ATLANTA, May 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Southern Company (NYSE: SO), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Association of Counties and Wildlife Habitat Council today announced that eight new wetland, riparian and coastal conservation grants have been awarded in the Southeast through the Five Star Restoration Program.
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This year, Southern Company provided $198,928 in grants and, combined with partner matching funds, a total of nearly $580,000 to restore more than 81 wetland acres and 12,500 feet of riparian buffer across 8 projects in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. Since 2006, Southern Company has contributed $820,210 through 41 grants, which will result in an on-the-ground conservation impact of $2.7 million to restore more than 10,000 acres of wetlands and nearly 46,000 feet of riparian buffer in the Southeast.
"EPA's Five Star Restoration Grants support community-based projects, including environmental education and training to restore wetlands, streams and coasts," said Stan Meiburg, EPA Acting Regional Administrator. "Over time, these grassroots efforts make a significant contribution to our environmental landscape and to the understanding of the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems across the Southeast."
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. In 2006, Southern Company pledged $1.2 million over five years to fund community-based, wetland and streamside restoration across its four-state service territory. Additionally, Southern Company collaborates with the program partners to select the projects each year.
"Southern Company is committed to protecting and enhancing the wetlands in the Southern region through the Five Star Restoration program," said Chris Hobson, senior vice president of research and environmental affairs for Southern Company. "This is the fourth year of our five year corporate sponsorship and we're proud of the progress made thus far to promote healthy wetlands which provide critical habitats for many waterfowl, reptiles, mammals, fish, plants and more."
The following organizations have been awarded Five Star grants in 2009:
- Cawaco Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. - to restore an urban stream with 200 feet of stream channel restoration and construct approximately one acre of a bio-retention basin and wetland park in Center Point, Alabama. The project fits into the larger Five Mile Creek Greenway system and will serve as a demonstration site with interpretive signage to educate the community regarding the ecological, aesthetic, flood, erosion control, and water-quality benefits of proper streamside maintenance. Workshops and videos will also be used to help educate park maintenance officials, landscape professionals and commercial property owners. Project partners include: Jefferson County Soil & Water Conservation District; U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service; City of Center Point; and Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.
- Margaret Yarborough Elementary School - to restore 15 acres of woodland wildlife and bird habitat by improving water quality and fish habitat. The project partners will repair creek banks; remove non-native invasive plants; clear nature trails; construct a greenhouse in which the students will grow native plants for transplanting onsite; build handicap-accessible boardwalks and observation stations to accommodate physically challenged students; and apply for certification by the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program. Project partners include: Auburn University; City of Auburn; Alabama Invasive Plant Society; Lee County Master Gardeners; Vought Water Gardens; Save Our Saugahatchee; and Parent-Teacher Association.
- The City of Gulf Breeze - to construct a 1,240-foot natural oyster reef breakwater using recycled oyster shell to reduce wave action and protect the natural resources of Deadman's Island. The breakwater will protect the salt marsh, shoreline, dune ecosystem and submerged aquatic vegetation, increasing habitat for marine and terrestrial wildlife. The project engages all students in the life of an oyster and similar animals and provides greater knowledge of Pensacola Bay ecology. Partners include: school districts of Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties; Florida Department of Environmental Protection; University of West Florida; and local volunteers from Rotary and Garden clubs, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
- Conasauga River Alliance - to restore 1.5 acres of the heavily silted Colvard Spring, improving vital habitat for the Georgia-listed Coldwater darter. The site will provide a potential safe-guard area for Tennessee yellow-eyed grass, a federal endangered wetland plant of the Limestone Ridge and Valley Province. The project will serve as a demonstration workshop for county, landowner, and resource managers. Partners include: Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Tennessee Aquarium Aquatic Research Institute; Badger Farm Bed and Breakfast; Murray County Public Works; and Limestone Valley RC&D Council.
- Elachee Nature Science Center - to restore 30 acres of the floodplains of the upper Walnut Creek Watershed by controlling Microstegium and other invasive plants, and planting 5 acres of native plants propagated from sources in the park which will provide important wildlife habitat to the Georgia Piedmont. The project will educate local students, teachers and the public about the impacts of exotic invasive species and engage private citizens in controlling invasives on their properties. Partners include: Gainesville/Hall County Cooperative Weed Management; Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission; Georgia Exotic Pest Plant; Hall County Master Gardeners; Smithgall Woodland Garden; and Gainesville State College.
- Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance - to restore 11.1 acres of wetlands and riparian zones in northwest Georgia to help protect and recover populations of three rare plant species: Tennessee yellow-eyed grass, Georgia alder and Virginia spirea. This project will also educate and engage students, teachers and the public through training, participation, educational lesson plans and conservation display gardens. Partners include: Atlanta Botanical Garden; Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Georgia Power; Georgia Department of Transportation; and USDA Forest Service.
- Garden Hills Elementary School - to restore 300 feet of riparian buffer along a small urban stream in Atlanta that can serve as an outdoor classroom for students to learn about watersheds and wildlife protection. This project will remove invasive plants and re-vegetate with native plants. Interpretive educational signs will be posted at the site for the community to explain the importance of native plants to watersheds and wildlife. Partners include: Atlanta Public Schools; Hands On Atlanta; Boy Scouts; Georgia Native Plant Society; Fernbank Museum; and others.
- The Crosby Arboretum Foundation - to create a 13,300 sq. ft. gum pond wetland exhibit with interpretive signage and trails at the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Mississippi, where it will serve as an outdoor classroom for area schools and the visiting public. This project will be the first forested wetland education exhibit to interpret gum pond ecology in the Southern U.S. Project partners include: Mississippi State University and its Extension Service; Pearl River County Master Gardeners; and 4-H Forest Club.
The goal of EPA's Wetlands program is to motivate and inspire the Nation to value, protect and restore the ecological integrity of its wetlands and aquatic ecosystems. The Wetlands Program accomplishes this through co-leadership of the Clean Water Act's wetlands regulatory program, and by fostering effective wetlands management in strategic partnerships with states, tribes, local governments and other key partners. EPA's vision is for America to have abundant and healthy wetlands and aquatic ecosystems that sustain biologically diverse plant and animal life, improve water quality, protect communities from flooding and provide recreational opportunities.
With 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast. A leading U.S. producer of electricity, Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are below the national average. Southern Company is consistently listed among the top U.S. electric service providers in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Visit our Web site at www.southerncompany.com.
SOURCE: Southern Company
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