2 months ago

‘Champion’ Richard Shelby secures potential funding to complete Mobile Harbor improvements

The U.S. Senate on Thursday gave final passage to a domestic appropriations package that will fund the government through the end of Fiscal Year 2020, with Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) once again delivering in a historic way for his home state.

Shelby, as the powerful chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, served as a lead negotiator on the funding measure, which represents compromise between the Senate and House as well as Republicans and Democrats.

While Shelby scored major victories for Alabama in both this funding measure and a companion defense package, one major achievement has flown under the radar until now.

Yellowhammer News has learned that funding that could complete the deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile is included in the domestic appropriations package – H.R. 1865. Specifically, the FY20 Energy and Water Development Bill includes a new regional dredge demonstration program for the Central Gulf Coast which will explore innovative ways of executing dredging in a logical and sequenced manner to seek efficiencies, cost savings and minimize disruptions to critical construction and maintenance dredging requirements across the nation.

H.R. 1865 passed the Senate on an overwhelmingly 71-23 vote. H.R. 1158, the national security funding measure, is expected to pass the Senate later Thursday.

The funding packages, which passed the House on a bipartisan basis earlier this week, will now go to President Donald Trump’s desk. He is expected to sign them.

While the Army Corps of Engineers will still have to allocate the funding in the work plan and award a contract for the dredging following H.R. 1865 being signed, the Port of Mobile is eligible for inclusion in this program. This significant funding would allow the Corps to complete the Port of Mobile project that Shelby has been championing for years.

Not only has Shelby tirelessly worked in Congress to secure federal funding, but he helped bring more in-state elected officials and stakeholders on board this spring. After his advocacy, Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) in March signed into law the Rebuild Alabama Act, a bipartisan measure overwhelmingly passed by the Alabama state legislature that allocates a small portion of state fuel tax proceeds to support approximately $150 million in bonds to meet the federal cost-share requirements for the harbor project. This also came after Shelby spearheaded federal legislation to passage that increased the federal government’s share of the funding from 50% to 75%, lowering the burden on the state.

“The deepening and the widening of the Port of Mobile is a once-in-a-lifetime economic development opportunity,” Shelby has said. “This project has the ability to transform Mobile and our state’s economy for the next one hundred years.”

In an interview with Yellowhammer News this week, Alabama State Port Authority director and CEO James K. “Jimmy” Lyons said, “We’re very thankful for everything Senator Shelby has done for us over the years. He’s a big, big advocate of Alabama, and he recognizes the value that a competitive seaport has for the state. He’s put his money where his mouth is — he’s been our biggest advocate.”

The Alabama State Port Authority represents the State of Alabama’s public, deep-water terminals serving general cargo, container, over-dimensional and bulk cargoes supporting over 134,600 jobs and $22.4 billion in economic impact to the state.

Status of the project

This fall, Lyons and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district commander Colonel Sebastien Joly signed the Mobile Harbor Pre-Construction, Engineering and Design Agreement. This came soon after the project, which will upgrade Mobile Harbor to accommodate larger vessels and improve transit efficiencies at Alabama’s only deep-water seaport, received federal authorization.

The engineering and design phase establishes the construction parameters to deepen and widen at the Port of Mobile, which is integral to the entire state’s economy.

Under the corps’ record of decision issued in early September, the project will deepen the existing bar, bay and river channels by five feet each to a project depth of 50 feet (15.24m), with additional depths for wave allowances, advanced maintenance and allowable over depth for dredging (total depths of 56, 54 and 54 feet, respectively).

The project also includes widening the bay channel by 100 feet (328.08m) for three nautical miles to accommodate two-way vessel traffic and other safety improvements.

Construction on the modifications is expected to begin in late 2020. However, to finish the project, the final slice of federal funding will still be needed.

Lyons explained the possibilities brought about by the Shelby-negotiated FY 2020 funding measures.

Of the new regional dredge demonstration program funding, Lyons advised, “There could be several ports that are eligible.”

“But we will be certainly one of those,” he continued, “and we think that we could compete very well considering where we are and the fact that we have a record of decision, we have a permit in hand, the engineering is underway. So, we’re about as shovel ready as you can be as far as a project of this nature is concerned. We think that we should be able to compete very well for it. There’s no guarantee, but we think we would be well-positioned to participate in that.”

Lyons added that there is “a number of other things” made available in the funding measures the Port of Mobile could take advantage of.

“There’s a lot of things in there for ports that of course Shelby had a lot to do with,” he noted, detailing funding under the EPA that could go towards more diesel emissions reductions for the Port Authority’s locomotives as well as general port infrastructure and maintenance dredging monies the Port Authority will be able to apply for.

“What Shelby’s done this year has been absolutely magnificent,” Lyons explained. “The whole port industry is really abuzz about the bills this year that relate to things that we do. And certainly here in Mobile, we’re well positioned to compete and take advantage of these opportunities.”

Growth begets growth

The Port of Mobile is now the 11th largest seaport in North America by overall tonnage and has been one of the fastest-growing in recent years.

Since its opening in 2008, Alabama’s container terminal at the Port of Mobile has been recognized for overall containerized cargo growth among North American ports, including fastest growth port in 2016, top-five fastest growth ports in 2017 and fastest growth import port in 2018.

Five container services now call at the Port of Mobile’s APM Terminals. The port handled 245,884 loaded TEU in the first nine months of this year, an incredible 32.7% increase over the same period last year, according to PIERS.

And this does not even account for the tremendous impact that the coal industry has on the Port of Mobile. The port’s McDuffie Coal Terminal generates approximately 50% of the total annual revenue earned by the Alabama State Port Authority for its overall operations at the port.

In 2018 alone, 11 million short tons of high-quality Alabama-mined met coal was exported to global steelmakers. This amounted to $2 billion worth of met coal being shipped out through the Port of Mobile last year – a dollar amount unprecedented in at least recent history.

Overall, the harbor improvement project is keeping pace with ongoing terminal investments in the Yellowhammer State’s seaport to ensure economies of scale and competitive rates for the seaport’s shippers.

The port authority will complete its $50 million, Phase 3 container terminal expansion in early 2020 delivering another 20 acres of handling yard and extending the dock to allow simultaneous berth of two Post-Panamax sized ships. The project complements prior investments totaling $450 million in marine and rail container intermodal facilities that include two Super Post-Panamax and two Post-Panamax ship to shore gantry cranes.

“The deepening and improvements to the harbor will help us be more competitive,” Lyons explained. “We should be the first port in the U.S. Gulf to get 50 feet of draft. It’s a significant thing for Alabama.”

The impact of the Port of Mobile and the harbor project is truly statewide, he outlined. From poultry farming to lumber and paper products to automotive manufacturing, important sectors across the state will reap the rewards.

‘The champion’

While Shelby has referred to the project as “a game-changer,” it has been Alabama’s senior senator helping make the port’s boon possible every step of the way.

Lyons was profuse in his praise for Shelby.

“Shelby has been one of our biggest champions,” Lyons underlined. “There’s a lot of things that have happened here that probably couldn’t have happened — or couldn’t have happened to [the same] scale — [without him]. Our container facility, our intermodal facility, he was the champion. I’ve been here for a little over 20 years, I’ve been working with him my entire time here. And he has been a steadfast champion and believer of the port and what the port does for the state of Alabama.”

In a statement after H.R. 1865 passed on Thursday, Shelby said, “This project is not only of great importance to me, but it will allow for more goods to be shipped and sold from our state, extending benefits throughout Alabama while creating more economic opportunities. I am exceptionally proud that funding is included in this appropriations package, and I look forward to the immeasurable impact this project will have on our state once completed.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

ALFA urges Alabamians to vote ‘Yes’ on Amendment One

The Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) is urging the citizens of Alabama to vote “Yes” on Amendment One when they go to the polls on March 3.

Amendment One would alter the governing body of Alabama’s public schools. The system Alabama has currently is a board of eight members that are elected by voters. Amendment One would create a board where each member is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

In the eyes of ALFA, “Amendment 1 provides voters a choice of keeping politicians in charge of the State School Board or replacing them with nine new commission members who are term limited.”

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As part of their support for the amendment, ALFA is joining other groups to fund the “Yes for the Best Education” campaign.

(ALFA/Contributed)

“Amendment 1 offers voters an opportunity to take the first step to improving public schools,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell, who is chairing the campaign.

He added, “Voters recognize that public K-12 schools are undeniably at the bottom of almost every national ranking. At the same time, instability has become the norm at the top of the Alabama State Department of Education, which has seen five state superintendents in the last four years.”

The push to move to an appointed school board was led in the Alabama Senate by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), with strong support from Governor Kay Ivey and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).

“Alabama is just one of seven states that still hold elections for State School Board. If Amendment 1 is approved by voters, local school boards will still control their districts and decision-making,” Parnell advised.

Recent polling from ALDailyNews showed Alabama voters are split on whether or not to approve Amendment One, with many still undecided.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

5 hours ago

Mooney for Senate endorsed by 10 state legislators

State Rep. Arnold Mooney’s (R-Indian Springs) campaign for the U.S. Senate has received an endorsement from 10 of his colleagues in the state legislature with less than two weeks to go before the primary election.

The endorsers include many of the most conservative members in the Alabama statehouse, like State Rep. Mike Holmes from the Montgomery area and State Rep. Tommy Hanes from Northeast Alabama.

The state-level endorsements fall in line with the prominent national conservatives who have endorsed Mooney previously. Conservative Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY), along with conservative television host Mark Levin, and Alabama’s own Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05) are among those who have thrown their support behind Mooney.

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The full list of state legislators, as follows:

  • Rep. Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals)
  • Rep. Danny Crawford (R-Athens)
  • Rep. Ritchie Whorton (R-Owens Cross Roads)
  • Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant)
  • Rep. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka)
  • Rep. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa)
  • Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville)
  • Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Florence)
  • Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Birmingham)
  • Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road)

In addition to those legislators, Mooney has gotten the personal endorsement of Eunie Smith, the president of the Eagle Forum. The Eagle Forum is a deeply conservative group with a strong presence in Alabama.

Many of Mooney’s coworkers in the state legislature called him a “friend” in their statements. They praised Mooney’s passion for conservative values, his commitment to pro-life policies and Christian values. The group of legislators that endorsed Mooney on Friday is viewed by many as having similarities to members of the Freedom Caucus in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Dan Roberts said in a statement, “Arnold Mooney is a true conservative and has the record to prove it. Over the years, I have witnessed Arnold stand up to the establishment in Montgomery, fight for the life of the unborn, and ensure that the voice of the people he represents are heard. Arnold is a family man, a true conservative, and a strong Christian. Alabama needs him in Washington.”

“Representative Arnold Mooney is a tremendous friend and colleague who is well suited and very capable of representing Alabama as a United States Senator. He is the true conservative in the race and has the record to prove it,” Rep. Andrew Sorrell advised.

Mooney’s supporters will be hoping the endorsements generate enthusiasm for a campaign that has lagged in recent polls.

Yellowhammer reported earlier Friday that Mooney has $350,626 cash on hand for the remainder of the election. Fundraising is one area where the Mooney campaign’s success has surprised many political observers. The candidate has consistently been able to pull in funds at a level that outpaces his relative standing in public polls, seemingly from small grassroots donations.

(FEC) Totals from the entire race up to Feb 12, 2020.

Mooney will compete at the ballot box on March 3 with former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

6 hours ago

Dale Jackson: Sessions is punching in all directions — that shows the status of the U.S. Senate race

The race for the United States Senate seat from Alabama has gotten pretty contentious this past week. The knives are out, and it’s about time.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made his presence felt by going after both Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Sessions joined WVNN on Thursday to highlight his concerns with the other major contenders for his old Senate seat.

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Sessions hit Byrne for abandoning the president only weeks before the general election against Hillary Clinton.

Sessions explained on “The Dale Jackson Show,” “Well it’s a huge mistake. It would have guaranteed the election to Hillary Clinton.”

Sessions wants voters to know that he was on stage with now-President Donald Trump wearing a red MAGA hat while “my own Congressman was saying he was unfit to be president and should resign.”

“That would have split the party and been a disaster of monumental proportions, so it is a big deal, I just have to say,” he added.

The attacks pointed towards Tuberville are far more pointed.

Sessions hammered him on his Florida residency, pointing out that Tuberville claimed his homestead exemption in Florida and has never voted in Alabama. He also pointed out that Tuberville did not donate a cent to the Trump campaign, while millions of average Americans did.

“He filed for homestead in Florida in 2018, and he hasn’t voted in Alabama. He voted in Florida in 2018, it appears. I’m not sure he even voted for President Trump, I’m not sure, he certainly didn’t give a contribution to the Trump campaign, he never once spoke out in favor of the Trump campaign. So, now he waltzes in tourist-like, I think it’s a fair word, to say now I want to be Alabama’s senator, and go up there and defend Alabama’s values.”

Sessions in the interview also hit Tuberville on immigration, vets and trade.

My takeaway:

These are all fair arguments. Tuberville filed his homestead exemption, which you file on your primary residence in Florida in 2018. He paid his taxes there. He lived there and admitted to me that he moved here to run for U.S. Senate because he knew his name ID in the state would work.

Tuberville did talk about amnesty for illegals.

Tuberville did say he was blaming Trump for veterans’ health care.

Tuberville did say Trump was putting a noose around the neck of farmers.

The attacks show that Sessions knows he is in a dogfight for his former seat. He is not walking away with this like many thought he would. Polls indicate he is in first or second, so as this race continues to heat up, look for more attacks on his opponents’ records from Jeff Sessions.

Listen:

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

7 hours ago

Mo Brooks, colleagues introduce bill to protect travelers with firearms

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05), along with 13 original cosponsors, introduced the Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act on Friday.

According to a press release, the Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act would “expand the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) ‘transport’ definition to include ‘staying in temporary lodging, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, or any other activity incidental to the transport.'”

In addition, the bill clarifies that the ability to transport a firearm also applies to  ammunition and  detachable magazines, which are essential to the function and purpose of a firearm.

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“‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’ means that Americans do not relinquish their Second Amendment Rights by simply traveling across state lines,” Brooks said. “All Americans have the constitutional right to self-defense whether they are at home or traveling.”

He added, “My bill, the Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act, would bar freedom-hating, anti-Second Amendment states and localities from prosecuting firearm-transporting travelers who are passing through on the way to their destination who engage in travel-related activities.”

The press release also noted that FOPA currently prohibits state prosecution of “persons traveling from one place to another for any state firearms offense if the traveler is merely passing through on the way to their destination as long as the firearm is transported in a locked container other than the vehicle glove compartment or console.”

“Despite FOPA protections, a disturbing trend has emerged wherein anti-Second Amendment states and localities increasingly seek to criminalize the possession of a firearm or ammunition,” the release stated. ” These freedom-hating jurisdictions continue to seek ways to prosecute travelers merely for the possession of an otherwise lawful firearm. This bill seeks to safeguard otherwise law-abiding gun owners traveling the country from overcriminalization by anti-Second Amendment states and localities.”

“Malicious state laws  unconstitutionally  criminalize  what would otherwise be considered  law-abiding activity  for the explicit purposes of making gun ownership, possession, and transportation more difficult,” said Aidan Johnston, GOA’s director of Federal Affairs. “The Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act complements the Second Amendment in its mission to protect Americans from governmental infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.”

Johnston added, “I hope every member of Congress supports this simple legislation that protects gun owners while they travel.”

Original cosponsors of the bill include Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36), Congressman Steve Watkins (KS-02), Congressman Steve King (IA-04), Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Congressman Greg Gianforte (MT-AL), Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Congressman Ted Yoho (FL-03), Congressman Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Congressman Jody Hice (GA-10), Congressman Ralph Norman (SC-05) and Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01).

Follow Kyle on Twitter @RealKyleMorris and Facebook.

8 hours ago

Auburn University announces A-Day kickoff time, ticket sales

Auburn University announced Thursday that its popular A-Day game, presented by Golden Flake, will kick-off at 1:00 p.m. CST at Jordan-Hare Stadium on April 11.

Tickets for the annual spring football game are on sale now through the Auburn Ticket Office for $5 to the general public and free for AU students who have an Auburn Ignited Card.

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Tickets for the event can be purchased here or in-person at the Auburn Ticket Office located at Auburn Arena from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

A press release for the event said a pre-game “Auburn Legends” flag football game will be held in Jordan-Hare Stadium with participating players being announced at a later date. A post-game autograph session will also be held after A-Day. Fans will be limited to one item per person.

A-Day Weekend will also feature the softball and men’s tennis teams competing at home. The softball team will host Ole Miss at Jane B. Moore Field on Friday, April 10 at 5:00 p.m. and on Saturday, April 11 at 4:00 p.m. In addition to the other events occurring, the Auburn men’s tennis team will host Arkansas on Friday, April 10 at 2:00 p.m. at the Yarbrough Tennis Center.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.