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Ivey announces $48.7 million for restoration, conservation projects

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey announced that the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has approved more than $48 million for eight new projects, which focus on the restoration and conservation of Alabama’s natural resources.

“Alabama’s Gulf Coast is of great ecological importance to our state, and it is imperative we protect and restore those natural resources harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Governor Ivey said. “Today’s announcement gets us one step closer to success. We are improving our water quality in the Bon Secour River and Mobile Bay, bolstering our fish populations with the expansion of artificial reefs, and ensuring resiliency along our coastline. Thank you to our local, state, and federal partners for developing this impressive slate of projects.”

In 2013, a U.S. District Court approved two plea agreements resulting from the criminal charges against BP and Transocean as responsible parties to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The settlement directs a total of $2.54 billion to NFWF to establish a Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) over a five-year period to support ecological projects in all five Gulf States. A total of $356 million will be paid into the GEBF for conservation projects dedicated to the State of Alabama.

“This announcement brings the number of NFWF GEBF-funded projects to 32 in the State of Alabama for a total investment of close to $200 million,” said Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “These projects will significantly enhance long-term restoration and protection of our natural resources and will ensure the sustainability and resiliency of our coastal ecosystem. We thank NFWF and our local partners for their hard work during this year-long process.”

The 2018 Alabama projects includes $22.5 million for the Alabama Artificial Reef and Habitat Enhancement Plan – Phase II. This project will build on phase I of the plan to construct and enhance artificial reef habitat in Alabama’s coastal waters. Alabama’s artificial reef system provides habitat for economically important reef fishes and provides a marine environment, allowing fish populations to flourish. Over time, subsidence, storm damage, and other factors have caused deterioration to many of the state’s existing artificial reefs. Phase II of the project aims to continue to increase connectivity between habitats used by fish in early and adult life through creation or enhancement of inshore, nearshore, and offshore reef habitats. Analysis of phase I response monitoring suggests increases in the abundance of red snapper on artificial reefs post deployment. Future analysis will include examination of responses in biomass, other species of interest, and the overall marine community.

$4.4 million will be spent on the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Acquisition of the Three Rivers Parcel. This project will acquire and restore 236 acres of estuarine and forested shrub wetlands on Fort Morgan Peninsula. The parcel is within the acquisition boundary of the Little Point Clear Unit of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (BSNWR), bordered on the east, west, and north by Bon Secour Bay. Following acquisition, the property will be transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to become part of the BSNWR. Habitats within this unit consist of scrub/shrub, pine flatwoods, saltwater marsh, and tidal creeks, scattered with permanent and semi-permanent wetlands. Fort Morgan Peninsula is under significant and consistent threat of commercial and residential development that would result in loss of habitat and negatively impact living coastal and marine resources.

$1.5 million will be spent on the Bon Secour River Headwater Restoration – Phase I. This project will complete engineering and design plans for creating wetlands to treat urban runoff impacting downstream fisheries. The constructed wetlands will address nutrient, sediment and debris flow to improve habitat quality in the lower Bon Secour River and Bon Secour Bay, which historically has included south Alabama’s most significant and productive shellfish habitats and nursery areas for juvenile finfish. This section of the Bon Secour River encompasses major headwaters and the main channel of the Bon Secour River immediately downstream from the City of Foley. Rapid development of the City over the past two decades has contributed signficant nutrient and sediment loading to the Bon Secour River and Bay, with adverse effects to downstream fisheries. Under the proposal, the City will acquire 94 acres of undeveloped property along the Bon Secour River to construct the stormwater wetlands.

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$250,000 will be spent on engineers and design for the Dauphin Island Causeway Shoreline Restoration. This project will fund the engineering and design of breakwaters to enhance, protect, and improve resiliency of marsh and oyster habitat adjacent to the Dauphin Island Causeway. Erosive forces, like tidal action, wave energy, and storms, provide a constant threat to the coastal habitats in this area. Productive wetland habitat has been lost along the Bay side of the Causeway, stimulating the Alabama Department of Transportation to install and rely upon riprap revetment to protect the low-lying transportation corridor. The goal of the project is to stabilize the shoreline along the Bay side of the Dauphin Island Causeway and to create/enhance aquatic, wetland, and riparian habitats in the region. The project will serve as leverage for a companion proposal submitted to the National Coastal Resiliency Fund.

$750,000 will be spent on the Deer River Coastal Marsh Stabilization and Restoration Phase I. This project will complete engineering and design plans to stabilize and restore the shoreline and intertidal salt marsh at the mouth of Deer River, adjacent to the Theodore Industrial Canal and Mobile Bay. Intertidal marsh at the mouth of Deer River has experienced significant deterioration and loss of natural function due to erosion from heavy storms, tides, and ship wakes. In the past two decades, approximately nine acres of productive intertidal marshland and shoreline have been lost. These habitats buffer wave energy and storm surges, protecting the shoreline as well as neighboring upland and wetland habitats, preserving the long-term sustainability of the ecological services they provide. Once designed and constructed, this project will stabilize and enhance up to 5,600 feet of shoreline on Mobile Bay necessary to protect and enhance over 275 acres of existing priority coastal saltmarsh, along with the potential to create additional marsh habitat.

$16.5 million will be spent on the Lightning Point Restoration Project – Phase II. This project is the construction phase of a GEBF-funded engineering and design project to construct approximately 28 acres of coastal marsh and 1.5 miles of breakwaters at the mouth of the Bayou La Batre River. Restoration activities will also help protect the newly acquired 127 acres of coastal habitat in the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust program and City of Bayou La Batre. Over time, the breakwaters are expected to develop into reefs that provide habitat for fish and shellfish. Consisting of more than 2 miles of nearly contiguous undeveloped waterfront, the project area provides a critical interface between land and water. These conservation lands are comprised of coastal marshes, upland buffers, and intertidal habitats that serve as nursery habitat for coastal finfish and shellfish. The area is also home to many threatened and endangered species, including the West Indian manatee and Gulf sturgeon.

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$2.4 million will be spent on multifaceted fisheries and ecosystem monitoring in Alabama’s marine water and the Gulf of Mexico. This project will expand the temporal and spatial coverage for monitoring the long-term sustainability and recovery of marine resources into its fifth and final year. Alabama’s Marine Resources Division will work collaboratively with Florida and Mississippi state resource agencies, the University of South Alabama, and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to continue to implement standardized fishery independent and dependent surveys for broad scale data. Data from fishery independent studies will provide rates and indices of population level parameters for future stock assessments. Fishery dependent work will include blue crab and recreational finfish data collection.

$329,000 will be spent on the restoration of the north side of Dauphin Island, Phase I. This project will restore beach and marsh habitat on the north side of Dauphin Island to enhance the barrier island’s resilience to future storms and improve habitat for shorebirds. Specifically, the project proposes to fill borrow pits that were excavated to supply sand for emergency barriers built along Gulf-facing beaches on Dauphin Island during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A portion of the sand used to build these barriers was mined from privately owned lots, creating “ponds” at those locations. Due to the rapid erosion of the north shore of the island typical during significant storm events, some of these ponds are now small embayments to the Mississippi Sound. These dredged areas have weakened the barrier island in these locations by significantly narrowing its width, making the island more susceptible to breaching should the island be subject to a major hurricane.

Additional information on each project will soon be available at this websites:
http://www.alabamacoastalrestoration.org/nfwf.aspx

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

New unemployment claims continued dropping last week

Micah Danney

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There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.

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Economy

Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday. 

The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. 

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.” 

After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release. 

Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.

Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:

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  • Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
  • Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
  • Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389

PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.

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Congress

Alabama Republicans praise President Trump’s SCOTUS nomination

“The confirmation process is already proving to be another brutal fight, but I am certain that this is the job for a strong, conservative woman,” Ivey said.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. (WHITE HOUSE PHOTO)

President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court, and, if confirmed, Barrett would fill the vacancy created by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Trump’s nomination of Barrett was met with near universal praise among Alabama Republicans including Gov. Kay Ivey and a number of other elected officials.

“I commend President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Judge Barrett will be focused on interpreting the law, being an arbiter and not a lawmaker, as the Supreme Court demands of its justices,” Ivey said. “Based on her proven career and background, I am confident that Judge Barrett will be articulate and a fair supporter of issues important to Alabamians such as protecting the unborn and our Second Amendment rights, while applying the law impartially.”

Barrett has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017. Before becoming a judge, she was a law professor at Notre Dame Law School and previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Ivey said Barrett will embody the precedent established by Ginsburg and further prove that a woman can be a wife, a mother, a person of faith and hold strong personal convictions while still effectively performing the duties required of a justice.

“The confirmation process is already proving to be another brutal fight, but I am certain that this is the job for a strong, conservative woman,” Ivey said. “The people of Alabama overwhelmingly supported President Trump in 2016, and I commend him for performing his constitutional duty of nominating to the Supreme Court and getting the job done that we elected him to do. The late Justice Ginsburg herself noted that even in an election year, ‘a president doesn’t stop being president.’”

Before her death, Ginsburg reportedly made a request that her replacement not be nominated or confirmed until a “new president is installed.” Last week, Ginsburg became the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

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President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pay their respects to Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, as she lies in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Justice Ginsburg passed away on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

“I eagerly anticipate Judge Barrett’s confirmation, and I look forward to continuing to forge a strong relationship between President Trump and the state of Alabama during his next term,” said Ivey.

Democratic Senators, though they do not appear to have the votes to stop Barrett’s nomination, are vociferously opposed to confirming a new justice before the Nov. 3 election determines whether Trump will serve as second term.

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Democrats point to what they say is the hypocritical position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who refused to hold hearings or a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, in 2016.

All but two Republican senators appear prepared to vote for Barrett’s confirmation, all but assuring her a seat on the court and solidifying a 6-3 conservative majority.

“I am extremely pleased with President Trump’s selection in nominating Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama. “From her clerkship for the late Justice Scalia to her tenure on the 7th Circuit, Judge Barrett has had a distinguished career and has proven her commitment to the rule of law. Our next Supreme Court Justice must be a steadfast supporter of upholding our nation’s Constitution. I have no doubt in Judge Barrett’s qualifications, and I look forward to supporting her nomination.”

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, has said he will not vote for any nominee until the results of the Nov. 3 election are decided.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan:

“President Trump has nominated a superior candidate for our nation’s highest court. Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a solid constitutional jurist who has distinguished herself both on the bench during her time on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in academia as a law professor at the University Notre Dame and as a clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” Lathan said. “Judge Barrett’s focus on following the Constitution is apparent in her opinions, in cases ranging from the 2nd Amendment to immigration. Even three Democrat Senators – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Donnelly crossed party lines in 2017 to support her first nomination to the bench.”

“A mother of seven, including two adopted children from Haiti, Supreme Court nominee Barrett has been called a ‘powerhouse’ constitutionalist,” Lathan continued. “Her consistent rulings on applying laws to the words of our U.S. Constitution is the exact example of what the justices are tasked with in implementing their rulings. Based on qualifications and experience alone, Judge Barrett’s nomination merits a vote by the full United States Senate.”

Congressman Gary Palmer:

“President Trump has made an excellent choice in nominating Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, and I extend my heartfelt congratulations to her and her family,” Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, said. “Judge Barrett has a stellar record of faithfully interpreting the law, training young lawyers, producing brilliant scholarship, and upholding the Constitution. Her devotion to her family, and her dedication to her students during her years as a law professor, are also commendable. There is no question that she is highly qualified and will make a fantastic Justice. I urge the Senate to confirm her quickly.”

Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville:

“I am so excited about President Trump’s nomination today of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville. “She understands that’s it’s her job to interpret the Constitution as it’s written and not to manufacture new law from the bench. Her nomination opens the door to protecting unborn life, preserving our Second Amendment gun rights, and securing the religious freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution.”

“My opponent, Democrat Doug Jones has a very different opinion,” Tuberville continued. “He’s already announced his opposition to any candidate offered by President Donald J. Trump, and he said even meeting and listening to Judge Barrett would be useless. When it comes to giving fair consideration to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Doug Jones is a lost ball in high cotton. But that comes as no surprise. He voted against Brett Kavanaugh and said he would have opposed Neil Gorsuch if he’d been in the Senate at the time. Democrat Doug even voted twice to remove Donald J. Trump from office. Since becoming our placeholder senator, Doug Jones has opposed everything most Alabamians support and supported everything most Alabamians oppose. Instead of representing our conservative Alabama values, he’s represented the Hollywood and New York values of his high-dollar, out-of-state campaign donors.”

“There’s no telling what kind of dishonest tactics Doug Jones, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris and the other Senate liberals will use against a woman who is imminently qualified to sit on our nation’s highest court,” Tuberville warned. “So I’ll close by asking you to join me in praying for Judge Barrett and her family as she faces what promises to be a tough and partisan confirmation hearing. With your prayers and support, America will soon have a strongly conservative Supreme Court, and Alabama will have a new senator who actually represents the citizens of this great state. May God bless Judge Barrett. May God bless President Donald Trump. And may God continue to bless the greatest nation mankind has ever known.”

Congressional candidate Barry Moore:

“I applaud the President for making this nomination now, as the Constitution mandates,” said Congressional candidate Barry Moore. “I’m confident that the Senate will also take up Judge Barrett’s nomination in a timely fashion and not delay the process until after the election. The Constitution doesn’t state anything about waiting until after an election to fill Supreme Court vacancies, despite what the Democrats want us to think.”

“I’m pleased that President Trump has chosen a strong pro-life woman for the Supreme Court,” Moore continued. “I’m also impressed by Judge Barrett’s credentials and experience. I am certain she’ll make an exceptional addition to the Supreme Court, and will serve us well for many years to come.”

“We, as a nation, must act now by praying for President Trump, Judge Barrett and their families,” Moore concluded. “They need to have a shield of favor and protection prayed over them. I truly believe we are in a spiritual battle for our nation and the Democrats will stop at nothing to destroy the character of Judge Barrett, as they’ve done for the last 4 years with President Trump.”

Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter

“I join the members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus in praising President Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville.

“Judge Barrett clerked for one of the court’s greatest conservative jurists, Judge Antonin Scalia, and she understands that her job is to interpret the Constitution as the founding fathers wrote it, not to invent new law out of thin air,” Ledbetter said. “The suit against Alabama’s strongest-in-the-nation pro-life law is currently working its way through the federal courts, and it could be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future. Having a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court will be essential to the Alabama Legislature’s efforts to protect unborn life from harm. We encourage the Senate to hold confirmation hearings as soon as possible and to hold an up-or-down vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination immediately after they conclude.”

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National

23rd Alabama inmate dies with COVID-19

There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.

John H. Glenn

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The Alabama Department of Corrections on Friday reported the 23rd COVID-19 death among inmates in the state’s prisons.

Christopher Nalls, a 59-year-old inmate serving a 15-year sentence, died Sept. 10 at a local hospital in Hamilton, Alabama.

Nalls was moved to the local hospital on Aug. 31 to receive treatment for pre-existing health conditions unrelated to COVID-19.

His admission test upon entering the hospital was negative, and after treatment, Nalls was discharged Sept. 4.

Upon return, Nalls’s condition worsened, and he was readmitted Sept. 10. He died later that same day. A postmortem COVID-19 test showed Nalls died with COVID-19.

ADOC did not report any other positive COVID-19 cases among inmates in correctional facilities. But in the same report Friday, ADOC reported six new positive cases among staff, bringing the staff total to 28 active cases.

ADOC’s Office of Health Services initiated investigations into possible prolonged exposures between positive staff members and inmates or employees.

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There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.

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