Melody Hopkins
Community Organizer
Orange Beach, Alabama

Melody Hopkins educates, cajoles, twists arms and organizes, using only a telephone, a computer, a camera and a fax machine, to get Alabama’s politicians, developers, and regulators to protect the state’s coastal wetlands. During 1992 and 1993, she successfully spearheaded opposition to a U.S. Corps of Engineers’ Section 404 permit for construction of 11 large pile-supported houses in a barrier island salt marsh. By talking — and listening — to state and federal regulators involved in the Section 404 permit battle, Melody learned that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management could assist the Corps in regulating development in coastal wetlands if the agency’s rules were revised to clarify its authority to do so. Melody organized a grassroots and personal campaign to encourage the rulemaking and to support its final promulgation. The new regulations came to be known as the “Melody Hopkins rules.” By Fall 1994, the Department regulators were armed to join the Corps in regulating the widespread use of pile-supported structures along the Alabama coast.

In her permit battle, Melody learned about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Advanced Identification program. She convinced EPA to consider such a program for coastal Alabama and lined up critical support for the program from the Baldwin County Commission. An Advanced Identification program for Baldwin County is now in progress. Melody has lobbied against a takings bill brought before the Alabama legislature, and she is now engaged in a broad-based citizens campaign to protect Mobile Bay.

— Jan Goldman Carter, Environmental Lawyer