already contacted all 67 counties and is currently accepting applications for cleanup projects.