Left ACLR Right ACLR

Sign up for Our Newsletter

* indicates required
10 months ago

Alabama working to become a top dive destination

Alabama already has the reputation as one of the best places in the nation to fish for saltwater species, especially red snapper.

Now, Alabama is striving to become one of the top destinations for divers to explore numerous wrecks, scuttled vessels and our state’s unparalleled artificial reef zones.

The latest efforts to increase the awareness for dive enthusiasts occurred last week when the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) scuttled a 102-foot tugboat, the Gladys B, in the Tatum-Winn North reef zone approximately 22 nautical miles south of Fort Morgan in 100 feet of water. The superstructure of the vessel is about 62 feet below the surface. The Gladys B was built in 1937 and donated to the MRD Artificial Reef Program by Steiner’s Shipyard from Bayou la Batre. The reef site coordinates are 29 53.635’N and 87 56.071’W.

On the same trip, MRD deployed approximately 200 concrete culvert pipes to enhance the old Tulsa wreck and the Radmore Pipe Number 1 site about 15 miles south of Dauphin Island and to create a new reef site about 25 miles south of Fort Morgan.

The next steps in the plans to provide habitat close to shore that may also attract dive enthusiasts from all over the U.S. will occur offshore and within yards of the Alabama shoreline.

The nearshore project includes circalittoral reefs, sometimes also called snorkeling reefs, that can be reached from the sandy beaches.

Craig Newton, MRD’s Artificial Reefs Program Coordinator, said bids were opened for the circalittoral reefs at three Gulf State Park beach access sites.

At those three sites, 166 reef modules will be deployed to provide habitat for a wide variety of marine life.

“We’re going to create four clusters of reef modules within the three circalittoral reef zones,” Newton said. “We anticipate we will have more activity at the Pavilion reef site, so we’re going to create two independent clusters of reefs at the Pavilion site. We will have one cluster of reefs at the Perdido site and one cluster of reefs at the Romar site.”

Walter Marine of Orange Beach won the contract to deploy the modules in the new zones, and that should happen sometime this year, Newton said.

“We were able to secure some more funds for this project and make it significantly larger than what the original grant proposal covered,” Newton said. “We are excited about that.”

Newton said the reefs, which will be about 475 feet from the shoreline, will be marked by large pilings on the beach. There will be no markers in the water. Signage on the beach will describe the project and include information on what marine life snorkelers might encounter on the reefs.

The offshore project will be the deployment of the New Venture, a 250-foot surveying vessel, which will be ready for final inspection by May 2018. Newton said the original plans included towing the vessel to Mobile to wait on a weather window to deploy the ship. Those plans have changed. Now the vessel will be towed to Venice, La. When the weather allows, the New Venture will be towed straight to the deployment site about 20 nautical miles south of Orange Beach in about 120 feet of water. The top of the superstructure will be 55 to 60 feet below the surface.

“We look to be about a month away from completing the deployment,” Newton said. “We had some engineering models on how the ship was going to sink. We had to add a couple of bulkheads within the interior of the ship to direct water to keep the ship stable as it’s going down. We want to do all we can to make sure the ship lands upright. We don’t want it to roll over.”

Creation of 15 acres of juvenile reef fish habitat is also scheduled. Limestone aggregate rocks from 8 pounds to 50 pounds in size will be deployed. Each reef site will be about an acre in size.

“The goal is to create habitat for juvenile reef fish,” Newton said. “We feel like there is a significant potential for production from this project. Hopefully, we can grow a few more reef fish. The juvenile habitat sites will go inside one of the 9-mile reef zones that were approved earlier this year. The timeline for this construction is about the same as the circalittoral reefs.

“We know we’re going to get some subsidence (sinking into the seafloor) with these rocks. But if we can get a decent amount of production from these reefs to offset the subsidence, then we feel like the project will be worth it.”

Marine Resources is also in the middle of an ongoing project to deploy 120 Super Reefs in the offshore reef zones. Two deployment trips have been made this year.

With all this reef activity progressing, the dive operators in Mobile and Baldwin counties hope to capitalize on this activity to increase awareness of the opportunities off the Alabama coast.

Several dive operators and tourism officials met recently at Orange Beach to work on a strategy to do just that.

In 2013, the dive business got a significant boost when The LuLu was deployed off the Alabama coast with much fanfare. Less than 24 hours later, divers swarmed the 271-foot vessel resting in about 110 feet of water.

“When we do something special, like this New Venture, the awareness and excitement starts all over again,” said Bud Howard of Down Under Dive Shop in Gulf Shores. “Just like when we sunk The LuLu. It was like ‘Wow.’

“With New Venture, we’ll get more advanced divers, technical divers and wreck divers. The interest in the New Venture has been burning my web page up.”

Down Under, which has a multi-passenger dive boat, has already made plans to dive the New Venture each Wednesday and Saturday, when weather allows, as soon as it is reefed.

Gary Emerson of Gary’s Gulf Divers in Orange Beach can carry six divers, the same capacity as Chas Broughton’s Underwater Works in Fairhope. Gulf Coast Divers in Mobile sells and rents equipment and refers divers to boat operators.

Emerson said an information campaign needs to be started to apprise boaters of Alabama’s dive-flag law, which requires a floating red-striped flag to be deployed in the area of the diving and snorkeling activity. Boaters are required to stay at least 100 feet away from the area marked by the dive flag.

The dive-shop owners expressed interest in adding more reefs in water no deeper than 60 feet to allow dive shops to offer more opportunities for new divers to gain certification. Certification dives are limited to depths no greater than 60 feet.

“We need locations with different depths to appeal to a wide range of divers,” Howard said. “We have people from all over the Midwest who come to Alabama because this is the closest place to them for diving opportunities. These people spend a lot of money when they’re here. I do think the snorkeling reefs are really going to help.”

Vince Lucido of the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation echoed that last sentiment.

“When the snorkeling reefs get opened, that will be awesome,” Lucido said. “We’ll have access right off the beach.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

A Story Worth Sharing: Alabama’s Red Tail Scholarship Foundation takes flight to help African-American students soar to new heights

If anyone knows hard work, it’s Torius Moore. A self-professed “small-town kid” from Attalla, Alabama, Moore is an undergraduate student and pilot triple-majoring in Aerospace Science Engineering, Physics and Mathematics at the historic Tuskegee University.

Moore is the first person to receive a scholarship from the Alabama based non-profit, The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation, and now, the program’s chief pilot.

The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation’s mission is to honor the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African Americans trained by the U.S military to participate in combat situations. Funded solely by private donations and operating with no administrative costs, the foundation honors their mission by providing scholarships, mentors and flight training resources to African American students pursuing careers in aviation.

338

According to Moore, “The scholarship foundation is revitalizing the historic, successful and gritty flight program from the 1940s. ”

He added, “For me, it is a change that is worth not just witnessing – but actually implementing.”

Not only does the foundation give back to their community, but they encourage their students to do so as well. In his role as the foundation’s chief pilot, Moore will teach members of the scholarship program to fly.

“I am always adamant about getting scholars in the airplane and in the skies where the Tuskegee Airmen used to fly. Let’s continue this tradition and uphold this legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen by creating more black pilots and transforming them into the new Tuskegee Airmen,” Moore said.

According to the foundation, only two percent of pilots in both commercial and military aviation are minorities, a statistic they are hoping to change, one student at a time.

Rich Peace, an accomplished military and commercial pilot, is a co-founder of the foundation and a mentor to many of the program’s students.

Peace says their organization is more than a traditional scholarship program.

“We’re going to teach you how to fly, we’re also going to provide guidance and mentorship beyond that,” Peace said.

Along with Torius, many other scholarship recipients have gone on to achieve success in the world of aviation. Since 2017, the non-profit has already awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships and training resources to 16 deserving students pursuing careers in aviation.

Peace says the foundation has had incredible growth over the last few years and is now facing a high demand from students hoping to become part of their program, which they hope to continue expanding.

“As leaders, not only do you have to lead the guys in this program, you have to develop them to do your job better than you can. That’s leadership,” Peace said.

To learn more or donate to the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation visit their website or email info@RedTailScholarshipFoundation.org

46 mins ago

Dothan City Schools to eliminate up to 70 jobs

An Alabama school system says it may eliminate nearly 70 jobs after decisions to close some schools in an effort to save money.

The Dothan Eagle reported Dothan City Schools expects to cut at least 47 staff members as part of the efforts.

104

Superintendent Phyllis Edwards said the decision to close four schools means there are fewer support positions needed.

The types of positions being eliminated include clerical assistants, secretaries, nurses, education aides and the child nutrition program staff.

Several other staffers may be switched to teaching positions. There are no plans to lay off current teachers.

Edwards says she will make a formal recommendation on the layoffs and transfers next month or in April.

She said the school system could save about $3 million with the cuts.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

Sign-up now for our daily newsletter and never miss another article from Yellowhammer News.

2 hours ago

Alabama prep star Maori Davenport drops suit against AHSAA

An Alabama high school basketball star who had been ruled ineligible dropped a lawsuit against the Alabama High School Athletic Association shortly after her senior season ended.

Pike County Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan dismissed the suit Wednesday at the request of Maori Davenport’s mother, Tara.

121

The Charles Henderson star had sued the AHSAA and director Steve Savarese after she was ruled ineligible for accepting a payment from USA Basketball.

She played for Team USA last summer and received an $857.20 stipend, which was repaid.

The judge ordered Davenport’s temporary reinstatement and the case was twice delayed, meaning the Rutgers signee was able to play the season’s final five weeks.

Charles Henderson was eliminated Wednesday at the Class 5A state regional.

Jim Williams, an attorney representing the AHSAA, says his side did not have a chance to file an objection and “we did not consent to the dismissal.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

 

Sign-up now for our daily newsletter and never miss another article from Yellowhammer News.

2 hours ago

7 Things: Mueller probe could be over, Byrne officially the first Republican in 2020 U.S. Senate race, Alabama law forces government to give newspapers money and more …

7. Hate crime hoaxer has been arrested and charged with “filing a false police report

— Reports out of Chicago don’t look good for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett as a grand jury has returned a felony indictment for what the Cook County district attorney believes was a fabricated hate crime to garner publicity. This is not the first time Smollett lied to the police. He pleaded no contest to providing false information to law enforcement after giving police a fake name in a 2017 DUI arrest.

6. Obama era regulations close a power plant; Alabama Power says employees will get new jobs

619

— Alabama Power Company announced the Gorgas Steam Plant in Walker County will shut down, because of mandates put in place by President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on April 15. Alabama Power has said all Plant Gorgas employees will keep their jobs and be transferred to other facilities. Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) called this an obvious outcome of the “War on Coal.” He stated, “This is just another example of the ‘War on Coal’ that was prevalent during the Obama Administration and how it deeply impacts rural communities with little concern for those who are hurt.”

5. The State Department says ISIS bride can’t come home to Alabama

— A former Hoover resident and thrice married ISIS bride has been informed that the United States would not welcome her back to the United States. President Donald Trump pushed for that decision and tweeted, “I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear she won’t be welcomed. “Ms. [Muthana] is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the U.S. She does not have any legal basis, no valid passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the U.S.,” Pompeo said.

4. White nationalist arrested with an arsenal and a hit list of Democrat politicians and journalists

— Christopher Paul Hasson, a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant, called for “focused violence” and was planning a mass terrorist attack to kill “almost every last person on earth” and “establish a white homeland.” His targets included MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Sen. Dick Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). He also had 15 firearms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. In court filings, the government said bluntly, “The defendant is a domestic terrorist.”

3. Alabama state law requires advertising in the local newspaper for various state and local entities, this means revenue for papers like the Democrat-Reporter

— A local newspaper embroiled in a racism controversy has benefitted for years from an Alabama law that predates the Internet and guarantees revenue for local newspapers. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) alone spent over $4,000 last year alone. This is only one agency of the state government and one small-town newspaper. It doesn’t factor in other government entities in the area that are required to do business with the newspaper. These laws represent millions of dollars for newspapers guaranteed by archaic state law.

2. It’s official: Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) is running for United State Senate

— Byrne announced his run at a Wintzell’s seafood restaurant in Mobile. Byrne referred to his potential future opponent U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) by criticizing his “radical policies.” Byrne also laid out the fight ahead, saying, “The fight for America’s future is too important to sit on the sidelines. I am running for the United States Senate to defend the values important to Alabama.” Jones responded to the news by hammering Byrne. “Given the results of his losing bid for Governor in 2010, in which he did not even win the Republican nomination, it’s hard to see why they would nominate a career politician like Bradley Byrne now,” Jones stated.

1. After almost two years, the Robert Mueller probe is coming to an end

— Attorney General Bill Barr could be ready to announce the end of FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and could submit a final report to Congress soon as well. These are the most obvious indications that the investigation is almost over. While it is unclear how much of the report will be made public, Barr has made it clear he plans to be “transparent” with Congress and the American people.

16 hours ago

Byrne first to officially declare run vs. Doug Jones – ‘Future is too important to sit on the sidelines’

Just down the street from where he grew up, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) announced Wednesday evening his candidacy for the United States Senate while surrounded by family, friends and supporters gathered at Wintzell’s Oyster House in beautiful downtown Mobile.

Byrne became the first candidate to officially announce a run against the incumbent from Mountain Brook, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). In doing so, Byrne made clear his campaign will focus on his record as a fighter for Alabama’s values, drawing a clear and direct contrast between his traditional Yellowhammer State roots and the “radical policies” being pushed by Jones’ Democratic Party.

In his announcement speech, Byrne emphasized, “The fight for America’s future is too important to sit on the sidelines. I am running for the United States Senate to defend the values important to Alabama.”

316

The congressman spoke about the “disconnect” between hardworking, everyday Alabamians and people stuck in the bubble of Washington, D.C.

Byrne urged attendees, “Look in Washington and tell me you don’t see people that have a vision that’s fundamentally at odds with what America is.”

“We need a Senator who will fight with President Trump to defend the Constitution, build the wall, stand up for the unborn, push for lower taxes, make health care more affordable and protect the Second Amendment,” he outlined. “I will fight every day to bring Alabama’s conservative values to Washington.”

Answering questions from reporters following the announcement, Byrne decried the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism and “[killing] babies as they’re delivered.”

He also warned voters that Democrats should be expected to try and interfere in the Republican primary through “fake news” and  manipulative social media efforts. This comes in the wake of revelations that “Project Birmingham” was orchestrated to aid Jones’ general election candidacy in 2017.

Byrne, a labor-employment attorney by trade, is the former chancellor of the state’s community college system and one-term member of the state senate. He has served southwest Alabama in Congress since January 2014.

The Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Alabama will be held March 3, 2020, with the general election to follow in November.

You can watch Byrne’s announcement speech and hear him answer questions from reporters afterwards here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn