Today, Governor Kay Ivey commemorates the passing of 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the largest marine oil spill in American history and the death of 11 men.
“As we remember this tragic event, we recognize the human cost of the oil spill and remember those whose loved ones were lost or injured in the incident and those that were affected in coastal Alabama,” Governor Ivey said. “We will never forget how we felt during those troubled times and how greatly our coastal communities were impacted. Since the events of that tragic day, Alabama, the other Gulf states and our federal partners have worked diligently to repair the ecological, environmental and economic damages that were inflicted in the Gulf of Mexico and along the shorelines of our Gulf Coast states. That work continues today and will continue for years to come.”
Alabama will receive more than $1.4 billion through 2032 from the various funding sources established after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to conduct restoration projects in the state. The restoration work is coordinated and administered by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR).
“In the first decade since the spill, we have made significant progress restoring and protecting the resources and coastal areas of Alabama,” said Christopher M. Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “Almost 160 projects have been approved, are underway or have been completed to restore, conserve or protect the various natural and economic resources of Alabama. The combined estimated cost of these projects is more than $790 million. These projects are making quite a positive impact on the state’s coastal recovery. I look forward to continuing these efforts in Alabama.”
These projects further Alabama’s restoration goals of replenishing and protecting living coastal and marine resources; supporting and enhancing community resilience; providing and enhancing economic development and infrastructure; restoring, conserving, and enhancing habitat; providing and enhancing recreation and public access; restoring water quality; providing planning support; and conducting science, research, and monitoring.
“Restoration is not a quick or easy process,” Governor Ivey said. “Alabama and our partners have heard from the public, we have worked with local governments, non-governmental agencies, businesses and others to do good work. Through comprehensive planning, careful design, successful implementation, and robust monitoring, we are confident that our resources are being protected and restored.
“In true Alabama fashion, we have worked together diligently to make our state better than it was before the tragedies of April 20, 2010. We are proud of the way Alabama and our partners have responded since those dark days and appreciate the efforts of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to coordinate and administer quality restoration efforts now and into the future. We are committed to restoring the natural resources of Alabama, no matter how long it takes.”
Restoration funding for projects in Alabama is provided through the following: the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEFB), and two councils established by the RESTORE Act, the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment
Alabama’s NRDA trustees (ADCNR and the Geologic Survey of Alabama) work with trustees from the other Gulf Coast states and four federal agencies on NRDA restoration plans. Those restoration plans also address recreational use, water quality, living coastal and marine resources, wetlands, and coastal and nearshore habitats.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation coordinates restoration project activities with the conservation and natural resources agencies in the five Gulf Coast states. These projects are funded by criminal fines resulting from the oil spill.
Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council
Chaired by Governor Ivey and vice-chaired by Alabama State Docks Director Jimmy Lyons, the council is responsible for selecting projects to be funded from the Direct Component and Spill Impact Component of the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. Projects selected for funding are administered by ADCNR’s Deepwater Horizon Restoration Section.
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
ADCNR Commissioner Blankenship represents Alabama on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. He works with representatives from the other Gulf Coast states and six federal agencies to develop projects that are funded through the Council-selected Restoration Component of the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund.
The federal RESTORE Act dedicates 80 percent of all administrative and civil penalties related to the Deepwater Horizon spill to a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund and outlines a structure by which the funds can be utilized to restore and protect the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of the Gulf Coast region.
For more information on coastal restoration projects in Alabama from all Deepwater Horizon funding sources, please visitwww.alabamacoastalrestoration.org.
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.”
Bidens suggest that Hurricane Sally due to climate change
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, released a joint statement this week on Hurricane Sally, suggesting that the hurricane and fires in the West are due in part to or exacerbated by climate change.
“Jill and I are praying for everyone from the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida and up the East Coast into the Carolinas as Hurricane Sally unleashes fury and flood that are leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power and evacuating their homes and businesses,” the Bidens wrote. “Our hearts are also with everyone in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and across the West who have lost everything and the firefighters and first responders who are risking their lives as the wildfires rage on and ash falls from an orange sky.”
“Every year the devastating impacts of climate change — in billions of dollars in damage, in immeasurable loss of lives and livelihoods — sets new records of destruction in big cities, small towns, on coastlines, and farmlands across the country,” the Bidens wrote. “It is happening everywhere. It is happening now. And it’s all happening while we fight off a historic pandemic and economic recession.”
But it doesn’t have to be this bad, the Bidens wrote.
“We have to come together as a nation guided by science that can save lives,” the Bidens wrote. “And grounded by economics that can create millions of American jobs — union jobs — to make us safe, stronger, and more resilient to a changing climate and extreme weather that will only come with more frequency and ferocity.”
“And we have to keep the faith in the capacity of the American people — to act, not deny, to lead, not scapegoat, and to care for each other and generations to come,” the Bidens concluded.
Hurricanes are not new to the Alabama Gulf Shore. Since 1852, at least 27 hurricanes have hit the state of Alabama gulf coast, with Katrina in 2005 being the most recent until Sally on Wednesday.
By comparison there were four hurricanes to strike the state between 1912 and 1917 and five between 1852 and 1860.
Democrats claim that President Donald Trump’s policies on climate change are having a negative effect on the planet and that a Biden administration would be better at reducing U.S. CO2 emissions.
Biden and Trump will be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
Plume site under downtown Montgomery removed from EPA superfund priority list
A toxic plume that formed underneath several blocks of downtown Montgomery is being removed from the EPA’s superfund priority list after years of cleanup efforts have reduced the threat to the public, the agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced on Wednesday.
Known as the Capital City Plume, the 50-block area of contaminated groundwater and soil covered much of downtown Montgomery and required millions of dollars in remediation costs. The city, county and a coalition of downtown businesses took control of the site in 2015, in an agreement with the EPA, and sped up cleanup efforts.
The site was first discovered in 1993 and the EPA took control shortly thereafter, but very little remediation occurred because the agency could not definitively identify businesses that were responsible for the contamination.
The city’s agreement with EPA put to rest the issue of responsibility and allowed for a shared responsibility that apparently resulted in faster cleanup.
“This is validation of all the hard work by many parties – city, county, state, federal and business entities – over many years to address and resolve a real environmental challenge,” said ADEM Director Lance LeFleur. “It couldn’t have happened without all the parties deciding we needed a plan to tackle the problem and agreeing to work together to carry it out. Now, this area of downtown Montgomery that has already seen significant redevelopment and reuse can blossom even more.”
The removal of the site from the National Priorities List should also remove burdensome and costly testing that hampered additional growth in many areas of downtown Montgomery.
“This announcement charts a path forward for our community and is essential to our vision for a stronger, more vibrant downtown core,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said. “We commend the collaboration and steady resolve of the Alliance, ADEM, the EPA and everyone involved in doing what is right for our city and our region. Moving forward, we are committed to continue building on this success as we expand economic opportunity and progress in Montgomery.”
The Downtown Alliance, as the collection of businesses, city, county and state government entities was known, was the brainchild of former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and attorneys negotiating with the EPA. At the time, it was a first-of-its-kind agreement.
Alabama Power extends summer pool on Lake Martin into fall
Last week, Alabama Power announced that it is extending the summer pool on Lake Martin into fall, allowing more boating and recreational opportunities than would be possible if the implementation of the winter drawdown began last Tuesday as scheduled.
Hydro Services manager Jim Crew said that the fall extension is granted because water is plentiful throughout the Tallapoosa and Coosa river basins and conditions are met at Alabama Power dams across the system.
Until Oct. 15, Lake Martin’s water level will remain at 491 feet mean sea level. After that date, the level gradually will be drawn down to 484 feet mean sea level by the third week of November. The seasonal drawdown has several advantages, the most important of which is flood prevention. The winter pool level provides storage space in the reservoir system for spring rains.
At the local level, the lower water allows repairs and improvements to docks that are underwater during the summer. The drawdown also allows more access to the lake bottom during winter cleanup efforts and assists in the control of some invasive weed species along the shoreline as well.
Alexander City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ed Collari said that extending the summer pool level offers economic benefits to Lake Martin communities that provide services to part-time lake residents and visitors.
“Economically, that’s great news for our community,” Collari said. “The increased lake levels will allow people to continue to enjoy the lake into the fall. We’ve seen already this year what having people here around the lake will do, as that’s reflected in our community sales tax levels. The higher water level will encourage people to spend more time in our communities.”
Alabama Power is licensed to operate Martin Dam and manage the reservoir. The license stipulates Sept. 1 as the drawdown commencement date unless four specific criteria are met, indicating that the system of reservoirs on the Tallapoosa and Coosa rivers contains enough water to maintain navigation levels downstream.
The conditional fall extension of the summer pool is new to the licensing terms for Lake Martin. It was not included in license terms of Alabama Power’s earlier licenses, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission added it to the license issued in December 2015 after the lake community overwhelmingly argued for it.
Analysis of data at that time indicated the fall extension could be expected to occur about once every four years; however, this is the third year since the license has been in effect the fall extension has been granted.
Rainfall has been far above average in the Lake Martin area this year. Normal precipitation for the period of January through August is just under 39 inches, but more than 54 inches of rain have fallen in the lake area so far, according to the National Weather Service.
Alabama Power representatives urge boaters to enjoy the extension of summer safely.
Individuals with boats and other water-related equipment and facilities should always be alert to changing conditions on Alabama Power reservoirs and be prepared to take the necessary steps to protect their properties.
Manmade lakes across Alabama provide fishing, boating and recreational opportunities to people across Alabama. It also provides habitat for wildlife including ducks, geese, turtles and many other water birds including seagulls.
The lakes provide plenty of cheap, renewable electric power through the hydro-electric dams Alabama Power operates while increasing shoreline habitat and flood control.
For more information about Alabama Power lakes, download the new Smart Lakes app or visit apcshorelines.com. You can call 800-525-3711 for lake condition updates.