Collaborative Partnerships: Rivers, Wetlands and Coastal Restoration

Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rainforests and coral reefs in biodiversity. Wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed. In addition to providing habitat for reptiles, fish, waterfowl, mammals, plants and more, wetlands absorb excess nutrients, sediment and other pollutants before they reach rivers, lakes and other water bodies.

When rivers overflow, wetlands help to absorb and slow floodwaters, which can alleviate property damage and loss, and can even save lives. They are great spots for fishing, canoeing, hiking and bird-watching, and they make wonderful outdoor classrooms for people of all ages.

We support wetland restoration through two initiatives:

Renew Our Rivers

Renew Our Rivers is a volunteer program that removes debris from rivers and other waterways throughout the Southeast. Started by an employee in 1999 as a local cleanup of the Coosa River around Alabama Power's Gadsden Steam Plant, the program has grown to include a year-round schedule of cleanups for the entire Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior river systems in Alabama, the upper Coosa in Georgia and other waterways in watersheds in Georgia, Mississippi and Florida.

To date, more than 101,000 Renew Our Rivers volunteers have removed approximately 14.2 million pounds of trash and debris from waterways in the four states. The Renew Our Rivers program has won over 20 prestigious awards, including:

  • Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission Litter Prevention/Cleanup Award - Alabama Power
  • Keep Mississippi Beautiful - Business Category
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Guardian Award - Second Place
  • EPA Gulf of Mexico Program Award - Business Category
  • Mississippi Wildlife Federation Corporate Conservationist of the Year
  • Keep America Beautiful - Education in Litter Prevention

For more information about Renew Our Rivers activities, please visit: AL | FL | GA |MS

Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration

The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program supports community-based wetland, riparian and coastal habitat restoration nationwide. The program is a partnership that includes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Habitat Council, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other corporate sponsors. Southern Company — including its four electric-utility subsidiaries (Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power) — serves as the Southern region lead corporate sponsor.

Projects have diverse goals — from improving local water quality and fish habitat with stream buffers or reefs, to providing outdoor classrooms and ecotourism by building or enhancing parks, riverfronts, wetlands and coastal areas — and leverage additional resources with grants to engage citizens in on-the-ground restoration.

The hallmark of this program is that it helps build community natural resource stewardship through education, outreach and hands-on community involvement and education. Projects are represented by diverse public-private partnerships that include at least five participants, i.e., "Five Stars," from various governments, businesses, schools, youth, environmental and citizen organizations.

Since 2006, Southern Company has directly provided nearly $2.5 million to fund projects which, combined with partner and grantee matching funds, have totaled more than $12.4 million benefiting local communities. The company also provides conservation training and networking opportunities for the grantees.

How to apply

Elements of a Five Star and Urban Waters Project

  • On-the-ground restoration - Must include wetland, riparian, in-stream or coastal habitat restoration
  • Environmental education - Must integrate meaningful education through community participation or integration with K-12 environmental curriculum
  • Partnerships - Must involve a diverse set of community partners
  • Measurable results - Must result in measurable ecological, educational and community benefits


  • 109 grants to 61 organizations involving more than 375 community partners
  • Grants totaling nearly $2.5 million, along with matching funds, will have a total on-the-ground conservation impact of more than $12.4 million
  • Outcomes include restoring or improving more than 1,200 acres and more than 127,000 feet of streamside buffer in the Southeast*

*Figures are approximate; includes completed and anticipated results for funded projects through 2016.

Renew Our Rivers cleans Alabama waterways

2017 Grant Recipients

In Alabama:

Upper Village Creek Tree Canopy Restoration – The Nature Conservancy and partners will restore 1.7 acres and perform invasive plant removal along 1,000 linear feet of streambank at Village Creek. This project will engage the community in restoring Birmingham, Ala.’s tree canopy, thereby enhancing local air and water quality. Partners include the City of Birmingham, Cawaco RC&D Council Inc., Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve and Village Creek Human and Environmental Justice Society.

Irondale Riverwalk Restoration – The Freshwater Land Trust and partners will restore, stabilize and replant a 0.18-acre riparian buffer to enhance water quality and stabilization of the Cahaba River in eastern Jefferson County, Ala. This project will remove invasive species, establish native species and enhance riparian areas to increase local biodiversity and enhance recreational opportunities for the local community. Partners include City of Irondale, Cahaba Blueway Partners, Church of the Highlands, Cahaba River Society and Grow Irondale.

In Florida:

Citizen Science and Community-based Restoration for the Coastal Dune Lakes of Walton County – The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and partners will work to improve 70 acres of aquatic habitat and restore four acres of dune habitat. Through community-based restoration and citizen-scientist initiatives, this project will expand the understanding of the globally rare, critically imperiled Coastal Dune Lakes of Walton County, Fla. Partners include Mattie M. Kelly Environmental Institute, Walton County Board of County Commissioners, Silver Sands School and local volunteers.

In Georgia:

Creekside Trail Restoration and Education at Stroud Elementary – Howard B. Stroud Elementary School and partners will restore a ¾-mile creek-side trail, 4,500 linear feet of riparian habitat and 48 acres of surrounding forest to directly improve water quality and aquatic and terrestrial habitat. This project will provide learning opportunities to Stroud Elementary students and the local community in water quality monitoring and protection, plant and animal life, wetland function, and educational and career opportunities in the environmental protection field. Partners include Clarke County District, Watershed UGA, Athens-Clarke County Stormwater, Kiwanis, Oconee River Land Trust, Chicopee-Dudley Neighborhood Association, Upper Oconee Watershed Network, EcoReach, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Geologic Survey and US Environmental Protection Agency.

Beech Haven Restoration through Athens Youth Conservation Stewards – The Athens Land Trust and partners will establish a corps of Athens Youth Conservation Stewards (AYCS) to remove woody invasive species on 25 acres and improve wildlife habitat and water quality. This project will provide teens from underserved communities with employment experience and leadership skills while improving an important public space in their community. Partners include Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, Oconee River Greenway Commission, Great Promise Partnership, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, Oconee Rivers Audubon Society and local volunteers.

Urban Stewardship and Restoration for Proctor and Utoy Watersheds – EcoAddendum and partners will restore 6.2 acres of floodplain, Piedmont mesic hardwood forest, 4,350 linear feet of streambank and 100 feet of riparian vegetation in the Proctor Creek watershed in west Atlanta. This project will implement restoration planning, on-the-ground community-based habitat restoration and educational outreach to help manage stormwater runoff, improve habitat connectivity and promote an environmentally-aware citizenry. Partners include City of Atlanta Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Beech Hollow Farms, Park Pride, City of Atlanta Tree Conservation Commission, Hauser Consulting, Trees Atlanta, Arborguard, Sheer Ecological and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

Urban Gardens and Wetland Restoration at Gwinnett Technical College – The Gwinnet Tech Foundation and partners will protect and restore .9 acres of existing wetlands on the campus of Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, Georgia in metro Atlanta. This project will engage students, staff and the community in capturing and treating stormwater runoff and protect downstream waters. Partners include Gwinnett Tech Foundation, Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources, UGA Extension Gwinnett County Public Schools and Gwinnett Coalition.

Restoring Bird-friendly Habitat at Blue Heron Nature Preserve – The Atlanta Audubon Society and partners will replace invasive species with native, bird-friendly plants on three acres and conduct avian surveys at the Land O’Lakes unit of Blue Heron Nature Preserve. Project will engage 50 volunteers and three-hundred participants in educational outreach and provide quality foraging, nesting and stopover habitat for birds in metro Atlanta. Partners include Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Rock Springs Restoration, Greening Youth Foundation, Georgia Native Plant Society, Amphibian Foundation and National Audubon.

Marsh Protection Promenade – The Savannah Tree Foundation and partners will improve 70 yards of marshline and tidal creek water quality, filter 1.7 acres surface area of stormwater runoff and reduce erosion on the campus of Savannah State University in Chatham County, Ga. This project will augment both the immediate and long-term health of coastal marsh habitat and provide educational and recreational benefits to the local community. Partners include Savannah State University, One Hundred Miles, Healthy Savannah and Town of Thunderbolt.

2016 Grant Recipients

The following projects have been awarded 2016 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants supported by Southern Company:

In Alabama:

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.

In Florida:

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.

In Georgia:

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.

2015 Grant Recipients

The following organizations have been awarded Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants to implement wetland, riparian and coastal conservation initiatives:

In Alabama:

The Davis Arboretum at Auburn University (AU) and partners will add three restorative features and educational signage to the headwaters of a tributary of Town Creek at the AU Garden of Memory and the Donald E. Davis Arboretum. The project will restore a headwater wetland, remove invasive species on a combined 2.25 acres and restore 4.6 acres to improve wetland function at the headwaters and reduce sediment loading, turbidity and nutrient enrichment in Town Creek and its receiving waters. Outreach activities will engage and educate watershed residents, students and visitors on water quantity, water quality and related topics. Partners include AU, Alabama Clean Water Partnership, Alabama Water Watch and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The Red Mountain Park Fund and partners will restore riparian habitat on 15 acres at Red Mountain Park, one of the largest urban green spaces in the state, including two tributary streams and an ephemeral wetland. The project will restore three vital habitats on the mountain, establish a long-term volunteer base, and promote a home restoration initiative led by partnering organizations. Over 2,000 visitors and volunteers will be engaged through a community-based approach that teaches replicable skills and promotes awareness of Birmingham's watersheds. Partners include Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Girl Scout Troop 93, the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Southern College, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Samford University.

In Florida

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) will engage 3,000 K-12 students in Okaloosa and Walton school districts through its hands-on science education programs, Grasses in Classes and Dunes in Schools. After receiving educational lessons throughout the school year, students will replant 1.2 acres of salt marsh habitat and restore 1.3 acres of dune habitat. Students in both programs will produce educational tools that will reach at least 310,000 citizens. Partners include Okaloosa County Schools, Walton County Schools, the Dugas Family Foundation, Northwest Florida Water Management District and Live Oak Production Company.

In Georgia

The Atlanta Audubon Society (AAS) and partners will create two bird-friendly communities along urban tributaries of the Chattahoochee River watershed at Blue Heron Nature Preserve and the confluence of the north and south forks of Peachtree Creek. AAS will remove invasive species and re-plant native species on 5 acres of bird habitat and conduct regular inventory of birds to create baseline data to inform conservation decisions. At least 80 community members will be involved in volunteer work and over 500 people will be educated on topics including migratory birds and their habitats through guided nature walks, citizen science events and a youth training program. Partners include Blue Heron Nature Preserve, South Fork Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Audubon Society.

Dunwoody Nature Center and partners will reduce stream bank erosion along 350 linear feet of Wildcat Creek, restoring 3.9 acres and resulting in a living classroom for park visitors and program participants that will educate up to 25,000 people annually. The project will replace a failed weir and restore the downstream portion of the creek using natural channel design principles that reduce stress on stream banks. The design will also include a bankfull bench on both sides of the stream and a series of flood plain terraces that will serve as an amphitheater for the living classroom. Partners include the City of Dunwoody, Georgia Environmental Restoration Association, DeKalb County Master Gardeners and Spalding Garden Club.

Conservation Legacy and partners will restore 35 acres of floodplain wetlands to create a conservation and education venue for residents of western Georgia. Volunteers will remove invasive species and replant native, bird-attractant species to improve the sensitive wetland habitat and increase wildlife viewing opportunities. The project also will plant two spur trails totaling 1 mile to provide additional access to the area. Elementary school field trips, interpretive hikes and educational brochures and signage will provide outreach to park visitors and students. Partners include Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Coweta County Schools, Atlanta Audubon Society and Georgia Department of Natural Resources State Parks division.

Trees Atlanta and partners will restore 2 acres of forest and 750 linear feet of streambank on South Peachtree Creek within the Hahn Forest at Emory University. The project will remove invasive plants, replant native trees and improve the walking trail. The project also promotes public education through a school-assisted tree propagation project, volunteerism and a specialized tree walk. The project site represents a key connection point within the watershed and will link the efforts of many organizations and citizens who are heavily invested in improving this important Atlanta waterway. Partners include Emory University, South Fork Conservancy, Cascade Springs Forestry and Beech Hollow Farm.

Golden Triangle Resource Conservation and Development Council and partners will restore an acre at Fannie Askew Williams Park through invasive plant removal and native replantings to control erosion runoff and provide additional wildlife habitat. The project aims to re-engage the community about natural resources and pollution prevention and provide an outlet for self-exploration of nature. The project will engage 500 or more local citizens through volunteer workdays, river cleanups and Adopt-A-Stream trainings, along with self-guided interpretative panels along the ecological nature trail. Partners include Early County Road Department, Early County Elementary, Georgia Power and local Boy Scout troops.

The Chattahoochee Nature Center and partners will restore 4 acres of wetlands along the banks of the Chattahoochee River and create hands-on educational learning opportunities and programs for students aged kindergarten through college. In addition, the program will create testing plots to monitor and demonstrate best practices for safely and efficiently removing invasive species and replant over 2,500 native plants in an environmentally sensitive area. Educational signage will provide self-guided educational opportunities regarding the importance of proper wetlands management for water quality. Partners include Kennesaw State University, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, City of Roswell, Wilderness Inquiry and State Botanical Gardens.

In Mississippi:

The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and partners will restore approximately 2.3 acres of land as a community green space for scientific and educational activities at Weeks Bayou in Jackson County. Partners will remove debris and invasive species, construct a small observation deck for water quality sampling access, and assist with replanting native trees, shrubs and grasses to create an outdoor environmental classroom. In addition, volunteers will provide flyers to 25 local businesses and distribute 500 middle school educational packets. Partners include Mississippi State Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Gulf Coast Research Lab Marine Education Center, Ocean Springs School System and Chevron Pascagoula Refinery.

Jackson County Board of Supervisors and partners will develop and provide first-hand educational experiences to public and private land managers about practical tidal wetland mitigation methods and practices. The project also will provide opportunities to engage and interact with local, state and federal natural resource agency partners that together will direct large-scale marsh restoration. Outreach tools will include a printed manual highlighting the key elements of tidal marsh restoration and suggested means of monitoring success, as well as interpretive signage. Partners include Pascagoula River Audubon Center, City of Moss Point, The Nature Conservancy and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

The Crosby Arboretum Foundation and partners will construct a unique 900-square-foot quaking bog wetland exhibit at The Crosby Arboretum Interpretive Center in Picayune, Mississippi. The project site is located within a young wet flatwood that previously served as agricultural and forestry land and has been designated by the Arboretum's nationally award-winning master plan for pitcher plant bog restoration. Visitors will experience the feeling of a quaking bog through an ADA-accessible floating bridge that will be designed over the exhibit. Partners include Mississippi State University Extension Service, Mississippi Master Naturalists, Mississippi Native Plant Society and Mississippi Master Gardeners.

2014 Grant Recipients

The following organizations have been awarded Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants to implement wetland, riparian and coastal conservation initiatives:

In Alabama:

Auburn University will restore 400 linear feet of Mill Creek on the Phenix City Intermediate School campus. Project will remove invasive exotics from the creek and replant with native streamside vegetation, redirect stream flow, reconnect Mill Creek to a floodplain to dissipate energy, build and plant a stormwater wetland, and renovate an existing outdoor classroom. Partners include Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Goodwyn Mills and Cawood, the City of Phenix City, Phenix City Public Schools, Central High School, Mill Creek Project, Chattahoochee RiverWarden, Alabama Water Watch and the Whitewater Education Committee.

The City of Montgomery will assist restoration efforts at Genetta Park by removing invasive species and debris on 2.5 acres and planting 15 trees. Construction now underway will make Genetta Park a key demonstration site of green infrastructure and a constructed wetland. The project will engage the community through monthly cleanups of litter hot spots, design and install park signage describing the park's environmental features, host educational initiatives for grade school and high school students, train adult residents in water quality principals and supportive community actions. Partners include Alabama Clean Water Partnership, Auburn University, Montgomery Clean City Commission and 2D Studio.

The Freshwater Land Trust will restore 26,000 square feet of riparian buffer to benefit the watercress darter, a species that is restricted to four spring areas in the Black Warrior River system in Alabama. The project will perform a robust study of Roebuck Springs, remove part of an impervious parking lot and install bioswales to control stormwater runoff and increase habitat for the watercress darter. Educational initiatives will occur on-site, and the Birmingham Zoo will install a kiosk to engage a widespread and diverse audience on the endangered and endemic species of Alabama. Partners include the City of Birmingham, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Geological Survey of Alabama, Birmingham-Southern College and the Birmingham Zoo.

Birmingham-Southern College will design and install a .3 acre bioswale/Ecoscape park at Village Creek to capture and filter stormwater, including planting 15 trees planted and restoring 24,000 square feet of stream-side buffer. The EcoScape will also educate visitors through signage describing local trees, shrubs, herbs and perennials, along with their medicinal, nutritional and environmental value. Partners include the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Southern Research Institute, Village Creek Human and Environmental Justice Society, REV Birmingham, Wade Sand and Gravel and J3 Urban Farm.

In 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 invasives on the coastal dune lakes of Walton County, Florida. This area is designated by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory as globally rare and critically imperiled. The project will increase capacity to foster a community of environmental stewardship for Walton County. Partners include Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Florida LAKEWATCH, Walton County, Florida, Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Grayton Beach State Park, Dugas Family Foundation and Northwest Florida Water Management District.

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. The project will plant 400 trees, engage 100 volunteers and reduce invasive plants by 90%. Partners will enhance visitorship through outdoor educational programs, volunteer stewardship events and upgrading 2,500 linear feet of trail to increase public access and add educational features. Partners include Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area Group, Keep Pensacola Beautiful, the Bay Area Resource Council, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Muscogee Creek Indians.

Keep Pensacola Beautiful will restore over one acre of oyster, salt marsh, fish and birding habitat at two locations in the Pensacola Bay System. Restoring these habitats will provide nursery and foraging grounds for finfish, shellfish and wading birds, while also filtering stormwater runoff and stabilizing the shoreline. The project will engage community volunteers and shoreline property owners from start to finish with shell collection, reef construction and monitoring. Partners include the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Escambia County, the Ecosystem Restoration Support Organization, Washington High School-Marine Science Academy, Washington High School, Escambia County and the University of Florida.

In 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 rain events. The project will also serve as a study area for youth and adults to learn about on-the-ground local environmental restoration, engaging at least 125 students and 65 volunteers. Partners include the DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management, Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance, Arabia Mountain High School, Atlanta Audubon Society and Panola Mountain State Park.

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. Outcomes include 5 acres restored, over 1,000 people educated and 45 volunteer participants. The project will provide a tangible example of good stewardship for the difficult transition from natural communities to built landscapes; serve as a creative, protective buffer; and, create an outdoor classroom illustrating the influence of human actions on natural wetlands. Partners include the City of Midway, Verdant Enterprises, the Orianne Society, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, Coastal Civil Engineering and the University of Georgia.

The University of Georgia will use oyster shell and native plants to construct a .05 acre living shoreline to help control erosion at Horsepen Creek, a tidal steam on Tybee Island. Project partners will raise community awareness of living shorelines in Georgia's unique coastal environment and provide public education and outreach on the value of these structures. Partners include the City of Tybee Island, Georgia 4-H, the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission, Coastal Civil Engineering, 100 Miles and The Nature Conservancy.

In Mississippi:

The City of Pascagoula will restore one acre of urban forest, remove one acre of invasive species and install two rain gardens in a Pascagoula community park near Whitehead Lake to increase habitat for birds and other wildlife species. The project will lead six restoration sessions, host two education lectures for youth and engage of over 80 volunteers. Partners include the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College-Jackson County Campus, William Colmer Middle School, Kiwanis Club of Pascagoula, Church of the Rock and Mississippi Urban Forestry Council.

2013 Grant Recipients

The following organizations have been awarded Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants to implement wetland, riparian and coastal conservation initiatives:

In Alabama:

Freshwater Land Trust - Complete cleanup and restoration on two acres of a former industrial site along the banks of Village Creek. This project will include removing all concrete and industrial debris; creating a natural vegetated riparian zone along the banks of Village creek; and implementing the first phase of design work for the trail to connect the residential area to an existing park. This site also is a major connector for a planned greenway system to connect the Enon Ridge and East Thomas communities in Birmingham, Ala. Partners include: Black Warrior River Keepers; Champions for Village Creek Greenway; Enon Ridge Neighborhood Association; East Thomas Neighborhood Association; City of Birmingham; Terracon Consultants Inc.; and Auburn University Urban Studios.

Troy State University - Restore wetland and riparian habitat on 15 acres of the college campus in Janice Hawkins Park along an unnamed tributary to Persimmon Branch. Partners and volunteers will remove non-native plants and create wetlands to capture urban stormwater runoff. Out-of-date stormwater infrastructure will be upgraded, a natural amphitheater will be constructed and innovative wetlands will be constructed to capture polluted stormwater before it enters the streams. Partners include: Choctawatchee Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority; Alabama Clean Water Partnership; Pike County Extension Service; and Boy Scouts of America.

Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) - Conduct bank and in-stream restoration at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve along 100 linear feet to support the Vermillion darter, found nowhere else in the world except Turkey Creek. The project will reduce sediment which will significantly contribute to the vermilion darter's range and decrease population isolation. Additionally, a stream-bank access point and pavilion will be constructed. Partners include: Freshwater Land Trust; The City of Pinson; BSC's Urban Environmental Studies Program; Stoneshovel; Cawaco Resource Conservation & Development Council; Greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Alabama Master Naturalist Program; Friends of Turkey Creek; and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Alma Bryant High School - Restore 20,000 square feet of oyster reefs in southwest coastal Alabama and expand hands-on curriculum for aquaculture and marine biology students. High school students will grow and deploy oysters to a local oyster preserve. Students will monitor the success of their efforts and share information with other schools and local citizens. Partners include: South Mobile County Education Foundation; Steve Crockett oyster farm; Auburn University Shellfish Lab; Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program; and Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center.

In Florida:

Northwest Florida State College Foundation - Restore 3,600 square feet of valuable intertidal habitat at Eden Gardens State Park, reversing oyster habitat degradation resulting from substrate removal through dredging, as well as salt marsh erosion due to anthropogenic and natural forces. Volunteers will place substrate for oyster settlement and plant native, emergent salt marsh vegetation. The restoration site will serve as the focus for three educational outreach programs: teaching students through the Grasses in Classes program; involving the community through the OYSTER shell recycling program with local restaurants; and engaging park visitors through a new interpretive program. Partners include the Walton County School District; Florida Department of Environmental Protection; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program; Buster's Oyster Bar; Stinky's Fish Camp; Back Porch Restaurant; Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance; and the E.O. Dunn Foundation.

In Georgia:

Atlanta Botanical Garden - Restore and sustain three threatened plant communities inclusive of the monkey-face orchid in threatened watersheds. This project will encompass more than 10 acres across five urban Atlanta sites, including Big Canoe Community, Sawnee Mountain Preserve, Chattahoochee Nature Center, Atlanta Botanical Garden and Chattahoochee Bend State Park. Partners and volunteers will remove trash and debris; treat and remove invasive species; and provide other habitat treatments favorable to monkey-face orchids along with a suite of associated native species. Interpretive signage will be developed and installed at each site. Partners include: North American Land Trust; Rock Creek Farms; Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Big Canoe Property Owners Association; Sawnee Mountain Preserve; Chattahoochee Nature Center; Georgia Environmental Restoration Association; Lovett School; Grady High School; and Georgia State University.

Trees Atlanta - Restore a two-acre project site and stabilize 1,300 linear feet of Stockade Creek by removing invasive plants and planting native species. Volunteers will help with trash and invasive plant removal, re-planting and ongoing maintenance. Education efforts will include demonstrations on the role of effective water practices in community gardens, a "learning about birds" program and in-class education with Atlanta Charter Middle School. Partners include: Tapestry Community; City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management; Atlanta Audubon Society; Atlanta Community Food Bank; Elements of Land Design; Adopt A Stream; and Fulton County Master Gardeners.

Piedmont Park Conservancy - Restore six acres of the Clear Creek Watershed within Piedmont Park and provide educational signage. Native trees, shrubs and other understory cover will be planted and 1,200 linear feet of trails will be stabilized to prevent riparian slope erosion or blazed to offer public access into the watershed. Partners include Fernbank Museum of Natural History; National Wildlife Federation; Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers; Georgia Tech; City of Atlanta, Department of Parks and Recreation; South Fork Conservancy; and Trees Atlanta.

Blue Heron Nature Preserve - Restore a native plant community on 1.15 acres. Volunteers and partners will remove non-native plants; establish a native riparian plant community; create a habitat corridor; construct a trail for public access; and enhance public appreciation for urban streams and wildlife through interpretive signage and education. Partners include: Oglethorpe University; Atlanta Audubon Society; Skyland Trails; Libba Shortridge; Hands-On-Atlanta; Buckhead Rotary; Galloway School; Pine Tree Garden Club; Buckhead Heritage; National Park Service; Girl Scout Troop 12460; and Little Da Vinci International School.

In Mississippi:

Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain - Engage volunteers in land restoration and trail building activities on 190 acres to establish the Turkey Creek Greenway/Blueway in Gulfport, Miss. Students from North Gulfport Middle School will work with Land Trust staff to monitor water quality in Turkey Creek; launch sites for kayaks and canoes will be constructed; and signage will be installed to guide visitors. Partners include: Gulfport Seabees; Community Collaborative International; United Way/Alternative Spring Break; Harrison County Master Naturalists; Turkey Creek Community Initiatives; North Gulfport Community Land Trust; North Gulfport Middle School; and other individuals.

City of Pascagoula, Miss. - Restore two acres, including 400 linear feet of streambank stabilization. Low-Impact Development (LID) techniques will be installed (including bioretention areas to improve stormwater management) and showcase desirable management techniques for homeowners and developers. Additionally, an ecological education curriculum will be developed for students and the area's growing eco-tourism industry. Partners include: Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain; The Nature Conservancy; Mississippi Coastal Cleanup; Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College; and Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

2012 Grant Recipients

The following organizations have been awarded Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants this year to implement wetland, riparian and coastal conservation initiatives:

In Alabama:

Stream Bank Restoration at Turkey Creek Preserve 
Recipient: Freshwater Land Trust

To remove a small poured concrete dam within a 226-acre preserve on Turkey Creek and restore and stabilize the streambanks. The creek in Pinson, Ala., is home to the endangered vermilion darter, which faces a major threat from impoundments that limit its habitat. After the dam is removed, one-quarter acre will be revegetated with 500 native trees, shrubs and grass plugs to stabilize the streambanks and provide important riparian and forestsed habitat. Additional partners include Birmingham-Southern College, the Turkey Creek Advisory Board, Father Nature Landscapes, the Turkey Creek Environmental Education Center and the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center.

Dog River Watershed Habitat Restoration & Education 
Recipient: Dog River Watershed Clear Water Revival

To remove debris affecting the water quality and native habitats in the Dog River Watershed. About 12,000 native plants will be planted to increase riparian buffers, ultimately restoring two acres of emergent fresh and saltwater wetlands. In addition, the project will remove about 5,000 pounds of trash and transplant aquatic vegetation to revitalize red-bellied turtle and West Indian manatee habitats. Additional partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Mobile Bay Estuary Program, Dr. Miriam Fearn, Boys Scouts of America, Murphy High School, Alabama Water Watch, Alabama River Alliance, Keep Mobile Beautiful, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama Muddy Waters and Mobile Baykeepers.

In Florida:

Bayou Texar Oyster Reef and Marsh Grass Restoration
Recipient: Pensacola Escambia Clean Community Commission Inc.

To use 84 tons of oyster shells collected from local restaurants to restore oyster reef and intertidal marsh habitat along 1,200 feet of Bayou Texar in the Florida Pensacola Bay System. Marsh grasses will be planted and 79 reefs will be built with the recycled shells. The project will help to increase oyster populations, provide nursery and foraging grounds for finfish, shellfish and wading birds, and aid in filtration of stormwater runoff into the bayou. In addition, recycling the shell will reduce the amount going into the local waste stream. Additional partners include the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Restoration Program, Bayou Texar Shoreline Property Owners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, University of West Florida/Community Volunteers, Bayou Texar Foundation, the Marina Oyster Bar, Peg Leg Pete's and the Grand Marlin.

In Georgia:

Water Conservation and Native Habitat Restoration in Atlanta 
Recipient: Atlanta BeltLine Inc.

To implement a drainage and stormwater retention plan at a formerly contaminated industrial site located along the Atlanta BeltLine. This is part of a multi-phase project to turn a once-blighted property into an urban organic farm and sustainable habitat for native flora and fauna. At least four acres will be cleaned and treated to support rainwater storage and recycling, soil stabilization and healthy plant growth. Invasive species will be replaced with native plants - including berries (such as blueberries), grasses, shrubs and trees -- to support local birds. Citizens will have opportunities to learn organic land care best practices.

Peachtree Creek Confluence Restoration 
Recipient: The South Fork Conservancy

To reclaim 31 miles of urban creeks by restoring, conserving and protecting the watershed and building low-impact trails. This is a continuation of a successful urban riparian recovery program begun by the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This project will fence off highway trash, control non-native invasives, restore three bioswales to catch highway stormwater and re-establish a biodiverse buffer along the creek, making the area more accessible and protecting water quality. Additional partners include Garden Hills Elementary School, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Trees Atlanta, Park Pride, Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition, Perkins+Will, the City of Atlanta and CH2M HILL.

Dunwoody Nature Center Meadow Restoration 
Recipient: Dunwoody Nature Center

To regrade 1.5 acres of the meadow and develop a linked system of rain gardens for stormwater collection in Dunwoody Park. The topography of the area currently causes stormwater to run down from the parking lot, neighboring baseball fields and subdivisions into Wildcat Creek, a tributary to the Chattahoochee River, causing erosion and pollution in the 11.5-acre drainage basin.The project also includes developing a facility to teach elementary through college-level students about the effects and prevention of erosion. Additional partners include the City of Dunwoody, Doosan Infracore, Lowe Engineering, Dunwoody High School, Design Seven, Hands on Atlanta, the Rotary Club, the City of Dunwoody Sustainability Commission, Boy Scout Troop 494, the Dunwoody Women's Club and DeKalb County Master Gardeners.

Alcovy River Greenway Restoration and Education 
Recipient: Georgia Wildlife Federation Inc.

To remove exotic invasive species and plant 200 native species on approximately one mile of the riparian zone of Cornish Creek. Two rain gardens will be constructed to be both functional and educational examples of runoff control. In addition, a registry of landowners along the Alcovy River in Newton County will be updated. Designed to help connect, educate and assist landowners in making private conservation impacts, the registry will include current conservation commitments, land management options and available incentives. The project will seek to add at least 20 acres for conservation. Additional partners include Boy Scout Troop 222, The Conservation Fund, Newton County, Eco South, Oxford College of Emory University, Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful, the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Walnut Creek Invasive Plant Control & Native Reintroduction 
Recipient: Elachee Nature Science Center

To control 27 acres of microstegium, an invasive annual grass, in the floodplains of the upper Walnut Creek Watershed. The project will monitor and map occurrences of microstegium, control infestation in riparian forests and plant 480 native seedlings over 516 square feet of test plots.The project also will include educational initiatives to help citizens control exotic invasive plants on their properties. Additional partners include Gainesville State College, Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission, Hall County Environmental Management Systems and Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council.

In Mississippi:

Invasives Eradication on Wet Pine Savanna Habitat 
Recipient: Southeastern Wildlife Conservation Group

To remove invasive and unwanted species from 80 acres of savanna. Less than 5 percent of the original acreage of wet pine savanna habitat remain in the Atlantic/Gulf Coastal Plain, making it one of the most endangered habitats in the country. The project also will provide educational experiences for visitors to the Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center, the headquarters for the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Additional partners include the Mississippi State University Master Naturalist Program, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources/Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grand Bay and Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuges, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, Heritage Trails Partnership, the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, AmeriCorps and K-12 students and teachers from area schools.

Restoration of Henderson Point Greenway/Blueway 
Recipient: Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain

To restore at least 5.9 acres of coastal wetland and upland forest to a pristine natural environment and improve accessibility in the Henderson Point area for low-impact recreation, where native vegetation was destroyed and invasives prevailed following Hurricane Katrina. The project will employ 77 volunteers to remove debris and invasive species, plant 250 native trees, construct a quarter-mile trail and install benches and a bicycle rack. Students will monitor the land for one year after the work is complete. Additional partners include the United Way of South Mississippi Day of Caring, Keesler Air Force Base, Habitat Stewards, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, United Way Alternative Spring Break, Boy Scout Troop 316, Pass Christian High School and Harrison County Master Naturalists/Master Gardeners.

Bayou Auguste Restoration 
Recipient: Mississippi State University

To enhance nearly one-half acre of tidal marsh habitat along Bayou Auguste in the Hope VI neighborhood of East Biloxi, Miss. Residents and public agencies have identified restoring bayous as important for ecological, economic, social and environmental health. An existing partnership will undertake restoration and outreach work with the following goals: improve habitat and water quality; enhance visual appeal; and increase citizen stewardship through education and outreach activities. Additional partners include the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, the City of Biloxi, the Biloxi Housing Authority, Biloxi Public School District, the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and Moore Community House.

Fish Neighborhoods

Fish like the security of rocks or trees on lake and sea bottoms. Southern Company subsidiaries, with local business and communities, are recycling materials to create fish habitats across the Southeast.

Off Little Cumberland Island, worn or cracked concrete Georgia Power utility poles are broken up, barged 3 to 55 miles offshore and sunk at 22 sites in about 40 feet of water. The new rocky bottom quickly becomes home sweet home to marine life and stays active for hundreds of years.

Recycled Christmas trees and branches provide similar shelter for freshwater fish in Alabama Power hydro reservoirs. In 2016, almost 1,000 trees were recycled as fish habitat enhancements in Alabama waters. Since the program began in 1993, more than 60,000 trees have been similarly recycled.