Dec 17 2007

Shelby Announces Funding for South Alabama Commerce, Justice and Science Projects

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS), today announced funding for a number of important projects in South Alabama.  The funding is included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 and will soon be voted on in the House of Representatives.  The Senate will consider the bill following approval by the House of Representatives. 

“This legislation includes a number of important projects in Alabama and across the nation,” said Shelby.  “The Senate’s action on this bill reiterates our commitment to funding these projects and advancing important nationwide initiatives.”
The Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Departments of Commerce (DOC) and Justice (DOJ), among others.  

The University of South Alabama Engineering and Science Center - $30 Million

This facility will provide laboratory and research facilities for future engineers, scientists and researchers.  Additionally, it will provide laboratory and research space to facilitate the University’s support of local and regional industry.  The Engineering and Science Center will provide a state-of-the-art facility for this support.

“I believe very strongly in the need for Alabama’s colleges and universities to offer exemplary education in science and engineering,” said Shelby.  “The Mobile area has seen exceptional growth in the aerospace and medical research fields.  The expanding science and technology based industry in Mobile will only demand more university skilled workers for high paying jobs in the future.  The new Center will allow USA to prepare students for that workforce.”  

Center for Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management - $2.632 Million

The Center is currently under construction on the Campus of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.  Upon completion of the facility, researchers will begin to look at the health of the Gulf fisheries in a more comprehensive manner from the in-shore shallow water to the Outer Continental Shelf.

“Researchers at the new facility will focus on the issues and concerns associated with the Gulf of Mexico and its fisheries,” said Shelby.  “The Center’s location on Dauphin Island will provide increased opportunities for collaborative research between federal, state and university researchers.”

Oyster Bed Reseeding and Fishery Habitat Enhancement - $940,000

The University of South Alabama will continue to reseed oyster beds and enhance the habitat for fisheries throughout state and offshore waters.  The project will also focus on factors that adversely or beneficially affect oyster habitats in Alabama’s estuaries.

“The oyster industry is a staple of Alabama’s coastal economy and its impact is felt far beyond our state’s shores,” said Shelby.  “This legislation includes $940,000 to research innovative ways to grow and strengthen the Gulf oyster industry.  This research will play a large role in the industry’s success.”

Coastal Inland Hurricane Monitoring and Prediction Program - $611,000

This program at the University of South Alabama will seek to acquire the ability to predict the intensity and potential damage of hurricanes that affect the Gulf Coast.

“As we have seen, the Gulf Coast is particularly vulnerable to destruction caused by hurricanes,” said Shelby.  “This research will provide coastal communities a better picture of what to expect from tropical storms so that they can be better prepared for natural hazards.”

City of Orange Beach Fishing Mortality Education Program - $94,000

Recent changes in reef fish regulations, particularly red snapper, have occurred due to perceived overfishing of the resource.  The program will teach fishermen the proper technique to release undersized or unwanted catches in a manner that minimizes the risk of death.  Fish mortality from commercial and recreational fishermen has been cited as having a major impact on the health of the reef fish industry.

“Alabama’s fishing industry represents hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact for the state each year,” said Shelby, “We must do a better job of educating the fishing public on methods to reduce fish mortality in discarded fish.”

Maritime Museum - $470,000

The Maritime Museum will form a partnership with NOAA to develop educational activities and exhibits about NOAA’s activities and the Gulf.

“Important artifacts can be preserved and the general public will learn about the life hiding within the Gulf at the Maritime Museum,” said Shelby.  “The Museum will use this funding to create educational exhibits and programs about the ocean.”

Perdido Pass Navigation Assistance - $282,000

A NOAA buoy with real-time weather, current, tide and wave capabilities will be placed at the most optimal position off of Perdido Pass on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

“The fishing and recreational boating industries are essential to the economy of Alabama’s Gulf Coast,” said Shelby.  “This new buoy will allow Alabamians to have real-time information on sea and weather conditions before they even leave the docks.”

Coastal Weather Monitoring for Catastrophic Events - $258,500

The goal of the program is to provide coastal Alabama appropriate weather monitoring equipment to measure wind gusts, water surge and rainfall levels during a hurricane.  The University of South Alabama will place monitoring equipment along the Gulf Coast to provide a more detailed and complete understanding of the impact of the various factors within a hurricane.

“Storm surge and flooding are often the most damaging parts of hurricane landfall,” said Shelby.  “The University of South Alabama’s Coastal Weather Monitoring for Catastrophic Events project will use the funding for equipment to measure wind gusts, water surge and rainfall levels.  These tools will help residents of the Gulf Coast to better prepare for hurricanes.”

Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center - $11.060 Million

The NOAA Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center will allow NOAA to better prepare and respond to severe weather and coastal disaster-related events on the northern Gulf of Mexico.  The Center will house and consolidate regional National Ocean Service (NOS) Navigational Response Teams, NOS Response and Restoration units, NOS Damage Assessment and other appropriate NOAA programs or federal partners.

“We learned during Hurricane Katrina that coordination between agencies and across every level of government is critical,” said Shelby.  “NOAA will be able to consolidate its Gulf Region disaster efforts under one roof and better address the needs of affected communities following a disaster.”

University of Alabama Fisheries Infrastructure Project - $376,000

The Fisheries Infrastructure Investigation, Assessment and Improvement Project will develop critical systems for private and public sectors to use in the evaluation of infrastructure needs along the Gulf Coast.  The project will look at fisheries’ infrastructure considering all of the uses and impacts rather than only evaluating on a narrow set of criteria.  The intent is to provide policy makers, industry and the public at large with a more complete picture of the needs of the industry.

“The major infrastructure that supports our nation’s fishing industry is constantly under attack by the elements,” said Shelby.  “It is important that we have a comprehensive assessment of communities’ needs and the adjustment and improvements that are required, so that we may begin to develop new techniques and materials to extend the life of this critical infrastructure.”

Gulf Coast Exploreum - $235,000

The Gulf Coast Exploreum will stimulate and increase enrollment in engineering, mathematics and science at Alabama’s universities by instructing K-12 students in the fundamentals and application of these fields.

“The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center is an important regional science center providing interactive science exhibits and films dedicated to fostering science literacy,” said Shelby.  “This project will increase opportunities for local students to learn more about science through hands-on activities.”

Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) - $587.233 Million

The bill includes critical funding for the law enforcement community to upgrade technology, including in-car computers, cameras and communications systems.  The funding bolsters forensic capabilities and advances the practice of community policing nationwide.  The following grants will assist state and local law enforcement in their ability to protect and serve their communities.  The following projects were included in the Senate bill:

Baldwin County Commission for interoperable communications- $282,000
City of Daphne for wireless technology upgrades- $94,000
City of Foley for communications upgrades- $235,000
City of Gulf Shores for wireless communications upgrades- $164,000
COPS Nationwide Hiring Program- $20 million
“The COPS grant program aims to implement and enhance community policing,” said Shelby.  “COPS funding assists law enforcement agencies across the country meet an ever-increasing range of challenges. The $587.233 million provided in the bill will allow police and sheriffs’ departments throughout Alabama to take advantage of these grants and increase their enforcement efforts to become more efficient and effective.”            

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Programs - $383.513 Million

The bill provides funding for important at-risk youth programs and research.  The following grants will provide youth programs the resources necessary to respond to juvenile delinquency and support communities in their efforts to develop and implement prevention and intervention programs.  The following project was included in the Senate bill:

University of South Alabama for domestic violence reduction programs -$329,000
“We must continue to work with our nation’s young people to provide them with the tools and training they need to become productive citizens and contributing members of society,” said Shelby. 

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG) provides funding for law enforcement to implement programs that prevent and control crime based on their own needs.  The following area projects were included in the Senate bill:

Mobile County Commission for interoperable communications- $470,000
National Center for Victims of Crime for assistance and services to victims of crime- $470,000
Simon Wiesenthal Center for law enforcement sensitivity training for hate crimes and civil rights abuse investigations- $1.598 Million
A Child is Missing-Alabama to maintain and upgrade technology to assist authorities in locating missing children- $47,000

The following projects and programs in Alabama are slated to receive funds in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008:

Alabama Statewide Mapping and Height Modernization Project - $423,000

The state will use this funding to continue to plan and produce a high resolution and large scale geospatial database of Alabama. 

“Accurate, high resolution Geographic Information System mapping of Alabama will allow state and local agencies to develop better master plans for the area and, more importantly, prepare for emergencies within the state,” said Shelby.  “The project will allow emergency managers and community planners to utilize the most up-to-date maps available when developing evacuation plans, traffic patterns or community development.”

Alabama Drought Research Study - $752,000

This study is developing methods for industry, agriculture, municipalities and other users of surface water to store and access Alabama’s water resources for the best economic benefit.

“While Alabama has been blessed with an abundance of water resources, we have all seen during this summer’s drought that those resources are not unlimited or constant,” said Shelby.  “Many of Alabama’s research universities, led by researchers at UAH and Auburn, are studying a variety of methods and plans that will allow government, industry and farmers the ability to capture and retain water resources when they are abundant to insulate the state from the impacts of catastrophic drought. Considering our current severe drought status, I cannot think of a more appropriate project.”

Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center PREPARE Program - $470,000

The Planned Response Emergency Portal and Accessible Response Environment (PREPARE) program will work to establish, develop and operate a center and system for the interstate and intrastate accumulation, storage, retrieval, analysis and dissemination of vital information relating to crimes, criminals and criminal activity for the justice community.

“The integrated technology the PREPARE program provides will improve police officer response times, safety and access to court data,” said Shelby.  “The program will also improve the  foundation for partner agencies to share information to better track and manage offenders, respond to incidents and support mutual aid organizations at local, state and national levels.

Alabama District Attorney’s Association Drug and Gang Prevention and Prosecution Program - $1.692 Million

The program will seek to more comprehensively attack the growing drug problem in Alabama and its connections to gang activity through coordination between the Department of Public Safety and the Office of Prosecution Services.

“Increased drug use and gang activity represent an alarming trend,” said Shelby.  “By prosecuting gang and drug offenders, this program will deter Alabamians who may be considering joining a gang or participating in drug trafficking.”

Alabama District Attorney’s Association Computer Forensics Laboratory - $752,000

The Alabama District Attorneys Association has developed three regional computer forensics laboratories to investigate and prosecute all forms of computer crimes such as child pornography and solicitation, white collar crime and identity theft.  The labs are also used to search for evidence in many other cases, to educate officers in the preservation of digital evidence and to educate the public on internet safety.

“As technology expands, unfortunately, so do opportunities for criminals,” said Shelby.  “Thousands of crimes are committed over the internet each day.  As such, our law enforcement community must have the needed technology to track down and prosecute offenders.”

Alabama Department of Correction Electronic Training and Security Tools - $376,000

The Electronic Training and Security Tools (ETAST) project will continue an effort to develop interactive computer-based training for the Alabama Department of Corrections to satisfy requirements for new and recurring training.  The project will also convert paper architecture drawings into electronic images for the development of three-dimensional situational awareness and training for crisis response teams.

“ETAST will enable the Department of Corrections to provide training more efficiently and effectively,” said Shelby. “This project also will help increase the safety of both officers and inmates at Alabama’s prisons.”

Play by the Rules: Laws for Youth - $94,000

Play by the Rules has provided students in Alabama with a better understanding of the laws that govern society. Phase II of the program will be an effort to expand the program to other states.

“Research shows that law-related education can have a direct impact on a youth’s decisions to commit a crime when put in at-risk situations,” said Shelby. “I hope that Play by the Rules can have the same impact across the country as it has had here in Alabama.”

The following nationwide projects and programs are slated to receive funds in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008:

Child Sexual Predator Elimination Grant Program - $15.608 Million

Child Sexual Predator Elimination Grant Program is a new national initiative that will provide grants to state and local governments to locate, arrest and prosecute sexual predators.  These grants will enable state and local law enforcement entities to specifically focus on sexual predators who fail to register, sex offenders who prey upon children and those who engage in child sexual exploitation.  

“It is our obligation to protect our children against these crimes,” said Shelby.  “We must provide the necessary resources to protect our most vulnerable citizens- children- so they will not fall victim to these despicable acts.  I have long supported efforts to protect our children and strongly believe that this funding will go a long way to aid in the eradication of these horrible crimes.”

DNA Initiative and Forensic Sciences Funding - $171.072 Million

$152.272 million for DNA initiative

$18.8 million for Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants

Our nation’s forensic labs have a critical need to reduce backlogs in all areas, particularly in DNA.  This funding will help meet that need while providing the flexibility required for the men and women in the labs to determine their own priorities.

“Significant funding for forensic sciences as a whole is included in our bill, with $152.272 million specifically designated for the DNA initiative,” said Shelby.  “Also included is $18.8 million for the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants. State and local forensics labs use Coverdell grants to address a variety of needs within the forensic sciences, including DNA analysis.  The bill provides significant flexibility to allow state lab directors to use Coverdell dollars to address the pressing needs of their individual labs and make important decisions regarding the best use of federal resources, including DNA backlog reduction.”

Methamphetamine Enforcement and Clean-up - $61.187 Million

Nationwide, methamphetamine usage is on the rise.  Its use continues to poison our nation and the drug knows no boundaries of age, gender, class or race.  The production of methamphetamine is particularly detrimental to communities, as the materials used to create the drugs are extremely dangerous.

“Our bill includes $61.187 million for state and local law enforcement officials to combat methamphetamine production and distribution,” said Shelby.  “This program will also work to target drug hot spots and to remove and dispose of hazardous materials at clandestine methamphetamine labs.”

Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) - $130 Million

EPSCoR works with targeted states to help them become more competitive and improve the level of science education.    

“The bill provides EPSCoR with $130 million to assist states, including Alabama, with establishing partnerships with government, higher education and industry that will provide lasting improvements in their research infrastructure,” said Shelby.  “Science is rapidly expanding our understanding of the world around us and will lead to more technology and well paying jobs.  Our students must be armed with a solid science education to succeed later in life.”

Economic Development Administration - $280 Million

The Economic Development Administration works to empower communities recovering from economic distress by assisting them in developing their own revitalization strategies.  Many communities benefiting from EDA assistance have endured economic distress as a result of natural disasters, the closure of military installations and other Federal facilities and the depletion of natural resources.

“The Economic Development Administration provides grants to local governments and non-profit agencies for public works, planning and other projects designed to facilitate economic development,” said Shelby.  “Within these funds, $14.1 million is included for the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.”

JASON Project - $2.209 Million

The JASON Project provides educational and professional development programs geared to engage students in science, math and technology.  Students participating in the JASON Project are given opportunities to participate in authentic, multidisciplinary research directed by leading scientists.  For educators, online professional development courses in science, math and literacy provide them with the tools needed to present these subjects to their students in an engaging manner.

“The bill includes $2.209 million for the JASON Project,” said Shelby.  “These funds will be used to help introduce innovative instructional approaches and improve student and teacher learning outcomes in the fields of math and science in classrooms across the country.”