2 months ago

Alabama’s Bankhead Lock and Dam getting makeover

One of the state’s oldest dams now features an unusual site sure to draw spectators and photographers alike: an aboveground generating turbine.

The massive motor at Bankhead Lock and Dam on the Black Warrior River was lifted out in April and is on display on the road leading to the facility. And it’s not going anywhere.

“It was cheaper to put it off to the side and let it sit there than pay someone to haul it off,” said John Kirkland, Alabama Power’s Warrior River Hydro manager. “It’s pretty cool. I’ve seen a lot of people on bikes riding by taking pictures.”

A new turbine manufactured in York, Pennsylvania, is scheduled to arrive in February. But there’s more going on at Bankhead than just a new turbine. An extensive $17 million makeover will include a new control room, headgates, stop-logs, wicket gates (which let water flow into the turbine) and other improvements.

“It’s pretty much going to be a new operating unit,” Kirkland said.

Bankhead Lock and Dam, known by locals as simply “Lock 17,” straddles the Warrior River between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1915, it went into service a year after Alabama Power’s first hydro facility, Lay Dam.

Fast-forward 48 years when Alabama Power installed a one-turbine generating unit at Bankhead in 1963. It was replaced in 1997 by the turbine that was removed recently.

“It started vibrating badly, and we couldn’t figure out what it was,” Kirkland said. The result: The near-two-decades-old turbine hasn’t turned since 2015.

Unlike the one on display, which was assembled in sections, the new turbine, built by American Hydro, will be a one-piece solid unit, which Kirkland predicts will last 40 years.

Other improvements include:

–Trash racks that keep logs and river refuse from entering the turbine.
–Cooling water piping that supplies the generator coolers and equipment.
–Switchgear that is a combination of switches, fuses, circuit breakers and similar items to control and protect electrical
equipment.
–Motor control center for all motors in the plant.

In addition, 55-year-old asbestos-lined electrical cables will be replaced.

“The most difficult task for the project was developing the scope of work of things at Bankhead that needed to be included in the modernization effort,” Kirkland said. “It took a great team effort of multiple groups within Southern Company and Alabama Power working together to develop a crucial scope of work for the project.”

“This is a project we’ve wanted to do for a while,” said Herbie Johnson, Alabama Power’s Hydro general manager. “This will get Bankhead modernized and in place to run another 40 or 50 years.”

Bankhead is the northernmost – the 17th and final – lock and dam built by the Corps on the Warrior and Tombigbee rivers, providing navigation for barges between Birmingport and Mobile. Birmingport, 31 miles north of the dam, is an inland port for the Birmingham area.

Most, if not all, of the first 16 dams built from the late 1800s to 1915 along the Warrior and Tombigbee between Bankhead and Mobile were disassembled. The concrete locks were abandoned since they are on the riverbank and don’t impede navigation.

Lock 17 is unique, according to the Corps, in that the original spillway was incorporated into the current spillway. The original lock was then filled and a concrete dam built across its upstream end.

The facility is named for Jasper’s John Hollis Bankhead (1842-1920), a U.S. representative and senator from Alabama appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to the Inland Waterways Commission. Bankhead was a leading supporter of developing navigable waterways.

Bankhead Tunnel on U.S. Highway 98 under the Mobile River is named for him. His granddaughter, Tallulah Bankhead, was a movie and television star.

This story originally appeared in Alabama Power’s Shorelines.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Del Marsh files bill to give immunity for saving animals from hot car deaths

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) announced Tuesday that he has filed a bill that would give immunity to any person in Alabama who rescues an animal from a car if they believe that the life of that animal is at risk.

“This is a simple bill, but one that is critical especially as the weather begins to warm up here in Alabama,” Marsh said in a statement. “As I travel around my district and even across the state, I have heard from many people that this is an issue that is very important to them.”

If enacted, this bill, SB61, would only allow for immunity from prosecution if a person believes the life of the animal in a hot car is in danger and breaks into the car to rescue them. Before attempting the rescue, a person must contact police or animal control to inform them of the situation and remain at the scene until authorities arrive to investigate.

“This bill is to protect people who are doing the right thing and trying to rescue an animal whose life is in danger,” Marsh added.

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The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

RELATED: Marsh’s bill to help build Trump’s wall receives committee approval

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

16 hours ago

Del Marsh moves to end Common Core in Alabama

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) filed a bill Tuesday that would repeal Common Core in the Yellowhammer State.

In a video, Marsh explained his bold move, which had not been anticipated by state political observers.

He said the bill would “eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama.”

Marsh said, “In the past, I have let our [state] school board, who dictates education policy, have Common Core in place. But after ten years, the state of Alabama is 49th in math and 46th in reading. We can’t keep going in that direction. So today, I will introduce this bill and ask my colleagues to support it so we can eliminate Common Core and start a new direction for education in the state of Alabama.”

Watch:

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

17 hours ago

Poarch Band of Creek Indians: McClendon lottery not ‘clean’

MONTGOMERY — After State Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) Tuesday morning announced he was filing legislation to implement a lottery in Alabama, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) advised that they do not view the proposal as a “clean lottery.”

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In a statement to Yellowhammer News, the PCI’s division of governmental and public affairs outlined that they would support a “clean lottery bill,” but believe McClendon’s proposal would rob the people of Alabama of being able to properly vote on the lottery.

“We appreciate Sen. McClendon’s efforts to bring the question of whether the state should have a lottery to the forefront of this legislative session. However, the bill introduced today does not fit the definition of a ‘clean’ bill,” the PCI statement said. “It does not give citizens an opportunity to cast one vote on one issue — whether we should have a traditional lottery in our State. Instead, the bill is cluttered with provisions that will expand private gaming operations in a few parts of the state owned by a handful of individuals. It also demands that any vote on a lottery include a vote on video lottery terminals, which are also commonly known as ‘slot machines.'”

“We continue to support a truly ‘clean’ lottery bill that gives the citizens of Alabama the opportunity to decide a single issue — whether or not to have a lottery — by casting a single vote. The bill that was introduced today is not that,” the statement concluded.

PCI Tribal Chair Stephanie Bryan recently penned an op-ed advocating that the people of Alabama should be allowed to vote on a lottery-only proposal.

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

17 hours ago

Internet rebellion against Rebuild Alabama runs out of gas

If you are a consumer of social media, talk radio or the Internet in general, you probably have seen the anger the Rebuild Alabama gas tax increase stirred among your friends.

Claims that voters will remember this gas tax increase in 2020 may be true, but the politicians who voted “yes” are banking on two things: short memories and apathy.

As mentioned above, the next election cycle doesn’t kick off in earnest for almost three years, which is a long time in an era with a President Donald Trump re-election campaign sucking up all the air in the room and filling up your Uncle’s Facebook feed.

The apathy part is already in play. Sure, it’s easy to be mad, but what about action to “right the wrong?” That seems harder.

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Failed candidate for Alabama State House and businessman Tom Fredricks has launched a GoFundMe account to challenge the law’s Port of Mobile provision and to say that it is not working is an understatement.

This is important because the campaign has received tens of thousands of views, thousands of likes, engagements, retweets, favorites, comments and shares, but that has not translated into a financial success.

If supportive Internet comments had any financial value, this would be a different story.

But, alas, supportive Internet posts have no value and while the goal of the account is $100,000 dollars, as of the writing of this article, it has raised a grand total of $1,000.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

18 hours ago

Court: Alabama can’t keep its lethal injection method secret

A federal appeals court sided with news media organizations Monday in ruling that Alabama cannot keep its lethal injection protocol secret from the public.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected Alabama’s argument that its execution method is not a court record and thus should remain secret.

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“Judicial records provide grounds upon which a court relies in deciding cases, and thus the public has a valid interest in accessing these records to ensure the continued integrity and transparency of our governmental and judicial offices,” the court stated in its ruling.

At issue is what the court described as the botched execution of Doyle Hamm on Feb. 22, 2018.

The court said that after several failed attempts to insert a needle into his veins, the execution was called off as midnight approached.

The Associated Press and other news outlets then sought the state’s execution protocol and related records.

“Alabama is the most secretive state in the country with respect to its protocol,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

“The intense secrecy has obvious problems,” he said. “The Doyle Hamm case is one classic example of that because the difficulties in finding a vein all happen out of the view of the public.”

Representatives of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday’s decision, so it was not known whether they would appeal.

Alabama could ask the appeals court for reconsideration of the case, or appeal to the United States Supreme Court, Dunham said.

The state also could ask for a stay of Monday’s ruling as appeals play out, he said.

Monday’s decision upheld a federal judge’s ruling last year that the public has “a common law right of access” to the records.

In that May 2018 ruling, U.S. Judge Karon Bowdre decided that some information can remain secret in the interest of security, such as the names of low-level prison employees involved in executions.

Last year’s ruling found that the execution protocol and related records “clearly concern a matter of great public concern, i.e., how Alabama carries out its executions,” the appeals court wrote in Monday’s ruling.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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