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Watershed restoration projects recognized

<p>Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration recently held a ceremony recognizing several regional projects for leadership.</p>
<p>Nine partnership efforts developed to protect and restore local waterways were recognized during the annual Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Plaque Recognition ceremony on Jan. 19.</p>
<p>&quot;This is our ninth plaque recognition event, and it is a day we really look forward to,&quot; Ron Shipman, Georgia Power's Central Region vice president said during the recognition event at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Region 4 offices in downtown Atlanta.</p>
<p>&quot;This also is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the good results that can come from strong partnerships, which is what this program is all about,&quot; Shipman added.</p>
<p>Other keynote remarks were provided by EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney, EPA Region 4 Water Protection Division Director Jim Giattina and Jay Jensen, Southern Regional Office director for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).</p>
<p>Following the plaque presentations, a representative from each project gave an update on project accomplishments and shared lessons learned. &quot;This event not only recognizes the contributions of projects, but is also a great way to facilitate an exchange of ideas,&quot; said Leslie Cox, Southern Company environmental stewardship manager. &quot;It's exciting to see people connect, ask questions and discuss common themes across the diverse group of projects.&quot;</p>
<p>Southern Company is the Southeast lead corporate sponsor of the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration in partnership with NFWF, EPA, the U.S. Forest Service and the Wildlife Habitat Council. Eight of the nine projects recognized at the ceremony were funded in part by Southern Company.</p>
<p>The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program provides financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, forest, riparian and coastal habitat restoration and education, with a particular focus on urban waters and watersheds.</p>
<p>Since 2006, Southern Company has contributed a total of $2.2 million to 101 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants for projects that will result in an on-the-ground conservation impact of more than $11.1 million to restore more than 1,100 acres of wetlands and more than 126,000 feet of riparian buffer.</p>
<p>Five Star Restoration is one of Southern Company's three environmental stewardship programs in partnership with NFWF. The programs emphasize results-based collaboration with diverse partners, including environmental groups, public agencies, non-governmental organizations, landowners, schools, businesses and other stakeholders and have achieved significant conservation outcomes for more than a decade.<br>
<h3>Projects recognized, by state:</h3>
<p><b>I.G. Levy Park Urban Forest Restoration, Pascagoula</b><br>
The City of Pascagoula and partners will restore 1 acre of urban forest, remove 1 acre of invasive species and install two rain gardens in a Pascagoula community park to increase bird habitat near Whitehead Lake. The project will engage over 80 volunteers through six restoration sessions and two youth education lectures.<br>
<p><b>Coastal Dune Lakes Monitoring and Restoration, Walton County</b><br>
Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and citizen-scientist volunteers will remove 140 acres of invasive species and monitor 58 water quality stations on 16 coastal dune lakes in Walton County. The project will increase capacity to foster a community of environmental stewardship for the globally rare and critically imperiled dune lake system.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" adhocenable="false">Watch a video clip about this project here</a>.<br>
<p><b>Mill Creek Urban Watershed Project, Phenix City</b><br>
Auburn University and partners will restore 400 linear feet of Mill Creek on the Phenix City Intermediate School campus. The project will remove invasive exotics and replant native streamside vegetation, redirect stream flow, reconnect Mill Creek to a floodplain to dissipate energy and create a storm water wetland. Activities will incorporate water quality education into local curricula to use with a renovated outdoor classroom.</p>
<p><b>Genetta Watershed Restoration and Community Education, Montgomery</b><br>
The City of Montgomery will remove invasive species and debris on 2.5 acres and plant 15 trees at Genetta Park to make it a key demonstration site of green infrastructure and a constructed wetland. The project will engage local students and residents on water quality and supportive community actions. Watch a video clip about this project here.</p>
<p><b>Village Creek Brownfield Cleanup and Restoration, Birmingham</b><br>
Freshwater Land Trust and partners will restore 2 acres along a brownfield site on Village Creek by removing a concrete slab and industrial debris, stabilizing the streamside banks and creating a natural vegetated riparian zone to connect the residential area to an existing park.<br>
<p><b>Cay Creek Native Wetland Plants and Pollinator Garden: A Coastal Model, Midway</b><br>
Coastal Wildscapes and partners will create a 5-acre wetland demonstration landscape and outdoor classroom to engage the community in a model for coastal resiliency. This site will provide an example of good stewardship for the difficult transition from natural communities to built landscapes, serve as a creative, protective buffer; and illustrate the influence of human actions on natural wetlands.</p>
<p><b>Living Shoreline - Tybee Island, Tybee Island</b><br>
The University of Georgia and its partners will construct a 0.05-acre living shoreline using oyster shell and native plants at the Burton 4-H Center to halt erosion of Horsepen Creek, a tidal stream on Tybee Island. This project 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.</p>
<p><b>Rivercane Restoration Initiative, Atlanta</b><br>
South River Watershed Alliance and partners will restore 10 acres of river buffer along the South River and engage the community in targeted watershed education. Project partners will remove invasive species and transplant and re-establish rivercane to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation caused by heavy rain events.</p>
<p><b>South Fork Peachtree Creek and Veterans Hospital Restoration, Atlanta*</b><br>
Trees Atlanta and partners will restore a quarter mile of South Peachtree Creek that runs behind the Atlanta VA Medical Center by planting native species while giving access to patients via a creekside mulch path. The project will stabilize the streambank, control erosion, restore wildlife habitat and provide controlled access to the area. Watch a video clip about Peachtree Creek here.</p>
<p>*Funded by FedEx and the U.S. Forest Service</p>