Week of travel in the district includes several stops

Published 5:53 pm Friday, April 14, 2006

By Staff
This past week Congress was in recess for the Easter break. The brief break from Washington, D.C. afforded me time to travel to three of the counties in my district.
I started the week in Baldwin County and was honored to participate in the reopening ceremony of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which has been closed for nearly 19 months after being battered, like so many of us, by both hurricanes Ivan and Katrina.
Following the devastation of Hurricane Frederick in 1979, Congressman Jack Edwards had the foresight to preserve the 7,000-acre paradise that is home to nesting sea turtles, the Alabama beach mouse and migratory birds.
Sept. 16, 2004, sadly a day many of us will never forget, was the day that Hurricane Ivan slammed into the central Gulf Coast.
The refuge had sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, and a 15-foot storm surge, which pushed a wall of debris onto the refuge.
The refuge was covered in almost anything you can imagine - from boats to propane tanks, trailers to gas cans, parts of buildings to construction materials, the debris stretched for miles over the fragile coastal habitat of the refuge.
For the safety of the refuge's visitors, the staff was forced to close the hiking trails.
An unprecedented clean-up effort followed. By August 2005, 1,200 containers of hazardous material was collected and 800 cubic yards of debris was removed. Much of the debris from this fragile coastal habitat had to be removed by hand and floated on small barges to parking lots where it could be hauled away in trucks.
Sadly, just as the refuge was once again ready to welcome human visitors, Hurricane Katrina decided to visit south Alabama.
Hurricane Katrina also left an enormous amount of debris on the refuge and undid much of the work that had been completed following Hurricane Ivan.
The cleanup process lasted four months. More than 14,000 cubic yards of debris - or 576 dump trucks - from the two storms was removed from the refuge.
These two storms made us all realize just how much destruction Mother Nature can do.
All of the damage and devastation pale in comparison to the determined spirit of the men and women who are committed to making sure this refuge will continue to be a treasure of not only south Alabama but all those who travel to the refuge each year.
Following this ceremony, I traveled to Robertsdale to visit with employees at the Baldwin County 9-1-1 center.
As any of you who have ever had to call 9-1-1 for help know, the person at the other end of the phone line is many times the only life line that you have.
Those who work to get us the help we need in an emergency are truly unsung heroes.
Whatever the emergency, these men and women are well-trained to help you on a moment's notice, and I commend them for their hard work and long hours.
I also had the opportunity to visit with one of Baldwin County's newest corporate citizens, Crestview Aerospace, which just last year opened a new facility in Fairhope.
With more than 1,200 employees in south Alabama and northwest Florida, Crestview Aerospace is a major provider in the aerospace industry, and I am proud to welcome them.
Tuesday I traveled to Washington County to visit three of our nation's major chemical companies: Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Olin, and Tate &Lyle.
Washington County has an abundant fresh-water supply and one of the largest natural salt domes in the nation, making it a natural choice for these three chemical companies.
With a combined workforce of 3500 employees, these three industries form the cornerstone of the commercial base in the county. All three work hard to provide a safe workplace as well as to protect the environment.
Wednesday I was in Mobile along with many business, political, and community leaders to hear the State of the City and County addresses given by Mobile Mayor Sam Jones and County Commission President Juan Chastang, respectively.
As Congress returns to Washington next week, we will be facing some tough issues.
In the House, we will be working towards passing the budget. Following that, both the House and the Senate will be focusing on their attention on immigration and the increasing energy problems our nation is facing.
As we begin taking up these topics, I will bring you the latest updates. My staff and I work for you. Please call if we can be of service.
Jo Bonner represents the people of the Brewton area in the U.S. H ouse of Representatives.

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