In an effort to encourage environmental stewardship and community partnerships and to protect vital habitats, Southern Company, along with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and other partners, awarded more than $1.8 million in grants to 53 organizations nationwide.

The grants are part of the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program, which provides financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, forest, streamside and coastal habitat restoration with a particular focus on urban waters and watersheds.

The 2014 contribution from Southern Company amounted to more than $283,000 and supports 11 projects within its system service territory, helping to restore nearly 195 acres and 24,000 square feet of riparian buffer and 3,300 feet of stream bank in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

"Throughout our history, Southern Company has recognized the importance of water, and actively supporting the communities we serve through hands-on stewardship is one of the ways we demonstrate that we are bigger than our bottom line," said Southern Company Chief Environmental Officer Larry Monroe. "We are building on that legacy by continuing to contribute to the important grassroots efforts these grantees provide."

This is not the first time Southern Company has joined forces with the Five Star and Urban Waters program. Since 2006, Southern Company has contributed more than $1.9 million to 89 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants, resulting in a conservation impact of more than $10.2 million and the restoration of more than 1,088 acres of wetlands and more than 126,000 square feet of riparian buffer in the Southeast.

The video below shows an example of the kind of work being done with the help of the grants. Grant funds awarded in 2012 to the Freshwater Land Trust in Jefferson County, Alabama, were used to stabilize and repair stream banks following the removal of a small concrete dam near the 226-acre Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. The creek in Pinson is home to the endangered vermilion darter, a species only known to be found in the Turkey Creek drainage area, and which faces a major threat from impoundments that limit its habitat.

Here’s just a quick overview of the 11 projects this year's grants will support:


Alabama

Auburn University will restore 400 linear feet of Mill Creek on the Phenix City Intermediate School campus.

The City of Montgomery will assist restoration efforts at Genetta Park by planting 15 trees and removing invasive species and debris on 2.5 acres.

The Freshwater Land Trust will restore 26,000 square feet of riparian buffer to benefit the watercress darter, a fish species that is restricted to four spring areas in the Black Warrior River system in Alabama.

Birmingham-Southern College will design and install a 0.3-acre bioswale EcoScape park at Village Creek to capture and filter stormwater, plant 15 trees and restore 24,000 square feet of streamside buffer.

Florida

The Northwest Florida State College Foundation, with the help of citizen-scientist volunteers, will monitor 58 water-quality stations and remove 140 acres of invasive species on the coastal dune lakes of Walton County that are designated by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory as globally rare and critically imperiled.

The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners will restore 35 acres of riparian wetland buffer along Jones Creek to slow nutrient and sediment loading into the impaired waterway.

Keep Pensacola Beautiful will restore more than 1 acre of oyster, salt marsh, fish and birding habitat at two locations in the Pensacola Bay System.

Georgia

The South River Watershed Alliance will remove 10 acres of invasive species on the South River and replant the area with native river cane to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation caused by heavy rains.

Coastal WildScapes will create an education/outreach demonstration project for learning, replicating and increasing the scale of wetlands restoration and enhancement to increase coastal resiliency.

The University of Georgia will use oyster shell and native plants to construct a living shoreline demonstration area to help control erosion along 300 linear feet of Horsepen Creek, a tidal stream on Tybee Island.

Mississippi

The City of Pascagoula will restore 1 acre of urban forest, remove 1 acre of invasive species and install two rain gardens in a community park near Whitehead Lake to increase habitat for birds and other wildlife.