11 months ago

Mobile’s Three Mile Creek undergoing dramatic renovation

Once upon a time, a beautiful creek ran through the middle of the city of Mobile. Unfortunately, that creek was neglected during urbanization and the important waterway became an eyesore, not to mention a source of water-quality degradation.

Fortunately, the tide has turned, and the revitalization of the Three Mile Creek watershed has become a priority for a wide variety of citizens, environmental organizations, governmental organizations, the University of South Alabama and the City of Mobile.

Roberta Swann of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) met recently with project partners, including the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), to determine how best to spread the word about the lofty goals of the Three Mile Creek watershed improvement plan.

Those goals include:

Develop 10 miles of continuous greenway and restore natural channels and establish riparian buffers where possible

Determine Total Maximum Daily Loads, which is the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed in a body of water during water quality restoration

Improve the watershed’s water quality standards to “warm water fisheries” status. The current water quality is suitable for agriculture and industry only

Eliminate all known illicit sources of sewage

Reduce the amount of trash in the waterways by 75 percentMaintain flood protection

Install environmental education signage at current parks and proposed parks along the waterway

Control or eradicate invasive flora and fauna where possible

The event that gave all the project partners the impetus to continue occurred in 2011, according to Swann, with the “Clean Up the Bottom” event that invited citizens to help reduce the trash in the watershed.

“We had almost 400 people come out on a cold Saturday morning to help,” Swann said. “Some of the people had historical ties to the area, and about 80 percent of the people who showed up were African Americans.

“There was a lot of excitement. We got into kayaks to clean up One Mile Creek, and we got out into the neighborhoods. People came out onto their porches and asked for bags to help us clean up. It was a great experience frankly.”

With the enthusiasm from the community, MBNEP raised funds to perform a comprehensive watershed management plan. A successful project with the d’Olive Creek watershed in Baldwin County served as a template for the Three Mile Creek plan.

“When we do our watershed planning, it really is community involvement at the local level,” Swann said. “We have 16 community meetings throughout the watershed to find out what was good and bad about the watershed and its biggest challenges.”

The Three Mile Creek watershed plan was published in 2014 with the goal of establishing a trail along the creek from the University of South Alabama to the Mobile River as a key component to reconnect the communities along the waterway.

“What we found out during planning was that people just treated it like a stormwater ditch,” Swann said. “Very few people had any interest in engaging with the creek itself. We felt that was a calling for us to go out into the community and use our watershed plan to educate people on how a watershed functions, first of all, and how the trash aggregates at the bottom of the watershed. I think a key point of education was the trash came from all points along the watershed.”

Swann said the bottom third of the watershed is at sea level and inhabited by mostly low-income residents.

MBNEP enlisted the help of the MLK Redevelopment Corporation to conduct a leadership academy as well as hire a conservation corps of mostly young adults from the area to perform clean-up tasks.

“These were truly urban heroes,” Swann said. “They worked tirelessly. These were people who had never been on a kayak before who were kayaking a mile into the lower reaches of the creek to do invasive species management and trash clean-up. While that was going on, RESTORE grants were being made available. We worked with the City of Mobile to get a grant for the trail.”

Swann said the plan is so much more than the trail. It includes water quality restoration with drainage improvements all along Toulmin Springs Branch, the City of Mobile doing stormwater mapping, and addressing sediment issues in the upper watershed. It also includes opening the historic creek channel for a kayaking loop as well as the acquisition of the wetlands in the area where the creek flows into Mobile River.

“Three Mile Creek runs through the heart of Mobile,” said DCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “It touches so many neighborhoods and a large percentage of the population. Providing outdoor recreational access to all these people right where they live is so important to their quality of life. DCNR is proud to partner with many others to facilitate this restorative effort.”

During a short tour of access points and trail greenways last week, Rick Frederick, MBNEP Community Relations Manager, said the watershed improvements could have a significant impact on Mobile County.

“We want to get people out and show them how this project could revitalize Mobile’s ecotourism,” Frederick said. “This will provide a beautiful urban walkway, hiking, biking trail and canoe/kayak route right through the middle of the city. Once people start using it, they are going to want to take care of it.”

RESTORE funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement will be used to finish the greenway and trail, to restore Twelve Mile Creek for sediment load reduction, and to dredge Langan Park Lake. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants will be used to restore the historic Three Mile Creek channel.

“MAWSS (Mobile Area Water and Sewer System) has been a fantastic partner,” Swann said. “They have improved the sanitary sewers in the watershed with increased-size trunk lines and constructing a new storage tank. Also, the University of South Alabama has recently completed stormwater mitigation projects in the parking lots and has adopted low environmental impact development throughout the campus.”

Although $10 million has been approved for construction of the trail, Swann said the challenge has been to wait for the RESTORE money to actually materialize.

A kayak launch has been constructed at Tricentennial Park, where the 2019 Creek Fest celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 11. Creek Fest is a family-oriented event with live music, food and kayak rides at the park near Mobile Infirmary Hospital.

The City of Mobile will begin its next segment of trail construction in a few months to go with the mile of track that is already in use. Other projects that will be underway this year include construction on the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek to Langan Park Lake and Alabama Power working with MBNEP to install rain barrels in the Prichard area to mitigate stormwater runoff.

Swann said when the work is completed, the Mobile area will have a “transformational greenway along Three Mile Creek with a corridor that extends a mile on either side of the creek that brings community together around this environmental gem.”

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.

2 hours ago

Alabama workforce development program recognized as one of nation’s best, will now mentor other states

The National Governor’s Association on Thursday announced Alabama would be among a choice group of states that will mentor other states in work-based learning practices.

“Alabama is excited to participate as a mentor state in the third phase of the NGA’s work-based learning Policy Academy due to the remarkable results of our participation in Phase II of the Policy Academy,” said Governor Kay Ivey.

The five other mentor states in the program are Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington.

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The type of programs that will be worked on between Alabama and other states align with Ivey’s Success Plus initiative. Success Plus is a comprehensive effort to get Alabamians whatever post-high school education they need to be prepared for the workforce, no matter if that is a four-year degree, two-year degree or professional certification.

The specific aspects of Sucess Plus in which Alabama will mentor other states are the work-based learning such as apprenticeships and internships.

“This selection by the National Governors Association is a solid indication of Alabama’s commitment to increasing the state’s labor participation rate through the AlabamaWorks initiative,” said Ed Castile, deputy secretary for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Across the state, we are working with business and industry to expand our efforts in preparing a well-trained, high-skilled, quality workforce,” he added.

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

3 hours ago

How you can meet Jalen Hurts, other Senior Bowl players on Friday

MOBILE — With the Senior Bowl only one day away, Friday will feature a trio of free events for fans to attend in downtown Mobile.

These events follow the Senior Bowl Summit, which occurred Thursday night and was presented by Alabama Power Company and Regions Bank.

The first event for fans on Friday will be the Senior Bowl Experience, presented by Alabama Power. Hosted at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center, this 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. CT event will feature a bevy of games and activities for all ages.

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The Senior Bowl Experience will also include “Meet the Players,” presented by Coca-Cola.

“Tackle the obstacle course, time your 40yd dash, dance with NFL cheerleaders, take your picture with college mascots, and meet your favorite college all-stars from across the country at the Senior Bowl Experience inside the Mobile Convention Center,” the Senior Bowl wrote about the event.

The Senior Bowl stated that their clear bag policy will be in effect for the Senior Bowl Experience.

Following the Senior Bowl Experience will be the Senior Bowl Street Party and inaugural Mardi Gras Player Parade, presented by Wind Creek Casino and Austal USA. At 6:30 p.m., the parade will begin in front of the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel. You can view the route here.

“Downtown bars and restaurants will provide specials and craft cocktails reflecting Senior Bowl Week,” the Senior Bowl outlined. “Local High School Bands will lead our players (in their college jerseys), college mascots, local dignitaries, NFL cheerleaders, as we throw candy, beads, and footballs to the crowd.”

Finally, when the the Senior Bowl Street Party and inaugural Mardi Gras Player Parade ends at Cathedral Square, a free concert featuring The Revivalists will begin.

You can still get tickets for Saturday’s game, which is at 1:30 p.m. CT, here.

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

3 hours ago

7 Things: Trump loves Alabama, impeachment limps along, driver in Rod Bramblett’s death indicted for manslaughter and more …

7. Some seem to want paroles sped up

  • After it was found that the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles was not following its own rules, pardons were stopped and then slowed. Now, some lawmakers seem to want that process to speed up, but the current leader doesn’t seem so keen on that idea, even though it isn’t his role.
  • When Director Charlie Graddick spoke to lawmakers Thursday, Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) questioned the policy changes and the slowdown in paroles.

6. Alabama teen kills three family members and then goes to school

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  • Landon Hudson Durham, a 16-year-old high school student, has been charged with capital murder in the stabbing deaths of his mother and his own two 13-year-old twin brothers before going to school as if nothing happened.
  • The bodies were found on Tuesday by a family member, but Durham wasn’t found until Wednesday morning after a member of law enforcement saw him walking on a state road. He was taken into custody without incident.

5. Free stuff for everyone doesn’t appeal to everyone

  • U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has made headlines multiple times for her plan to cancel student debt up to $50,000 for those making less than $100,000 per year if she’s elected president, but she was recently confronted by a voter for her plan that would cause a lot of students to get “screwed.”
  • The voter described how his daughter is currently in college, and that she doesn’t have student loans because he saved up to pay for her college and he asked if he’d get a refund, but Warren replied, “Of course not.” The father then said, “So you’re going to pay for people who didn’t save any money and those of us who did the right thing get screwed?”

4. Trump’s pro-life coalition

  • Friday, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is planning to reveal a pro-life coalition. The “Pro-Life Voices for Trump” will be led by Marjorie Dannenfelser, who stated, “From appointing pro-life judges to defunding Planned Parenthood, President Trump’s track record demonstrates he’s the most pro-life President in history.”
  • Trump is aiming to make the pro-life movement a huge issue in his campaign as another way to rally voters and encourage people to vote in the 2020 election, focusing on his changes to the courts that could clear the way to overturn Roe v. Wade.

3. Teen in Bramblett case has been indicted

  • Johnston Edward Taylor, 16, has been indicted for manslaughter by a Lee County judge for the wreck that killed the Voice of the Auburn Tigers Rod Bramblett and his wife, Paula.
  • Taylor’s bond in the case was previously revoked after two additional speeding tickets and one for reckless driving. His arraignment is scheduled for January 31; his trial is set to start on May 4.

2. No one is watching impeachment — everyone is already decided

  • As the boring and unwatched impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate continues, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has brought even more absurd comments to the spotlight by claiming that President Donald Trump’s conduct “puts even President Nixon to shame.”
  • Even as the theatrical histrionics continue on the floor of the Senate, it is becoming increasingly clear that there will be no witness or documents added to the trial and that it will probably be over some time next week.

1. Trump vague about Alabama’s U.S. Senate race

  • President Donald Trump tweeted out polling stats from the Alabama Farmers Federation, which showed former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading at 35%, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville at 31%, U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) at 12%, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore at 8% and State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) at 1%.
  • While the polling data is about two months old, Trump added in the tweet, “I LOVE ALABAMA!” Sessions’ campaign manager Jon Jones said that this shows “Republican voters in Alabama solidly back Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate race.”

4 hours ago

State Rep. Terri Collins: Why I am endorsing Bradley Byrne for Senate

After considering all the candidates, I am endorsing Bradley Byrne in the Republican Primary for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat.

Over the years, I’ve worked with Bradley on a number of issues important to our state. I’ve also been able to get to know him on a more personal level, and he is exactly the type of person we need to represent us in the Senate.

Bradley is the Christian, conservative fighter that we need in Washington to protect our Alabama values. There are a number of very troubling issues right now that really strike at the core about what it means to be an American, and we need a strong senator like Bradley Byrne who will have our back and not back down from the fight.

Bradley has been under attack recently by the Democrats for speaking out and standing up for his faith and what he knows is right. I commend Bradley for not backing down when the going gets tough.

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This past legislative session, Alabama was in the national spotlight for standing up for what a majority of Alabamians know to be true: life starts at conception. I was proud to sponsor the Human Life Protection Act, which sets up a Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade and recognizes the sanctity of life. I appreciated Bradley’s support and encouragement as we went through the fight to pass the bill.

It was a fight, but Alabamians don’t back down from a challenge when the going gets tough. We fight for what we know is right. As a sixth-generation Alabamian, I know Bradley has that fighting spirit in his blood. We need Bradley in the Senate to fight for our rights, fight for the sanctity of life and to get us back to the foundational values that have made America so great.

Bradley has also been standing up for life in Congress. He is a pro-life champion who has consistently voted to protect the unborn, defund Planned Parenthood and make sure that all human life is protected. Bradley has a 100% record with National Right to Life and an A rating from Susan B. Anthony List, a leading pro-life organization.

Bradley and I want the same things for this state. We want Alabama to be a prosperous place to live, work and raise a family. Bradley understands and knows how to get the job done. On day one, he will be ready to go to work for Alabama, and I know he will serve our state well for many years.

I’ve seen Bradley go through fights before – just as we were in a fight over the pro-life bill last year – and I can say that no one is better prepared for the fight in the Senate than Bradley.

So, I encourage everyone to join me in voting for pro-life champion Byrne for U.S. Senate. He is the Christian, conservative fighter that will make Alabama proud.

Terri Collins is a state representative from Decatur

5 hours ago

NASA’s Space Launch System positioned for key testing phase

The rocket which will return Americans to the Moon is now in place for a key testing phase. Known as “Green Run,” this series of tests will examine many of the rocket’s systems together for the first time in preparation for launch.

Now secured to a test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the full Green Run for Space Launch System (SLS) will last about two months.

“This critical test series will demonstrate the rocket’s core stage propulsion system is ready for launch on missions to deep space,” Stennis director Rick Gilbrech said. “The countdown to this nation’s next great era of space exploration is moving ahead.”

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Developed by Boeing in Huntsville, and powered by four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines, SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built. It stands 212 feet high and 27.6 feet in diameter.

“Delivering the Space Launch System rocket core stage to Stennis for testing is an epic historical milestone,” said SLS stages manager Julie Bassler. “My team looks forward to bringing this flight hardware to life and conducting this vital test that will demonstrate the ability to provide 2 million pounds of thrust to send the Artemis I mission to space.”

The Green Run culminates with an eight-minute, full-duration hot fire of the stage’s four RS-25 engines to replicate the 2 million pounds of thrust required at launch.

Once the Green Run is complete, the next time the RS-25 engines fire up will be at launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Before the rocket arrived in Mississippi, Boeing SLS vice president and program manager John Shannon noted that the engine tests at Stennis will reveal even more information about the vehicle’s systems.

“The next big unknown for the program is when we put together the cryogenic liquids and oxygen tank and hydrogen tank and we look at the plumbing and all the systems and make sure they remain tight and perform as expected,” Shannon outlined. “We have high confidence that they will.”

Once the next round of tests concludes, the rockets are refurbished before the 10-12 day trip to Florida.

Shannon estimated that refurbishment will primarily involve inspections. He stated that in “a high vibration, high acoustic environment,” the question for team members becomes “did we break anything?” He cited thermal protection fixes as something that will need to be done because the fuel tank contracts when cold cryogenics are loaded in it, then expands again as it warms back up.

“By the time we take this vehicle to Kennedy Space Center it will be an extremely well-understood vehicle and we’ll have really high confidence in flying it,” Shannon concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia