Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday, during a press conference, announced close to $28 million for 16 projects, which are supported by funds from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA). These projects focus on land acquisitions, research and recreational access improvements, which are included in the original intent and authorized use of GOMESA funds.
“I am thrilled to be joined today by many of our local leaders to announce 16 projects being funded by GOMESA,” Governor Ivey said. “Working closely with Commissioner Blankenship and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the almost $28 million will fund projects to beautify this region and ensure safety of those who enjoy the rivers and bay of South Alabama.”
GOMESA provides for the four Gulf Producing States and their eligible coastal political subdivisions (CPS) to share 37.5 percent of qualified revenues from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leases issued since December 20, 2006. With approval from the Governor’s Office, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources administers the funds.
Projects and Comments from Officials:
Middleton Causeway Boat Ramp Improvements; $150,000
Administration of GOMESA; $214,220
Gulf State Park Recreational Access Enhancements; $4,000,000
“Several of these projects will increase boating access and outdoor recreational experiences in coastal Alabama,” ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship said. “The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources appreciates Governor Ivey’s commitment to providing quality outdoor recreational opportunities that are so important to the economy and quality of life in Alabama.”
Equipment and Supplies for Monitoring Harmful Algal Blooms Gulf Coastal Shellfish Growing Areas; $19,849.92
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “The items purchased with GOMESA funding enable the Department of Public Health to conduct much faster testing of oysters and oyster growing waters for the presence or absence of toxins associated with harmful algal blooms. Having the results available within hours instead of days allows the Department to better protect the public’s health by either withholding oysters from sale or, if no toxins are present, allowing Alabama’s oyster harvesters to sell their product. The Department appreciates the support from GOMESA that allows this faster testing method to be used in Alabama.”
Install and Maintenance of a Stream Gage at Fish River on Baldwin County 32; $87,250.00
Baldwin County Intracoastal Waterway Boat Ramp Acquisition; $7,500,000
Baldwin County Commissioner Charles “Skip” Gruber: “On behalf of the Baldwin County Commission, it gives me great pleasure to announce the receiving of the funds for our boat launch project on the Intercoastal waterway. This project is one that will help the citizens of Alabama get on to the waters of our state.”
Marine Debris and Shoreline Cleanup Program; $1,314,500
Coastal Alabama Watershed Enhancement Project; $1,500,000
State Forester Rick Oates: “Through this grant, the Alabama Forestry Commission will be better able to assist landowners manage their forests within watersheds that impact the Gulf of Mexico. Better managed forests reduce the amount of sediment and other pollutants that enter the Gulf, thereby creating a healthier environment and cleaner Gulf waters.”
Sediment Geochemistry Investigation of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta; $216,300
Sediment Characterization and Geochemistry Distribution within Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound, Baldwin and Mobile Counties, Alabama; $755,304
State Geologist Dr. Berry “Nick” Tew, Jr.: “The Geological Survey of Alabama is honored to have been selected to receive GOMESA funding to conduct these two important companion projects, which will significantly further our present understanding of sediment distribution and characteristics in Mobile Bay, Mississippi Sound, and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and the impacts that sediments have on water quality and ecosystem functions and services. The mapping of sediment distribution and the collection and analysis of sediment samples will provide a comprehensive set of data that supports restoration efforts, fisheries management, and other activities and requirements.”
Bayou La Batre Boat Ramp; $250,000
Bayou La Batre Mayor Terry Downey: “We are very appreciative of the GOMESA project for the City of Bayou La Batre. We can ensure the installment of the new boat ramps will benefit, not only the community, but the surrounding areas for sports fisherman and commercial fisherman that use these ramps for their business.”
Dauphin Island Land Acquisition and Boat Ramp Addition; $4,065,000
Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier: “The Town of Dauphin Island greatly appreciates Governor Ivey and her continued support to fund GOMESA projects like ours that will serve to connect citizens and visitors alike to our abundant natural resources for years to come!”
Mobile Bay Western Shore Land Acquisition; $4,400,000
Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl: “We are thrilled to receive GOMESA funds for our project, and for Mobile County to have made the list is remarkable. With these GOMESA resources, we are wisely investing into a project that will be useful for future generations. The benefits of our project are immeasurable and definitely a positive impact for our area.”
Restoration of D’Olive Bay Boat Channel; $800,000
Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood: “The GOMESA award for the D’Olive Bay dredging project will enable access to the waters of Mobile Bay for tens of thousands of Daphne and Eastern Shore residents. The City of Daphne has a historical identity as a waterfront community, although current waterfront access is limited. Enhancement of waterfront access for Daphne residents has been a priority of this administration. I am pleased to partner with the State of Alabama and Governor Ivey and to utilize GOMESA funds to make this project a reality.”
Mount Vernon Park Enhancements for Addition to the Birding Trail; $78,000
Causeway Land Acquisition, Restoration, and Park Addition; $2,500,000
Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan “The City of Spanish Fort appreciates the opportunity given to us and thanks the Governor for her willingness to achieve this project. This will be the first step in moving our Causeway Master Plan development forward to welcome citizens to Baldwin County and to display what will showcase the greatness of our delta resources.”
Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.
“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”
Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.
“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”
Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.
“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”
“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”
“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”
“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”
SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally
Thousands of SNAP recipients in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties are set to receive automatic replacement benefits as a result of Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Department of Human Resources announced Thursday.
Recipients who received their benefits Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 will receive a replacement of 50 percent of their regular monthly benefit. Those who received supplemental pandemic maximum allotment payments will receive a replacement of 30 percent of those benefits.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the replacement benefits today at the request of DHR. The benefits are intended to replace food purchased with SNAP that was lost to widespread power outages caused when Hurricane Sally made landfall on Sept. 16.
“Our priority is to remove the very real threat of hunger for the many Alabamians who are struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sally,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “The first step toward that goal is to replace the food that so many Alabamians lost to the storm. We are actively working to obtain additional resources to provide much-needed relief for the region as it recovers.”
Hurricane Sally caused over 265,000 households to lose power for at least four hours in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, where approximately 54,000 households will receive SNAP benefits totaling an estimated $8.5 million.
Those recipients should expect to see the replacement benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards next week.
The Food Assistance Division of DHR administers the SNAP program in Alabama.
More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.
Unemployment assistance available to workers in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile Counties
Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced Thursday that workers who became unemployed as a direct result of Hurricane Sally in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile Counties may qualify for unemployment assistance.
People who live in or worked in these counties and became unemployed due to Hurricane Sally during the period of Sept. 14, 2020, may be eligible for assistance under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, which was triggered when President Donald Trump designated the area as a disaster area on Sept. 20, 2020.
“Generally, those who are eligible for state unemployment benefits are not eligible for DUA, but a claimant may qualify if state unemployment compensation benefits are exhausted,” said Washington. “If you believe you are entitled to these benefits, I urge you to file a claim to see if you are eligible.”
People who may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance include the following:
- Individuals who no longer have a job, are unable to reach the place of employment, or were scheduled to start work in the major disaster area and the job no longer exists
- Those who became the breadwinner or major support of the family because the head of household died, or those who cannot work because of an injury incurred during the major disaster
All the previously described circumstances must be as a direct result of the hurricane. Self-employed individuals must provide a copy of their 2019 tax return, business license or Form 1099 within 21 days after applying for DUA benefits.
Claims can be filed through ADOL’s website at labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382.
The deadline to file a DUA claim is Oct. 28, 2020, for Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile Counties.
Alabama Farmer’s Federation starts a relief fund for farmers impacted by Sally
The Alabama Farmers Federation said Monday that it has established a relief fund to help farmers from across the state whose farms were damaged by Hurricane Sally.
“When disaster strikes, I am always impressed by the people of Alabama and their giving spirits,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “As we started receiving photos of damaged crops, barns and equipment, we also started getting questions from people about what they could do to help our farmers, and that’s why we’ve established this fund.”
All the donations to the relief fund are tax-deductible and may be made online or by check payable to Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation at P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191. Please include “hurricane relief fund” in the check memo line.
“Most of our farmers had as good a crop as we’ve ever seen, and it was so close to harvest for cotton, soybeans, peanuts and pecans,” Parnell said. “It’s devastating to lose a crop that had so much promise. Our farmers are great people who are assisting each other with cleaning up the damage, and we’re so grateful to everyone across the state who is helping in some way, like donating to the relief fund.”
Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores as a category two storm Sept. 16 with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Official reports from the National Weather Service show more than 20 inches of rain in Baldwin County.
The combination of heavy rains and high winds damaged crops, structures and equipment from Mobile and Baldwin Counties in the southwest through Russell County in the east.
It has been a difficult few years for farmers.
While the general economy had been doing well prior to the coronavirus global pandemic, the farmers were caught in the middle of an international trade dispute over tariffs and fair competition.
Chinese retaliation against Americans farm products depressed commodity markets from 2018 through early this year.
When it appeared that the U.S. and China had come to a trade accord in January, the coronavirus hit along with massive disruptions in the supply chain.
Farm bankruptcies were already up pre-COVID-19. The loss of the 2020 crop could push some already struggling agribusinesses over the brink.
The Alabama Farmers Federation is Alabama’s largest and most influential farmers’ organization.