ATLANTA, July 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Continuing its commitment to natural resource conservation and stewardship, Southern Company, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and other public and private partners, has awarded approximately $2.2 million in grants to 58 community-led projects nationwide as part of the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program.
Southern Company's funding of the 2016 grants directly supports eight habitat-restoration projects within the southeastern states where Southern Company operates electric utilities, helping to restore more than 35 acres and 1,200 feet of streambank in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
"Southern Company has long demonstrated our commitment to the customers and communities we serve by partnering to conserve our local natural resources," said Southern Company Chief Environmental Officer Larry Monroe. "Through the Five Star and Urban Waters Program, we are pleased to support hands-on projects that educate and strengthen communities, while protecting and restoring our wetlands and streams for generations to come."
Nationally, the 58 grants are being awarded through a public-private partnership that includes NFWF, the Wildlife Habitat Council, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern Company, FedEx, Bank of America and Alcoa.
The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program emphasizes local community stewardship of natural resources by providing financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, forest, streamside and coastal habitat restoration.
Since 2006, Southern Company has contributed nearly $2.5 million to 109 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants, resulting in an on-the-ground conservation impact of more than $12.4 million. Altogether, these efforts are restoring or improving more than 1,200 acres and more than 127,000 feet of streamside buffer in the Southeast.
"The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program is such a wonderful example of a successful community-focused conservation effort," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "The program is in its 17th year, so it represents a long-term commitment to environmental challenges. And because a major program component is engaging communities in conservation, not only do we see the conservation benefits of the individual projects, but we also see the tremendous rewards of involving and educating citizens in the restoration and protection of clean water, healthy fish and wildlife habitat in their own communities."
Grant recipients were selected based on criteria that included critical habitat restoration, partnerships established with local government agencies and businesses, and their ability to provide educational and training opportunities for youth and the community at large, as well as other ecological, cultural and economic benefits.
The following projects have been awarded 2016 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants supported by Southern Company:
Birmingham-Southern College and partners will expand educational programming and conduct restoration activities on 9 acres of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. Invasive removal and native replantings will support habitat of the endangered Vermilion Darter, as well as bat populations including the only confirmed Alabama colony of threatened northern long-eared bats. A bioswale native plant demonstration garden and surrounding pavilion will reduce stormwater runoff and enhance learning opportunities for visitors. Partners include Freshwater Land Trust, the City of Pinson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cawaco Resource, Conservation and Development Council, Myhand Services, Goat Busters and Friends of Turkey Creek.
The City of Birmingham and partners will retrofit a portion of Bertram A. Hudson K-8 School with a bioretention basin and pervious pavers. Activities include restoration planning and design, stream/site maintenance and monitoring, outdoor learning and community outreach. The project will provide a reduction in pollution to Village Creek, a priority watershed, help control the volume runoff exiting the site and create learning opportunities about stormwater for the Birmingham City School system and community. Partners include Bertram A. Hudson K-8 School, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering, George Washington Carver High School and Belgard Hardcastle.
The City of Montevallo and partners will protect Shoal Creek through restoration and communication activities. The project will engage students and volunteers in stabilizing the creek through dredging, invasive plant removal and native replantings. A plant identification booklet produced by university students will assist volunteers in restoration and educate the public on the importance of native plantings for erosion control. Partners include Montevallo Arbor and Beautification Board, ARGOS, Shelby County and the University of Montevallo.
The Northwest Florida State College Foundation and partners will construct 1 acre of oyster reefs to address the decline of oyster habitat in Choctawhatchee Bay. Reefs will be built from recycled shell collected from local restaurants and bagged and placed through volunteer events. Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) will enhance these reefs with living oysters grown through the Choctawhatchee Oyster Gardeners and Spat On! Youth Outreach programs, which will harness 300 trained stewards to move matured oysters to restoration sites during community events. Partners include CBA, the City of Fort Walton Beach, the City of Valparaiso, Bluewater Bay Marina and NWF AmeriCorps.
Trees Atlanta and partners will remove 6 acres of invasive species and trash, replant native species to stabilize slopes and streambanks, and highlight the project through adult and youth education programming by including the park site on walking tours and as an education site for KIPP STRIVE Academy students. Partners will redesign the portion of Proctor Creek that flows through the site and complete a full park design. The project capitalizes on the proximity of the Atlanta BeltLine Westside Trail project (Enota Park portion) set for completion by the end of 2017. Partners include Atlanta BeltLine, Park Pride, the City of Atlanta and Westview Community Organization.
The Emerald Corridor Foundation and partners will engage the community in creating a rain garden as a demonstration site and platform for community education and engagement. The rain garden will use native vegetation and drainage techniques to restore habitat, support natural hydrology and reduce stormwater runoff flows. The project will showcase green infrastructure and land stewardship as tools for urban watershed restoration and conservation. Partners include Proctor Creek Community Partnership, Greening Youth Foundation, Grove Park Neighborhood Association and B+C Studio.
The Atlanta Audubon Society and partners will restore 15 acres of bird habitat on two sites in the Peachtree Creek watershed and create baseline bird data to aid conservation planning. The project will provide numerous citizen science and education opportunities to the local community and double the partnership's local impact on bird habitat. Activities will engage 125 community volunteers, with educational opportunities for 500 people. Partners include Olmstead Linear Parks Alliance, City of Clarkston, Friends of Friendship Forest, Greening Youth Foundation, National Audubon Society and Georgia Native Plant Society.
Coastal WildScapes and partners will enhance the Cay Creek Wetland Demonstration garden through native wetland species planting and stormwater control measures, and will engage the community through various education and outreach activities. The project will provide the coastal community with a model for enhancing native floral and faunal diversity at the intersection of wetland habitats and urbanized areas. Partners include the City of Midway, the University of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Keep Liberty Beautiful, The Orianne Society and Verdant Enterprises.
About Southern Company
Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is America's premier energy company, with 44,000 megawatts of generating capacity and 1,500 billion cubic feet of combined natural gas consumption and throughput volume serving 9 million electric and gas utility customers through its subsidiaries. The company provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy through electric utilities in four states, natural gas distribution utilities in seven states, a competitive generation company serving wholesale customers across America and a nationally recognized provider of customized energy solutions, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and affordable prices that are below the national average. Through an industry-leading commitment to innovation, Southern Company and its subsidiaries are inventing America's energy future by developing the full portfolio of energy resources, including carbon-free nuclear, 21st century coal, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency, and creating new products and services for the benefit of customers. Southern Company has been named by the U.S. Department of Defense and G.I. Jobs magazine as a top military employer, recognized among the Top 50 Companies for Diversity by DiversityInc, listed by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the 40 Best Companies for Diversity and designated a Top Employer for Hispanics by Hispanic Network. The company has earned a National Award of Nuclear Science and History from the National Atomic Museum Foundation for its leadership and commitment to nuclear development and is continually ranked among the top utilities in Fortune's annual World's Most Admired Electric and Gas Utility rankings. Visit our website at www.southerncompany.com.