By Jalia Lewis
Three Birmingham-area waterways will see environmental improvements, thanks to grants from the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program.
Turkey and Village creeks in Jefferson County and Shoal Creek in Shelby County will benefit from the grants, which will help reduce erosion, aid water quality and replace invasive plants with native species, among other improvements.
“These projects will engage multiple organizations, students, community leaders and other partners in helping preserve and improve some of the most important creeks in the Birmingham region,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power’s vice president for Environmental Affairs. “The projects also provide a great opportunity to build public awareness about these waterways and the need to protect them.”
The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program emphasizes local community stewardship of natural resources by providing financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, forest, streamside and coastal habitat restoration. The program is supported by Alabama Power and its parent company, Southern Company, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and others public and private supporters.
Since 2006, Southern Company has contributed nearly $2.5 million to 109 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants, resulting in an on-the-ground conservation impact of more than $12.4 million. Altogether, these efforts are restoring or improving more than 1,200 acres and more than 127,000 feet of streamside buffer in the Southeast.
Here are the three Birmingham-area projects receiving 2016 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants:
Birmingham-Southern College and partners will work to restore nine acres at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson. Invasive plant removal and native replantings will help support the habitat of the endangered Vermilion Darter and bat populations, including the only confirmed Alabama colony of the threatened northern long-eared bat. The project includes a bioswale native plant garden and pavilion to help reduce stormwater runoff and enhance learning opportunities for visitors. Partners include the 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 add a bioretention basin and pervious pavers at Bertram A. Hudson K-8 School, located near Village Creek. The project includes planning and design, stream and site maintenance and monitoring, as well as outdoor learning opportunities and community outreach. Partners include Birmingham City Schools, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering, George Washington Carver High School and Belgard Hardcastle.
The city of Montevallo and partners, including students from the University of Montevallo, will work together to restore and protect Shoal Creek through dredging, removing invasive plants and replanting native species. A student-produced plant identification booklet will help volunteers in the restoration and educate the public about the importance of native plantings to help control erosion. Other partners in the project are the Montevallo Arbor and Beautification Board, ARGOS and Shelby County.
“The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program is such a wonderful example of a successful community-focused conservation effort,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The program is in its 17th year, so it represents a long-term commitment to environmental challenges. And because a major program component is engaging communities in conservation, not only do we see the conservation benefits of the individual projects, but we also see the tremendous rewards of involving and educating citizens in the restoration and protection of clean water, healthy fish and wildlife habitat in their own communities.”
For more information about Alabama Power’s environmental programs and initiatives, please visit www.alabamapower.com and click “Environment.” For more information about the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program, visit NFWF’s website at www.nfwf.org and search for “Five Star.”