Thursday, May 28, 2009

Southern Company, Environmental Partners Award Eight Wetland Restoration Grants Through Five Star Program

/PRNewswire/ -- 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.

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 in Georgia have been awarded Five Star grants in 2009:

-- 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 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.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gwinnett Restores Collins Hill Stream

A severely eroded stream adjacent to Collins Hill High School has been restored to protect water quality in the Upper Yellow River Watershed, improve aquatic habitat and keep erosion from washing out a nearby trail. The project location is also near Collins Hill Aquatic Center and Collins Hill Park

In a joint project, Gwinnett County’s Water Resources Department worked with Parks and Recreation and the Board of Education to restore the stream buffers. “This work has resulted in an ideal area for public access, nature study, and bird watching in addition to reducing turbidity and sediment in the stream,” said Pete Wright of the County’s Stormwater Management Utility.

Appalachian Environmental Services completed the work that supports several different permit requirements. Gwinnett commissioners approved a change order Tuesday that reduced the project cost by $71,511. The $1.2 million project was paid from stormwater utility and water/sewer fees.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Standing Water Increases Risk of Mosquitoes

Recent rainfall has prompted the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) Division of Public Health (DPH) to remind residents about the importance of emptying standing water to minimize mosquito activity. The standing water that persists after downpours of rain provides additional places for mosquitoes to breed and may cause mosquito eggs to hatch that have laid dormant for months or even years. Several mosquito-borne viruses circulate in Georgia each year and are capable of causing disease in humans and other animals.

“By emptying standing water, Georgians are able to decrease the presence of mosquitoes and reduce their risk of contracting mosquito-borne illnesses,” said Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford, acting director of the Division of Public Health. “Even if residents do not believe mosquitoes are biting, we still encourage them to dump excess water.”

The most common mosquito-borne viruses that annually circulate in Georgia include Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), West Nile (WNV) and La Crosse viruses. Mosquito-borne viruses are most active from late spring to early fall in Georgia. Increased numbers of human cases are normally detected in August.


Avoid outdoor activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Dress appropriately when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are most active.

Use insect repellant with an EPA-approved active ingredient such as DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Always follow the directions on the package for safest and most effective use.
Please visit for more information about mosquito-borne viruses in Georgia.
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Atlanta Mayor Franklin, Commissioner Hunter Attend Tri-State Water Hearing

Mayor Shirley Franklin and Commissioner Robert Hunter were in Jacksonville, Fla., yesterday to attend a four-hour hearing on challenges by Alabama and Florida over use of Chattahoochee River water. Judge Paul Magnuson, a U.S. District Court Judge in Minnesota who has presided over a number of water-related lawsuits, has said that he will not immediately rule on the issue, which has fed a decades-long “water war” between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

During the hearing, attorneys for the State of Georgia argued that legislation creating Lake Lanier clearly envisioned the lake as a water resource for the Atlanta area.

“As Mayor of the City of Atlanta – a City that operates a water and sewer system that serves over 1.2 million Georgians – I believe the vast majority of Georgians, Floridians and Alabamans want a negotiated resolution that protects everyone’s interests rather than a court-imposed mandate with a winner-take-all mandate,” Mayor Franklin said. “Through its undertaking of the $4 billion Clean Water Atlanta Program, Atlanta has shown itself to be acutely conscious of the necessity for protecting the river. Our residents have taxed themselves to fund the infrastructure improvements that will ensure that protection.”

“Atlanta continues to demonstrate its commitment to effective water resource management by our massive investment in our drinking water and wastewater systems,” Commissioner Hunter noted. “ Effective leadership and proper stewardship of water resources is essential to the future of the entire Metro Atlanta region.”
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fayette: Your Vote Needed to Help Students with Water Conservation Efforts

Gifted students at Fayetteville Intermediate are helping Fayette Countians conserve water, one flush at a time.

You might have seen them at the Home Depot in Fayetteville handing out the Flush Flow Fixer, an empty water bottle which recipients fill with water and place in the tank of their toilets. The bottle displaces the water each time the toilet is flushed, resulting in less water usage.

The students won a water conservation contest sponsored by Governor Sonny Perdue back in December 2007 and received $2,000 to implement the program. Almost two years later, the students are still working hard to get residents to conserve water and are going after another grant to keep their effort going.

Keep Atlanta Beautiful has selected them as one of four finalists in the “Stepping Lightly in Atlanta Awards Contest.” The contest is open to children in the metro Atlanta area who are taking steps to reduce their ecological footprints where it matters most: in their homes, schools and communities.

Now through May 15, you can cast your vote for Fayetteville Intermediate to help the students win the $1,000 grand prize. Simply go to and watch a video to learn more about the Flush Flow Fixer and cast your vote.

“It looks like Fayette Intermediate is in the lead. The parents and friends of the school are really into this and are spreading the word and voting,” says Heidi Johnson, gifted teacher.

You can vote once every five minutes per IP address. For more information on the contest, visit
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Thursday, May 7, 2009

23 Georgia Communities and Water Authorities Surpass 10 Percent Water Use Reductions Since 2007

For the last two years, Georgia has endured severe drought conditions that have resulted in the implementation of the State Drought Management Plan and required local governments, businesses and residents to change their water use habits. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) continues to closely monitor water use across the state, but especially in the counties where a level IV drought response remains in effect. As part of the drought response, local governments and their associated water authorities were charged with reducing their water usage by 10 percent. Since November 2007, 23 communities achieved an overall 10 percent reduction in water use, and 16 achieved a reduction of 15 percent or more (see attached table). The Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) celebrates these efforts as part of County Government Week, May 3 – 9, 2009, which focuses this year on “Greening our Future.”

“Local governments and water authorities are a critical partner in our water conservation efforts,” said EPD Director Dr. Carol Couch. “They have achieved water savings in a number of ways, including outreach and education about outdoor water use schedules, maximizing system efficiency through monitoring, making repairs and improvements to infrastructure, and working directly with large water uses in their communities.”

Following the declaration of a level IV drought response in much of the state in September 2007, Governor Perdue directed EPD to modify water use permits to achieve a 10 percent reduction in water use for permit holders in the affected area. This requirement was implemented on November 1, 2007. Georgians met that goal during the winter of 2007-2008 when outdoor water use is minimal by conserving water indoors.

“While local water providers were responsible for achieving the targeted reduction in water use, this was no small task because it required the counties and their water providers to change the habits of those that used their water supplies,” said ACCG Executive Director Jerry Griffin. “I hope that these conservation habits will become the new ‘norm’, as it is more cost effective to generate water through more efficient use than through new the development of new infrastructure.”

As an example, Newton County Water and Sewage Authority was one of the water providers that surpassed the targeted 10 percent water use reduction by achieving a 24 percent overall reduction.

Mike Hopkins, Director of the Newton County Water and Sewage Authority, attributes these water use reductions to several proactive steps that were taken both internally and externally. According to Hopkins, the facility conducted a thorough assessment of its operations and eliminated leaks in its treatment and delivery systems which reduced its unaccounted water loss from 12 percent to 5 percent. They also implemented water conservation rates for customers and initiated a water conservation public education and outreach campaign.

“Water conservation here has been a community effort, and it is saving the county and its citizens money in the long run,” said Hopkins. “We are trying to meet the demands of our growing community with conservation and our existing infrastructure and supplies, thus delaying water supply expansion projects further into the future.”

Gary Howe, the Executive Director of the White County Water Authority agrees that encouraging conservation also has made a difference in his community. Howe credits the Authority’s customers for helping them achieve a 15 percent reduction in water use.

“We reached out to our two largest water customers, the Board of Education and a local poultry plant, and asked them to make some changes that would reduce their water use which they did,” said Howe. “Our homeowners also stepped up by reducing their water use.”

While 2009 has so far brought a more normal pattern of rainfall across much of the state, the drought level and associated water use restrictions will remain in place until it is determined that a relaxation of restrictions can take place without jeopardizing local water supplies. Georgians can learn more about the drought and water use schedules at They can also find tips on outdoor water conservation and drought-tolerant planting at

“This drought has taught all important lessons,” said Griffin. “Water conservation and making more efficient use of our water supplies are critical to meeting our future needs. County government must continue to serve as leaders in this area.”

First celebrated in 1991, National County Government Week (NCGW) was created by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to raise public awareness and understanding about the roles and responsibilities of the nation’s 3,068 counties.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Volatile weather month smacks Georgia

April hit Georgia with almost every weather punch, including floods, hail, high winds, tornadoes and even two earthquakes.

Except for a few isolated areas in far north-central counties, rainfall across the state was above normal. More than 10 inches of rain was observed by radar in southeast and south-central Georgia, with some isolated unofficial reports in the U.S. Department of Agriculture weekly crop bulletin listing over 20 inches.

The highest official monthly total from the National Weather Service was 7.30 inches in Alma (4.14 inches above normal). The lowest total was in Augusta at 4.33 inches (1.39 inches above normal).

Atlanta received 5.18 inches (1.56 inches above normal), Athens 4.47 inches (1.12 inches above normal), Columbus 6.53 inches (2.69 inches above normal), Macon inches 5.66 (2.52 inches above normal), Savannah 6.97 inches (3.65 inches above normal) and Brunswick 5.83 inches (3.03 above normal). Many daily records were set during the month at these stations, including 3.66 inches at Savannah on April 2.

The highest one-day total rainfall from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network was 6.53 inches near Baxley on the morning of April 3. There were also one-day totals in excess of six inches at Woodbine with 6.25 inches on April 1 and Moultrie with 6.04 inches on April.

Rainfall and flooding closed schools near Tifton in south Georgia for two days early in the month. Major and near-record flooding occurred along several rivers in the area. Over 80 buildings were impacted by the flooding, including 62 owner-occupied homes and 20 rentals. Of these, 20 received minor damage, 44 had major damage, and 18 mobile homes were completely destroyed.

In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 60.7 degrees (.9 degree below normal), in Athens 61 degrees (.1 degree above normal), Columbus 62.8 degrees (1.4 degrees below normal), Macon 62.6 degrees (.1 degree below normal), Savannah 65 degrees (.3 degrees below normal), Brunswick 67.3 degrees (.9 degree above normal), Alma 64.4 degrees (2.3 degrees below normal) and Augusta 62 degrees (.4 degree below normal). A record low of 32 degrees for the date was tied in Columbus on April 8.

There were numerous severe weather events over the month, including over 30 preliminary reports of tornadoes. This is the most tornadoes in April in Georgia for a decade.

Hail or high winds were observed somewhere in the state on at least 10 days, including a report of hail covering the ground in Elberton on April 14. Golf-ball-sized hail was reported at Turner Field in Atlanta on April 23.

Tornadoes were reported April 5 in south Georgia, April 10 throughout the northern half of the state, April 13 in south Georgia, and near Atlanta and Columbus on April 19. One person was killed by a drought-stressed fallen tree near Buckhead in Atlanta on April 13, and more than 250,000 people were without power during the storms.

One person was reported injured in Hancock County on April 10. Two people were reported injured near Woodstock near the Cobb County and Cherokee County border on April 19. Lightning caused a number of building fires on April 24 in and around Atlanta and caused the temporary evacuation of the control tower at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport, resulting in delays in arrivals and departures.

Because of the heavy rains this month, farmers had a difficult time working in the fields. Many fields of corn had to be replanted due to soggy conditions. High winds and hail damaged peach and pecan trees. Mild frost damaged grapes, strawberries and blueberries the week ending on April 13.

Two small earthquakes in Hancock and Baldwin counties on April 4 measured 3.1 and 2.2 on the Richter scale and were felt throughout the area. They could have been caused by shifting ground due to very wet soil.

By Pam Knox
University of Georgia

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Track Georgia's precipitation

University of Georgia professor Mark Eiteman’s morning ritual begins at 6:45 each day. He brushes his teeth, makes a fresh bowl of fruit, checks his rain gauge and reports the measurement on the Internet.

As an engineering professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, collecting rain data isn’t part of his job. He volunteers to gather the information for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS.

“Official measuring stations across the state are sparse, and rainfall can vary quite a bit over short distances,” said Pam Knox, the state’s assistant climatologist and a CAES researcher. “With trained volunteers, CoCoRaHS helps fill these gaps and supply users with a better picture of rainfall patterns.”

The nonprofit national organization celebrated its first anniversary in Georgia on May 1, she said.

“Volunteering with the network is a great chance for weather enthusiasts and average citizens to be part of a project that collects vital rainfall data,” Knox said. “The data are readily available to the general public and other organizations. It is also critically important to understanding how rainfall varies around the state in times of limited water supply.”

At his Oconee County home, Eiteman records the level in his gauge every day, even when the gauge reads zero.

“As a researcher, I realize that zero measurements are important, too,” he said. “If you leave the recording blank for a day, you aren’t really helping record accurate data.”

Since joining the weather network, Eiteman has made several notable observations. For example, he watched his rain gauge reach the one-inch mark in just 14 minutes one day. He logged into the network that day to see how much rain neighboring counties received. The storm was very isolated.

“This was a prime example of how important zero measures are to data collection,” he said.
Eiteman’s children enjoyed seeing him log the snow that fell on his home in March.

The Georgia network has more than 400 volunteers but still needs more, Knox said, particularly in east-central Georgia near Augusta.

“We need volunteers all over Georgia,” she said. “We are better covered in Athens and in Tifton because of participation from UGA employees there.”

To participate, volunteers must purchase and use a specific rain gauge able to measure to one-hundredth of an inch. It costs $30 including shipping and handling, she said. The volunteers are trained to use an interactive Web site to post data.

The information is used by climatologists, hydrologists, water resource managers, UGA Cooperative Extension agents and experts with the National Weather Service. The CoCoRaHS program started in Colorado in 1998. The network now includes 42 states and more than 12,000 observers. It is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation. To volunteer or to learn more, visit, or e-mail Pam Knox at

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Georgia Water Coalition Applauds Governor, Legislators for Protecting Well Water

The Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) applauded Governor Perdue and state legislators today for passing and signing into law House Bill 552 (HB 552), a bill that extends the existing moratorium on injecting chemically treated water into the Floridan aquifer through 2014. The General Assembly had previously passed a five year moratorium twice on these types of injections to protect drinking water. The current moratorium would have sunset in 2009.

Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper Chandra Brown said, “As a coastal resident and mother, I am going to feel better about the security and health of our main water supply, the Floridan Aquifer, thanks to the work of the entire coastal delegation.”

During the legislative session, the GWC aired television commercials in Middle Georgia informing citizens about proposals to pump chemically treated sewage and river water into our groundwater. This practice, also known as aquifer storage and recovery, can contaminate vital drinking water sources for many Georgians.

Satilla Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers said, “Coastal Georgia is downstream from everyone in Georgia, and too often our rivers and streams suffer the consequences. We have been blessed with one of the finest sources for drinking water in the entire world, and I certainly appreciate that our legislature and our Governor have extended this necessary protection for another five years.”

Recently, injecting chemically treated sewage was proposed as an alternative to dispose of chemically treated sewage in Liberty County. Among the concerns are contamination by pharmaceuticals and personal care products, which are actively present in all treated sewage discharges. Earlier this year, the GWC released poll results from a survey conducted by The Schapiro Group showing that ensuring enough clean water continues to top Georgians’ environmental concerns. Of those surveyed, 73 percent supported extending a ban on injecting chemically treated water into aquifers.

“These issues are too often decided without the public knowing about them or getting involved” said April Ingle, Executive Director of the Georgia River Network. “The Georgia Water Coalition is changing that.”

The GWC is comprised of 174 groups, ranging from hunting and fishing groups, to religious organizations, environmental groups, and businesses, all working together to aggressively ensure enough clean water for current and future generations. The coalition is committed to continuing to raise the profile of clean water challenges and solutions available to our state’s leaders through an earned media campaign.

In response to HB 552, four local governments on the coast – the City of Savannah, Chatham County, City of Tybee, and Bryan County - passed resolutions supporting the ban on the practice because of their concerns about the damage that may be caused by injecting lower quality water into their high quality aquifer. The resolutions state that if injections were allowed, their drinking water supply could suffer negative consequences for coastal Georgia's economy and environment.

The National Research Council reported that a proposal to inject chemically treated water in South Florida aquifers posed significant risks to groundwater, including potentially increasing heavy metal concentrations, such as mercury. This report also found that the chemically treated surface water could contain bacteria and pathogens and contaminate groundwater. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found levels of arsenic that exceeded safe drinking water levels in areas using the practice in South Florida.

“The Georgia Water Coalition is proud to vigorously defend clean water in Georgia and making sure citizens know about the importance of safeguarding water quality in Georgia’s communities,” said Dave Kyler, Executive Director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, a member of the Georgia Water Coalition.

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