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Governor announces National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Projects in Alabama

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded nearly $26 million from its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to four new projects in the state of Alabama.

Brandon Moseley

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A beach on Dauphin Island.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced that the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation recently awarded nearly $26 million from its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to four new projects in the state of Alabama.

“These projects represent a continuation of Alabama’s coastal recovery from the 2010 BP Oil Spill,” Ivey said. “They will restore some of what was damaged, while at the same time making our coastal communities more resilient. I thank our partners at NFWF and ADCNR for their continued diligence in leading this effort.”

The projects, developed in consultation with state and federal resource agencies, are designed to remedy harm and reduce the risk of future harm to natural resources that were affected by the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Alabama projects address high-priority conservation needs including the protection of important habitats.

The NFWF created the GEBF in 2013 to receive and administer funds resulting from remedial orders in plea agreements between the U.S. Department of Justice and BP and Transocean.

The number of awards from the GEBF in the state of Alabama now stands at 38, with a total value of nearly $241 million. All projects were selected for funding following extensive consultation with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship highlighted the importance of the Dauphin Island Causeway Shoreline and Habitat Protection Project.

“This is a strong slate of projects,” Blankenship said. “Among them, the Dauphin Island Causeway project is an example of multiple agencies working together to restore Alabama coastal habitat and at the same time create resiliency in our coastal community. Mobile County, with support from Mobile Bay NEP, is doing an excellent job leading this project. ADCNR is pleased and excited with this team effort making the most of this opportunity to protect and manage Alabama’s natural resources. We are appreciative of the work to implement all these valuable projects for the betterment of Coastal Alabama.”

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The governor’s office and ADCNR provided detailed descriptions of the projects being funded.

$5,100,000 for the Bon Secour River Headwaters Restoration – Phase II: This award supports the implementation phase of an effort to improve approximately one mile of streambank and construct a 70-acre wetland system designed to treat urban runoff that is adversely affecting downstream fisheries. The constructed wetlands will address nutrient, sediment and debris flow to improve water quality in the lower Bon Secour River and Bon Secour Bay. 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. This project addresses the top priority identified in the previously funded Bon Secour Watershed Management Plan. Specifically, the plan identifies the need to address urban runoff from the city of Foley as one of the top priority activities for restoring watershed health.

$500,000 for the Wolf Creek Headwaters Restoration – Phase I: This project will complete the engineering and design phase of a project to improve water quality within the Wolf Creek headwaters. This project area is the largest source of artificially high sediment runoff to Wolf Bay, an Outstanding Alabama Water. The project would consist of approximately 7,000 linear feet of stream restoration/stabilization, 36 acres of riparian wetland restoration, and a constructed wetland with floodplain enhancement encompassing the major headwaters of Wolf Creek. The headwaters restoration, stabilization, floodplain and wetland enhancement will reduce pollutant and stormwater impacts to Wolf Bay from increased stormwater runoff that is the result of rapid development of the city of Foley over the past two decades. Increased floodplain functionality during storm events will facilitate improved hydrologic function and prevent the harmful effects of future erosion within the watershed.

$1,400,000 for the Dauphin Island East End Beach and Dune Restoration: This project will complete engineering, design and permitting for the restoration of nearly a mile of beach and dune habitat on the east end of Dauphin Island, a 14-mile long barrier island off the coast of Mobile County. The initial project concept is to place an estimated 1.2 million cubic yards of sand along 4,800 feet of shoreline to restore 35 acres of beach and dune habitat. Additional measures, such as planting and sand fencing, would be included as appropriate to assist in retaining sand on the restored beach and dune system. In 2016, the Town completed the first phase of this priority beach restoration project using Coastal Impact Assistance Program funds.

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$18,970,000 for the Dauphin Island Causeway Shoreline and Habitat Restoration Project – Phase II: This project will design and install breakwater and create intertidal marsh habitat while providing protection against future erosion and storm damage. In April 2020 Phase I of this project, a $9,392,000 award, was funded award under GEBF to create and protect important coastal habitat, reducing vulnerability of the only access route between south Mobile County and Dauphin Island. Project activities will be co-funded through NFWF’s Emergency Coastal Resilience Fund which was funded under the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019 (P.L. 116-20), allowing grants to be awarded through a partnership between NFWF and NOAA. Senator Richard Shelby was instrumental in the passage of this critical funding legislation. The Emergency Coastal Resilience Fund will provide an additional $4.9 million toward the Dauphin Island Causeway Shoreline and Habitat Restoration Project.

More information on coastal restoration projects in Alabama from all Deepwater Horizon funding sources is available here.

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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Health

Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels

Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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UAB Chief of Hospital Medicine Dr. Kierstin Kennedy.

Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19. 

The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192. 

Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.

The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.” 

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Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.” 

“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.” 

The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.

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As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.

ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.

ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.

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Corruption

Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence

The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was booked into jail to begin serving his four-year sentence for ethics violations in September. (VIA LEE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER)

Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two. 

Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.

Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”   

Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.” 

“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.

Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months. 

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.

“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law.  Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”

Hubbard was booked into the Lee County Jail on Sept. 11, more than four years after his conviction. On Nov. 5 he was taken into custody by the Department of Corrections.

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News

Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”

It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.

Eddie Burkhalter

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University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday. 

“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.” 

Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game. 

It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.

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National

Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83

The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

Brandon Moseley

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Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton

Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”

Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.

Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.

The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.

While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.

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Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”

His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.

This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

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