The Wire

  • The “October Surprise” in the governor’s race is something we heard about a year ago?


    If this is really the final push for Walt Maddox to get his campaign’s “Kay Ivey is sick” narrative into the news, they may want to try again.

    The Alabama Political Reporter published a “bombshell” is just a regurgitation of an old story. Their report includes comments from the former head of ALEA, Spencer Collier, who is currently suing former Governor Robert Bentley and is probably unhappy that Governor Ivey’s office has spent money defending Bentley because the law requires it.

    Again, we already heard all of this, from this same outlet, in 2017. Ivey denied it then, too, Collier was part of this denial.

  • Ivey’s doctor confirms the governor is in good health


    The primary care physician for Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday released a letter confirming the governor is in good health and refuting a report alleging that she had suffered a ministroke in April 2015.

    Dr. Brian Elrod of Montgomery, who has been Ivey’s doctor for “many years,” wrote that the governor had indeed been hospitalized at a conference in Colorado that month in 2015, however “extensive” tests conducted at the hospital “were all negative.” Additionally, Elrod himself examined Ivey the day after she was released from the hospital, saying that “I saw no evidence of a transient ischemic attack (ministroke).”

    More tests later that year, including an EKG and echocardiogram, were deemed “unremarkable” and “normal.” Then, a cardiologist visit in December 2015 “also showed no new concerns” and “her nuclear imaging study in January of 2016 was likewise unremarkable and suggested ‘a relatively low risk of cardiovascular events.’”

    Elrod added that he could not comment “on what condition may have led to her hospitalization in April of 2015,” but that the governor’s health since then “has remained good with no indication of increased cardiovascular risk.”

  • Three takeaways from latest statewide campaign fundraising reports


    The latest campaign finance reports for statewide candidates running in the November 6 general election were due on Monday, and the numbers revealed some clear storylines with voting to occur in less than three weeks time.

    The reports were the first “weekly” disclosures due in the lead up to the election, with the next ones being due on Monday, October 22. Generally, Republican dominance continued in the top contested races, with the exception being the race for Chief Justice.

    Here are the top three takeaways:

2 months ago

Shorelines app gets ‘smarter’ as it links you to Alabama lakes

(Alabama News Center)

Alabama Power has launched a new version of its Shorelines app called Smart Lakes, which offers new advanced interactive features designed to enhance the lake experience.

In addition to lake-specific information on water levels and generation schedules, the new Smart Lakes app offers users a one-stop source for all relevant lake data. The app features:


–An easier way to find the best fishing spots, restaurants and marinas via an enhanced map.
–Weather forecasts localized to the lake, including the highs and lows of the day.
–The ability to report invasive plants while on the water and around your home.
–The ability to request a lake shore permit.
–Control of your lake home’s smart thermostat from your fingertips. Set it to your comfort level before you arrive and save energy while you’re away.
–The latest news of what’s happening on Alabama Power’s lakes and rivers.
–An even more immersive view of the lake using augmented reality on newer smart phones.

The app also serves as a continuation of the company’s dedication to protecting natural resources while meeting the needs of lake goers and property owners.

“It’s so exciting to see how the Smart Lakes app has evolved into something even more useful to those enjoying our lakes,” said Herbie Johnson, Hydro general manager. “I work with many peer utilities and this is the first such comprehensive and interactive app I’ve seen. I know it will serve as a benchmark in the industry, and it is one that I’m proud to say Alabama Power offers.”

When the original app launched in 2014 along with a new website, its sole purpose was to provide customers who love Alabama Power lakes with needed information.

“This next evolution of the Shorelines app is more than a new name or look. Just as homes are becoming smarter, so are the recreational activities we enjoy. By offering more innovative features and tools, our customers can connect to the lake and their lake home – if they have one – in a way they haven’t been able to do before,” said Libby Romano, Alabama Power Digital Strategy and Engagement manager.

In addition to the Smart Lakes app, the multichannel Shorelines platform includes a quarterly magazine; a website, which is also mobile friendly; personalized email communication; social media; and a blog.

For years, the lakes information pages on the Alabama Power website have been among the company’s most visited, as people who live, work and play near the lakes have a vested interest in what is happening on their local lake. This demand for information led to the creation of the Shorelines platform.

“These are valuable tools for the people who live on or visit our lakes,” said Thomas St. John with Alabama Power Shoreline Management. “The first Shorelines app was a big leap forward in providing information people want in today’s on-the-go world. The updated Smart Lakes app goes even further and was designed to be a personal lake guide. It offers cutting-edge, interactive features to help you make the most of your time on the water.”

Since beginning work on Lay Dam in 1912, Alabama Power has played an important role in water management across the state. Today, the company manages 11 reservoirs, 14 hydroelectric dams, 3,500 miles of shoreline and nearly 120,000 acres of land on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior rivers.

The Smart Lakes app is a partnership between Alabama Power’s Hydro Operations, Corporate Real Estate, Environmental Affairs, Digital Strategy and Engagement and Public Relations departments.

The free app can be downloaded in Apple and Android stores, and current users are encouraged to update their version to unlock the new features.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama church ‘gathers at the river’ every summer for five decades

(W. Byrd/Shorelines)

Every summer for the past 50 years, people have gathered to worship Sundays on the banks of Lake Mitchell.

Back in the summer of ‘69, “River Church” started as a way to draw boaters and lake-goers to worship. The Rev. Johnnie Trobaugh got the idea after asking young people why they were missing church.

“It was all begun because Pastor Johnnie used to ask some of the young folks why they wouldn’t come to church in the summer, and they would say that they were on the river,” said Wes Kelley, co-pastor of Clanton First United Methodist Church. “He lived on the river as well and said, ‘All right, we are going to start having a service on my boathouse.’”


Kelley and his wife, Meghan, serve as co-pastors of Clanton FUMC, which organizes River Church as a community outreach each summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

From the roof of his boathouse, Trobaugh would share the good news. About 80 boats docked for the first service, complete with an old pump organ but no hymnals because everyone knew the songs.

“He was very consistent with it. He ran the service every summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” said Meghan Kelley. “That consistency made it a special tradition for the community that lives on Lake Mitchell.”

The service takes place at 8:30 in the relative coolness of the morning. A typical Sunday can see dozens of worshippers and the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays draw hundreds from across central Alabama.

“It’s a place where you can come in your flip-flops, or you can pull up with your boat. It reaches people who might not dress up and come to a traditional church service,” Wes Kelley said.

Each service includes music – “Shall We Gather at the River” is sung every Sunday without fail – and a sermon from a Clanton FUMC pastor.

Over the years, generations of families have come to the river for spiritual nourishment – literally baptized in the water of Lake Mitchell.

“It’s unique, but it’s more than just a novelty. River Church is a very spiritual experience for the people who come,” Meghan Kelley said. “It’s a time to reconnect with folks from around Clanton and Chilton County. It brings together family and friends around God and this beautiful part of creation.”

Though Trobaugh died in 2005, the service has continued. The Kelleys say that’s a testament to the volunteers who remain dedicated to Trobaugh’s ministry.

“Pastor Johnnie passed away, but in his memory, a pavilion was constructed at Higgins Ferry Park at the boat landing. That’s still where the River Church meets to this day,” Wes Kelley said. “Even though Clanton FUMC runs the service, it’s the volunteers and church members who make it happen.”

Since 1969, the service has never been canceled and goes on, rain or shine, every Sunday.

“We are very proud that we’ve never been rained out. We’ve been rained on but not rained out,” Meghan Kelley said. “They will not cancel for any reason.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Woodpecker species holding its own in Alabama

(Justin Averette / Alabama NewsCenter)

On the banks of the Coosa River, a federally endangered woodpecker continues to hold its own, with a little help from friends.

For more than 30 years, Alabama Power Company biologists have worked to protect and expand red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) populations on Lake Mitchell, which contains the largest population of RCWs on private property in the state.

The aptly-named woodpecker measures about 7 inches tall and is black and white except for the red streak males have along the side of their heads.


Each spring, Alabama Power partners with federal and state agencies to identify and track the bird through banding. In early May, biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife or the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will scale pine trees up to 30 feet to check on that year’s offspring.

The baby birds, just 6 to 9 days old, will be given a unique band of colored rings along their tiny legs.

“Their eyes are shut, and they are still pretty much featherless, but the size is about right where you can put bands on them,” said Eric Soehren, an ecologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “If you wait too long – you can go 10 or possibly 11 days – but by then their eyes have opened up, and it’s a lot harder to pull them out. There is a small window of time in which you want to target.”

The bands will allow scientists to track the birds over their lifetime. Some birds from Lake Mitchell have turned up more than 100 miles away.

The first survey of red-cockaded woodpeckers was conducted in 1985. After last year’s nesting season, 11 active clusters produced a total of 17 fledglings – nine males and eight females. That’s in addition to 31 adult birds, bringing the total population of RCWs in 2017 to 48.

In addition to tracking, Alabama Power assists the woodpecker by providing habitat for the species.

While most woodpeckers carve openings in dead trees, RCWs bore holes exclusively in mature, living pine trees. To give the birds more nesting habitat, Alabama Power carves openings in trees using chainsaws.

“At the end of the next season, we will look at the number of birds there and compare that to the number of tree cavities at each cluster. If the number of birds exceeds the number of cavities, then we will hire consultants to go out and install artificial cavities for the birds,” said Chad Fitch, a biologist with Alabama Power. “That way, all the birds will have a place to live.”

Alabama Power also helps keep the longleaf pine forests that woodpeckers depend on healthy with regular prescribed burning and tree thinning.

“The habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers really would not exist without thinning and prescribed burning at Lake Mitchell,” Fitch said. “We have prescribed burning at each cluster every other year or as needed to maintain an open, park-like area for RCW habitat.”

About the red-cockaded woodpecker

The red-cockaded woodpecker primarily feeds on ants, beetles, cockroaches, caterpillars, wood-boring insects, spiders and, occasionally, fruits or berries.

RCWs are a cooperative breeding species, which means some of the male birds from previous years will help take care of their half-siblings and future generations.

The nesting season runs from April to June and breeding females typically lay three to four eggs each season. Group members incubate eggs for 10 to 11 days. Once hatched, nestlings remain in the tree cavity for 26 to 28 days.

Upon fledging, the young often remain with the parents, forming clusters with three to four members. Groups can grow to as large as 10 birds; however, there is only one breeding pair within each cluster.

The “helpers” are all male as juvenile females generally leave the cluster before the next breeding season in search of solitary male groups.

The main predator of RCW nests is rat snakes. To combat these predators, the birds keep sap flowing from the pine trees as a defense mechanism.

The red-cockaded woodpecker plays a vital role in Southern pine forests. Several other animals, such as nuthatches, bluebirds, bees, wasps and other woodpeckers, use cavities excavated by RCWs.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)