2 years 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

Auburn dominates LSU, wins 48-11

This was the performance that everyone associated with Auburn football needed.

Head coach Gus Malzahn had lost three consecutive games to LSU, and Auburn fans would have been furious if this week was another loss to the Bayou Bengals. The Tigers’ players needed to win this game to build confidence and to give themselves an outside chance of competing for the SEC West division title.

Lastly, Auburn fans just needed something to feel good about, and a beatdown of LSU certainly goes a long way toward making that happen.

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On the field, it was as complete a team performance against an upper-echelon SEC team that Auburn has had, maybe since it defeated LSU 41-7 back in 2014. The Tigers’ defense was strong from the start as they forced two turnovers, four punts and even scored a touchdown in the first half when defensive back Christian Tutt returned a fumble 26 yards.

Auburn’s offense closed out the half with a 99-yard touchdown drive that demonstrated an attack the fans have been craving to see all season and put the Tigers up 21-0. Once Auburn scored on the first possession of the second half to go up 28-3, the game was over, even though there was still a little over 26 minutes left to play.

LSU’s offense was never able to get anything of consequence going against the Auburn defense, meanwhile, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix led Auburn to its highest scoring output of the year.

Take a look at three things that led to Auburn’s dominant 48-11 victory over LSU.

Turnovers
Auburn’s one turnover happened when standout receiver Seth Williams fumbled the ball out of the endzone as he was about to score, which gave LSU the ball back early in the game. Aside from that, the good Tigers protected the football and played a clean game. Quarterback Bo Nix played great and did not put the ball in jeopardy once on the day. The same thing can’t be said about the LSU Tigers.

LSU’s freshman quarterback TJ Finley started the game but didn’t finish it. After Finley had a very good first start of his career last week against South Caroline, he had a game that he would like to forget. Finley was eventually benched, but not before throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble while getting sacked.

The turnovers that Auburn’s defense forced in the first half directly led to the first 14 points of the game and bought time for the Auburn offense to find its footing. That is now two weeks in a row that Auburn has won the turnover margin and won the game.

Auburn won in the trenches
Auburn’s offensive line has been the most maligned position group from fans and media alike for the last few years. Some of that has been deserved, but the Tigers’ offensive line has turned in four straight performances that were good enough to win games. Today the line did a nice job of protecting Bo Nix against an LSU defense that led the SEC in sacks entering the game. Not only did they protect Nix, but the offensive line cleared the way for Auburn to rush for over 200 yards again.

On the other hand, Auburn has been known for strong defensive line units for decades. But, this year the defensive line has struggled to find consistent play with the absence of Auburn’s All-SEC defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. Against LSU, the 2020 Auburn defensive front completely shut down the opposition. The Tigers defensive line accrued three sacks, forced a fumble, came up with an interception and held LSU to under two yards per carry when the first teamers were on the field.

Auburn’s advantage up front on both sides of the ball was critical to the lopsided victory.

Bo Nix leads the way
It seems like Bo Nix and offensive coordinator Chad Morris are settling into an identity for the Tigers offense. Over the last couple of weeks the Tigers have focused the passing game on quick throws, often with some misdirection or play-action. This strategy allows Nix to quickly identify his targets and make throws that are low-risk. Nix is still trying to become more comfortable in drop back passing scenarios and throws down the field, but to his credit, he did connect on a deep shot with speedy receiver Anthony Schwartz for a 91-yard touchdown today. Hopefully, that can build Nix’s confidence and spur on the Tigers’ offense to new heights for the rest of the season.

However, the area that Nix impacts the game the most is with his legs. Today Bo Nix rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in addition to scrambles that avoid sacks and escape pressure. It seems that the Auburn quarterback wants to run, and the Tigers’ offensive staff is finding ways to use that desire constructively.

Today Bo Nix threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to the aforementioned damage he did on the ground. Nix’s incredibly productive and efficient day juxtaposed with the quarterback performance from LSU is what led to this game becoming a blowout in Auburn’s favor.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

5 hours ago

UA’s CrossingPoints receives $4M in grants to enhance education efforts

The University of Alabama’s CrossingPoints Transition Program has received two federal grants totaling more than $4 million to enhance education efforts for young adults who have intellectual disabilities and to assist special education teachers and rehab counselors.

“Our ability to provide excellent preparation of our students in order to improve outcomes in their desired adult goals of employment, independent living, community participation and, not to mention, have a great college experience while they are preparing for their futures, is something we have worked hard to achieve,” said Kagendo Mutua, director and co-founder of CrossingPoints. “We want our students to have an enviable life after college.”

The first award from the U.S Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education is a five-year grant totaling nearly $2.5 million that will allow CrossingPoints to expand and enhance the scope of its inclusive transition services and opportunities for accessing higher education by students with intellectual disabilities. CrossingPoints is one of six nationally recognized programs to receive this competitive funding for a second time.

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In addition to expanding services, the grant will allow CrossingPoints to significantly reduce the program fee for its Tier 3 program to $3,000 per semester. Peer institutions with similar programs have fees ranging from $9,000 to $15,000 per semester.

The project core team is Mutua, Amy Williamson, John Myrick and Jim Siders.

The second award from the Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services is a five-year grant totaling more than $1.5 million that will prepare teachers and vocational rehabilitation counselors to work with secondary/transition-age students with high-intensity needs within a model called Service, Teaching, Advocacy and Rehabilitation (STAR).

The goal of the STAR project is to recruit, train and place 30 master’s-level scholars in positions as special education teachers and vocational rehabilitation counselors to work with transition-age students with severe disabilities and evaluate the impact of an evidence-based approach to interdisciplinary training.

“The grant will make it possible for UA’s College of Education to support graduate students to earn a master’s degree in either special education, severe disabilities or vocational rehabilitation counseling,” said Mutua. “STAR scholars will receive full tuition funding through the grant, as well as a stipend to enable them to participate in an on-campus summer institute hosted in the CrossingPoints program.”

The project team for this grant is Mutua, Williamson and George Mugoya.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

State Sen. Elliott: Ivey prison proposal funding scheme prevents new facilities from being built at existing locations

All three of the locations named in Gov. Kay Ivey’s prison proposal in Bibb, Elmore and Escambia Counties have raised some local residents’ level of concern as some have said they were blindsided by the announcement.

While there are existing facilities in Bibb, Elmore and Escambia Counties, none of the proposed new facilities, which would be privately owned and leased by the State of Alabama for prisons to be operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), are adjacent to existing ADOC infrastructure.

The reason according to State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) is the private entities named by the Ivey administration to build the new facilities, Alabama Prison Transformation Partners and CoreCivic, can legally build on state-owned land, which has presented challenges.

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“I suspect the initial answer as to why we’re not building on state property is the nature of the administration’s funding scheme, and that is the private companies are going to own this facility,” he explained during an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show.’ “That means you can’t build it on state land. Right out of the gate, even if the state has land on existing prison facilities or near existing prison facilities, the state can’t simply give that to a private entity and build on. That’s not allowed. The scheme that is set up now to lease these prisons, for the state to lease these prisons, precludes building on state land. That means you’ve got to go out and buy additional land, and finding a track of that size in a lot of these areas close by has really proven difficult, and again negates new infrastructure, not just roads — sewer, water, power — everything that it takes to essentially build a small town, you know, when we start talking about the size of these facilities, you’ve got to start over. And that’s all being driven by the administration’s choice to go down this particular delivery method of these leasebacks instead of owning them and doing them ourselves.”

Elliott’s colleague State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) has previously expressed skepticism whether there was much the legislature could do given the timing of Ivey’s efforts. Elliott acknowledged that difficulty but said Ivey proceeding would have consequences.

“I think Senator Ward is likely right,” Elliott said. “But that is probably because of the timing here. The Governor has indicated they’re going to sign these deals and break ground prior to the legislature coming back into session in February. Well, if that’s the case, then the horse is out of the gate, and I don’t know that you can undo that, even with consensus among legislators. Now, if the Governor slows up a little bit — even just a few months — I think there is an opportunity to compare and contrast the delivery methods being offered here with some state funding as opposed to this long-term leaseback, this 30-plus year leaseback. And we talk about the devil being in the details — we haven’t seen the details of this contract, what it really looks like. There could be significant pushback on that. The problem is the administration seems to not be willing to release the details of the contract until — ready for this — after it is signed. That’s going to be interesting to see what we’ve gotten ourselves into with the administration signing the contract the legislature is going to be on the hook for without ever seeing the details of it. And if all of that happens like that, the legislature is not going to have an opportunity. The Governor is going to have beaten us to it, if you will, and probably done so at a significant cost to the taxpayers.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

8 hours ago

Historic storm cleanup: Alabama Power linemen working around the clock to restore service

Alabama Power now has more than 300,000 customers back online after Hurricane Zeta tore through the state, and lineman from Alabama and 19 other states and Canada continue their efforts to finish restoration of power.

The damage left behind from the historic storm, which left nearly one-third of all Alabama Power customers without service, is comparable to that of Hurricane Katrina and the April 27, 2011 tornadoes, according to the company.

“Since early Thursday morning, we’ve been working to restore service for customers affected by Hurricane Zeta,” Scott Moore, Alabama Power senior vice president of Power Delivery, told Yellowhammer News. “We’ve made significant progress and are working through some tough conditions due to the number of downed trees and extensive damage across our state. I’m proud of our team members and their commitment to serving our customers. During this challenging time we will not stop until our customers’ service is restored,”

Alabama Power expects to have service restored to 80% of its affected customers by noon on Sunday. More than 500,000 of its customers were without service, at one time.

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Past storms have seen Alabama deploy more than 1,500 team members across the state. Those same crews were joined this week by than 1,700 lineworkers and support personnel from outside the state.

Service to Lamar, Franklin, Winston, Barbour, Covington, Coffee, Geneva, Dale, Houston, Henry, Clayton and Russell counties has been fully restored, while restoration for customers in the hardest hit areas of Eastern, Central and Southwestern Alabama could extend into next week.

The company issued a statement on Friday apologizing to customers for some confusion surrounding information on power status for certain locations:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

9 hours ago

Study highlights link between depressive symptoms and stroke risk

People with multiple depressive symptoms have an increased risk for stroke, according to findings recently published in Neurology: Clinical Practice. The collaborative study led by investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama showed that individuals who scored higher on a test designed to measure depressive symptoms had a higher stroke risk than those with lower scores.

The study involved 9,529 Black and 14,516 white stroke-free participants, age 45 and older, enrolled in the UAB-led REGARDS study. REGARDS is a national, population-based longitudinal study designed to examine risk factors associated with racial and regional disparities in stroke incidence and mortality.

Depressive symptoms were assessed using the four-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, known as CES-D-4, administered during a baseline evaluation of each participant. The four-item scale evaluates a subset of symptoms and assesses how often respondents felt depressed, sad or lonely or had crying spells.

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There were 1,262 strokes over an average follow-up of nine years among the study cohort. Compared to participants with no depressive symptoms, participants with CES-D-4 scores of one to three had a 39 percent increased stroke risk after demographic adjustment. Participants with CES-D-4 scores of more than four experienced a 54 percent higher risk of stroke after demographic adjustment. There was no evidence of a differential effect by race.

“There are a number of well-known risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease; but we are beginning to understand that there are nontraditional risk factors as well, and having depressive symptoms looms high on that list,” said Virginia Howard, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the UAB School of Public Health and senior author of the paper. “These nontraditional risk factors need to be in the conversation about stroke prevention.”

One goal of the study was to see if depressive symptoms might help explain the increased risk that Black populations have for stroke, especially in the southern United States.

“The traditional risk factors don’t explain all the difference in stroke risk between races,” said Cassandra Ford, Ph.D., R.N., Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama and the study’s first author. “The results have been mixed among the few studies that enrolled Black participants and examined race and depressive symptoms in relation to stroke. Depression often goes undetected and undiagnosed in Black patients, who are frequently less likely to receive effective care and management. These findings suggest that further research needs to be conducted to explore nontraditional risk factors for stroke. The implications of our findings underscore the importance of assessing for this risk factor in both populations.”

The takeaway, according to Howard, is that medical professionals need to recognize that stroke risk from depressive factors is high.

“The standard questions asked in the typical physician/patient encounter need to be updated to include questions regarding depressive symptoms,” she said. “Physicians in primary care, internal medicine and geriatrics need to consider asking their patients about depressive symptoms.”

“As nurses, we care for the entire person,” Ford said. “When a patient has a particular condition, such as diabetes, hypertension or stroke, that is the focus of diagnosis and care. Our study provides support for considering nontraditional risk factors during patient assessment, particularly conducting some mental health screenings.”

The study was funded by grant No. U01 NS041588 co-funded by the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. Additional support was provided by the Deep South Resource Center for Minority Aging Research grant P30AG031054.

In addition to Ford and Howard, co-authors on the paper are Martha R. Crowther, Ph.D., University of Alabama; and Marquita S. Gray, MSPH, Virginia G. Wadley, Ph.D., and Michael G. Crowe, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham. Additional co-authors are Audrey L. Austin, Ph.D., Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center; LeaVonne Pulley, Ph.D., and Frederick Unverzagt, Ph.D., Indiana University School of Medicine; and Dawn O. Kleindorfer, M.D., and Brett M. Kissela, M.D., University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.

(Courtesy of UAB)