Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Five Star Program Awards Nine Wetland Restoration Grants

/PRNewswir/ -- Southern Company (NYSE:SO) , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Association of Counties and the Wildlife Habitat Council today (July 26)  announced that nine new wetland, riparian and coastal conservation grants have been awarded in the Southeast through the Five Star Restoration Program.

This year, Southern Company provided $238,303 in grants and, combined with partner matching funds, a total of more than $1,458,000 to restore more than 21 wetland acres and 4,019 feet of riparian buffer across nine projects in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Cumulatively, since 2006, Southern Company has contributed $1,058,513 through 50 grants across its service area, which will result in an on-the-ground conservation impact of $3.58 million to restore more than 10,000 acres of wetlands and nearly 50,000 feet of riparian buffer in the Southeast.

"EPA's Five Star Restoration Grants support community-based projects, including environmental education and training in order to make a significant contribution to the environmental landscape," said Stan Meiburg, EPA acting regional administrator. "This program is an excellent opportunity for citizens to not only understand the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems, but to become better stewards of their environment."

"Five Star is possible because of a unique collaboration with our public, private and corporate funders," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director of NFWF. "Because of their generous contributions, these community-based habitat restoration projects not only provide immediate benefits to fish and wildlife but also help to build a local environmental stewardship ethic."

The Five Star Restoration Program is a national initiative providing financial and technical support to wetland, riparian and coastal habitat restoration projects. It brings together diverse partnerships of citizen groups, corporations, students, landowners, youth conservations corps and local, state and federal government agencies to foster local natural resource stewardship through education, outreach and training activities. Beginning in 2006, Southern Company pledged $1.92 million over eight years to fund community-based, wetland and streamside restoration across its four-state service territory. Additionally, Southern Company and its four operating companies - Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power - collaborate with the program partners to select the projects each year and works with many of the grantees to provide additional training and capacity-building support.

"As the Southern region lead corporate sponsor of Five Star Restoration, Southern Company is in the fifth year of our eight-year commitment of matching funds for projects in our region and we're proud of the progress that's been made," said Chris Hobson, chief environmental officer for Southern Company. "These grassroots efforts make a significant contribution to our environmental landscape and to the understanding of the importance of healthy wetlands, streams and coastal environments in our communities."

The following organizations have been awarded Five Star grants in 2010:

In Alabama:

-- The Freshwater Land Trust will remove approximately 1.5 acres of
invasive Chinese Privet from Tapawingo Springs, a former thriving
wetland and bottomland ecosystem, and re-plant the area with
approximately 1,500 native bottomland species and flowering plants.
The goal is to create a haven not only for the Watercress Darter but
also for songbirds and other wildlife. Partners include the Whole
Foods Team Leadership Program, Society to Advance Resources at Turkey
Creek (START)/Pinson Boy Scouts of America, Freshwater Land Trust Land
Steward, Southern Environmental Center; Turkey Creek Nature Preserve,
as well as Samford University and Birmingham Southern College Biology

-- The Freshwater Land Trust will construct and maintain a trail system
along the Village Creek head waters that will include invasive plant
removal, wetland enhancement, and bioswale construction. Invasive
plants, such as privet, will be removed and a pervious walkway will be
installed. Educational signage will be added, and the Southern
Environmental Center, Jefferson County Health Department and the
Freshwater Land Trust will offer public tours. This project will be
implemented in partnership with the Freshwater Land Trust, Jefferson
County Department of Health, the Southern Environmental Center,
Birmingham-Southern College and the Champions for Village Creek

In Georgia:

-- Keep Rome Floyd Beautiful - City of Rome, Georgia will restore 80
linear feet of eroding stream bank, provide hands-on education
promoting wildlife preservation and stream buffer protection, and
establish a permanent water monitoring site. Partners on the project
include The ECO River Education Center, the City of Rome, Georgia Boys
and Girl Scouts of America, University of Georgia's Floyd County
Cooperative Extension, Georgia Northwestern Technical College,
Darlington School, Evans Construction Company, Georgia Power, Coosa
River Basin Initiative, The Nature Conservancy and the Citizens of
Georgia Power Company-Rome Chapter.

-- DeKalb County will work with project partners to clear trash and
debris from a headwater stream. Stream banks will be replanted to
improve water quality and habitat. Environmental education will be
offered to seven local schools. Project partners include DeKalb
County, Museum School of Avondale Estates, White Oak Hills
Neighborhood Association, Healthy Belvedere and Avondale High School.

-- Trees Atlanta will restore and stabilize an eroded 400 feet of Clear
Creek along the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum by planting native riparian
species. This will include the treatment and removal of invasive
exotic plant species. Project partners include Atlanta Audubon
Society, BeltLine Partnership, Atlanta Public Schools, Ansley Mall,
Ansley Square, Park Pride, Georgia Power, Ansley Park Neighborhood,
Morningside Neighborhood Midtown Neighborhood Association, Upper
Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and HGOR Landscape Architects.

-- Piedmont Park Conservancy will restore a 3.4-acre wetland, including
unearthing six streams that comprise headwaters of Clear Creek. The
project creates a rare wetland habitat in the center of Atlanta. The
project will also result in the addition of amenities including paths
and boardwalks allowing for public visitation of the wetlands and the
creation of a field study site including interpretive signage for
passive learning as well as environmental education curriculum to
serve students and community groups. Project partners include
Aquascape Environmental, Arborguard Tree Specialists, Arthur M. Blank
Family Foundation, Atlanta Audubon Society, BEST Academy, Brasfield &
Gorrie, City of Atlanta, Department of Parks and Recreation and
Department of Watershed Management, Georgia Tech, Grady High School;
Kimley-Horn and Associates and the Silverman Construction Program

-- Ducks Unlimited will enhance a 7-acre wetland at the Arrowhead
Wildlife Management Area in Floyd County that will be managed for
waterfowl while providing long-term outdoor education. Volunteers from
several local groups and organizations will benefit from personal
interaction via designated community work days that will incorporate
hands-on conservation and restoration activities. Project partners
include J. Supply Company, Vellano Bros., Inc., Kerry Brown, Hugh
Glidewell, Sunbelt Turf Farms, Neely Raper Lumber, Ducks Unlimited,
Inc. and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In Mississippi:

-- Mississippi State University will partner to enhance 7.5 acres of
partially filled and culverted wetlands of Bayou Auguste in the urban
neighborhood of East Biloxi, Mississippi. Residents and public
agencies have identified restoring urban bayous as important for flood
protection and ecological health. The partnership will coordinate
debris and invasive species removal, marsh grass propagation and
planting and stream bank reshaping to improve the Bayou's water
quality and retention capacity, habitat function, biodiversity and
visual appeal. Mississippi State will work with the following
organizations to implement this project: the Land Trust for the
Mississippi Coastal Plain, Biloxi Housing Authority, Biloxi Public
Schools, and the City of Biloxi.

-- Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation will implement the Cumbest
Bluff Restoration Project, a 200-acre tract of hardwoods, bogs and
cypress swamp located just east of the lower Pascagoula River in
Jackson County, Mississippi. This gifted property will allow the
Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Foundation through its
partnership alliances to restore and monitor the area's unique
ecological balance and allow the educational community complete access
for study. Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Foundation;
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks; Mississippi
State University; Mississippi Power; Deviney Construction; and D&C
Limited Investments, LLC, will work with the Mississippi Fish and
Wildlife Foundation to carry out this project.

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