2 weeks 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.

18 mins ago

Marsh’s bill to help build Trump’s wall passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’ bill (R-Anniston) that would voluntarily allow a taxpayer to divert a portion or all of their own state income tax refund to We Build the Wall, Inc. passed the Senate by a vote of 23-6 on Thursday afternoon, overcoming an organized Democrat filibuster.

The bill, SB 22, now is set for a first reading in the House, which can take up the legislation after the legislature’s spring break next week.

“I thank the Senate for their support on this matter and I look forward to working with the House to give Alabamians a voice and are able to express their desire to support President Trump and stronger border security,” Marsh said in a statement.

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After Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) started a filibuster Wednesday, Marsh carried the bill over.

On Thursday, the bill was named to the Senate special order calendar and was again filibustered when it came up, this time with multiple Democrat senators joining in the effort. Republicans, seeing the filibuster was set to continue for hours, successfully adopted a cloture petition to end the filibuster so the Democrats would not continue blocking the chamber from conducting business.

“People I talk to across Alabama are sick and tired of politicians in Washington D.C. talking and nothing being done about the crisis on our borders. This bill is about sending a message to Washington that we support President Trump and his mission to secure our southern border,” Marsh advised.

He added, “Alabamians overwhelming favor securing our borders, protecting our citizens and their jobs and supporting President Trump. This bill simply allows citizens, if they choose, to send a message that they want to see our borders secured by sending a portion of their tax refund to donate to build the wall.”

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

BONEFROG, ‘The world’s only Navy SEAL obstacle course race’ heads to Alabama this Saturday

Do you love anything military, obstacle course or NASCAR racing-related? If so, you’ll want to head down to Talladega Superspeedway this Saturday for BONEFROG. With obstacles placed every quarter mile, BONEFROG is sure to test even the most seasoned athletes.

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Brian Carney, CEO and Founder of BONEFROG, said the race is designed to push racers past their limits and see that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

“We try to replicate the same type of obstacles we trained on in SEAL training but on a smaller and safer scale,” said Carney. “With BONEFROG you can feel the military authenticity throughout the entire event and especially throughout the course.”

This year, the race will offer several options: the 3-mile Sprint, 6-mile Challenge, 9-mile TIER-1, 8 Hour Endurance and the all-new 18+ mile TRIDENT.

For those with children, BONEFROG will also offer quarter and half-mile courses with scaled down obstacles.

Set up at Alabama’s historic Talladega Speedway, Carney says the Alabama BONEFROG race isn’t one to miss.

“There’s so much history here and we utilize every inch of the speedway to make this race stand out from any other. If you’re coming to BONEFROG to race then Talladega tops them all in that department,” Carney said.

At BONEFROG racers can expect not only to be challenged but inspired. Carney says he will never forget watching Alabama veteran, and former Dancing with the Stars contestant Noah Galloway complete the race’s Black OP’s obstacle.

“For those who don’t know, Noah’s an army vet who lost an arm and a leg in combat. To see him on the monkey bars in front of our massive American Flag taking on one of our toughest obstacles just sent chills through my body,” Carney said.

Carney continued, saying that moment continues to linger in his memory.

“To say it was inspirational would be a massive understatement. It’s stayed with me ever since and pushed me and my entire team to always strive to put on the best events we possibly can because our racers deserve just that.”

With 20,000 to 30,000 racers expected to participate in this year’s BONEFROG races, it’s safe to say popularity is unmatched.

More than just a fun and challenging race, BONEFROG partners with nonprofits, like the Navy SEAL Foundation, to give back. Carney said the company has raised over $200,000 for charity to date.

If you’re ready to test your limits and join the race, there’s still time. To register or to learn more about the company, visit the BONEFROG website at www.bonefrogchallenge.com

3 hours ago

Marsh: State will see infrastructure improvements within months

For more than a year, state lawmakers have conducted meetings with different groups about Alabama’s infrastructure needs, along with the use of recent university research to help back up a gas tax increase that would raise about $350 million for critical infrastructure projects.

The result – the Rebuild Alabama Act, which took only a five-day legislative session to pass.

“The reason it only took five days is because this had been a methodical process – we met with anyone who had anything to do with infrastructure, from city and county officials, ALDOT, asphalt and concrete groups, the docks – and the meetings were open to all who wanted to attend,” said Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston). “We were looking at our needs 20 years down the road as well. We also looked at studies from the University of Alabama and Auburn University to get the facts. The facts were known.”

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The Rebuild Alabama Act raises the tax per gallon by six cents beginning in September, with two cents more added in October 2020 and in October 2021 that will result in a total of 10 cents more per gallon. The gas tax was last raised in 1992. Every two years, the tax could go up by another cent without legislative approval because of a perpetual indexation. Even so, officials said it is likely that will not happen.

“Had we been using the index – the National Highway Construction Cost Index – for the past 16 years, the tax would actually have gone up a total of about a penny,” Marsh added. “We are still competitive with all our neighboring states, we still have the lowest tax burden in the nation, average median incomes are up 20 percent, yet we are going to have a major investment in our infrastructure.”

The average Alabamian will pay about $200 a year as a result of the increase.

“People have to pay $100 a month for cell phone service and other things, and they will pay only about $200 a year for this,” explained Marsh. “That is cheap, especially for all we will get in infrastructure improvements.”

So, when will they begin to reap the benefits?

“You will begin to see the benefits in about six months,” Marsh said. “This bill also allows for more accountability – it makes sure ALDOT is accountable for each project, and people will be able to see what is being done and how the money is spent.”

The bill allows for a more competitive bidding process between asphalt and concrete, whereas before the state has chosen one kind of road surface based only on the upfront cost rather than long-term sustainment. The law will provide money to deepen and widen the federal channel at the Alabama State Docks to allow for larger ships to travel to the port. There also is a system for the money to be distributed to cities and counties.

Lori Chandler Pruitt is a journalist whose contribution is made possible by a grant from the Alabama Alliance for Infrastructure

4 hours ago

Alabama legislature honors Mike Spann, opposes releasing of ‘American Taliban’ responsible for his murder

MONTGOMERY — Both chambers of the Alabama legislature on Thursday passed a joint resolution honoring Winfield native Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, who was the first American known to be killed in “The War on Terror” in Afghanistan after 9/11.

The resolution also condemns the early release of John Walker Lindh, commonly known as the “American Taliban,” who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2002 but is now set to be released from a federal penitentiary on May 23.

Spann’s mother, Gail, was present at the State House on Thursday, escorted by her local state representative, Tracy Estes (R-Winfield), and state senator, Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia). She delivered a powerful speech on both the Senate and House floors, speaking to members of the press in between. Estes added that he thinks Lindh should have been executed for his crimes.

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Gail Spann speaking on the Senate floor (S.Ross/YHN)

Gail believes that Lindh bears responsibility for the death of her son, who was killed in the line of duty during a prison riot at Mazar-e Sharif. The charges originally filed against Lindh included a murder conspiracy role in the slaying of Americans, including Spann, in an uprising at this Afghan prison where Lindh and others had been sent after their capture.

Gail explained that Spann interviewed Lindh shortly before the riot broke out, and that Lindh did not warn him that the prisoners had weapons and were primed to attack both him and another American operative, as well as allied guards.

“I want him to spend the rest of the three years [his remaining sentence time]. I do not want him out,” she said, adding, “I would [ideally] like him to spend the rest of his life in prison, but that’s not possible.”

“He could have saved my son’s life, he knew [of the weapons and prisoners’ plan] and Mike had brought him out because he thought he was a prisoner [being held wrongly] and he was going to save John Walker Lindh’s life. John Walker Lindh had the opportunity to tell Mike right there… he chose not to because he was working [with them], he was a Taliban [member]. He’s a traitor to our country,” Gail advised.

Despite the odds, Spann managed to kill seven terrorists before being overrun by the rioting masses. He was executed “cowardly” shortly after, as the Alabama legislature’s resolution explains.

The resolution said Lindh’s release is an affront to American values and everyone who has ever served under the nation’s flag.

Spann’s mother also warned that Lindh is still a threat to Americans domestically and abroad if allowed to go free.

She described the level of support she and her family have received from state and federal government officials – as well as the citizens of Alabama – since Spann’s death as “amazing.”

“America’s the greatest country in the world,” Gail emphasized.

Spann was also an Auburn University graduate and Marine Corps captain when he joined the CIA as a paramilitary officer. He was a father of three at the time of his death at age 32.

Gail explained that now-CIA Director Gina Haspel had served as Spann’s partner on many occasions.

The two women spoke recently, and Gail shared an emotional moment from that visit.

“When I went last year to her first [appearance as director], she said, ‘You know [Spann] would have been director now instead of me if he had been here.’ That’s how good of an agent that he was,” Gail outlined. “They loved him. They still love him. They honor him all the time.”

You can read more about his life and heroism here.

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

Leaders deliver results for a stronger Alabama

Thank you to the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate for your bi-partisan support of the Rebuild Alabama Plan. Because of your leadership, this historical effort will result in safer roads, thousands of new jobs, and a stronger Alabama.  Finally, it’s time to #RebuildAL.

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