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Five Star grant supports water quality improvements, tree planting, more in Auburn

A grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will aid Auburn’s efforts to improve water quality in a creek and engage residents in learning to protect community natural resources.

The Auburn Public Works and Water Resource Management departments are joining with partners on the project, which is being supported through the Five Star and Urban Waters Grant Program.

Five Star focuses on projects that can improve water quality and protect species in coastal and wetland habitats and around rivers and creeks, primarily in more urban environments. Alabama Power and its parent, Southern Company, are among supporters of Five Star, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private sector partners.

Auburn was the only community in Alabama to receive a Five Star grant this year. The grant will support a project at the city’s H.C. Morgan Water Pollution Control Facility, which is in the watershed of Parkerson Mill Creek. Stormwater from the facility flows into the creek, according to a news release from the city.

In 2019, the city began creating landscape buffers between the facility and the creek, using native plants. The buffers help filter runoff before it reaches the creek, reducing pollution while lowering the cost of maintaining the property.

The city plans to use the Five Star grant to expand the buffer and build “bioretention cells” at four strategic points where stormwater leaves the facility. An additional 3 acres of native plants will be installed to improve stormwater filtration and further reduce maintenance costs while providing habitat for native pollinators and birds.

“Parkerson Mill Creek is a valuable resource to our community,” said Watershed Program Coordinator Dusty Kimbrow. “Implementing this project will not only help to improve its water quality, but also provide educational opportunities to learn about the importance of all of our local water resources and how we can all work together to protect them for future generations.”

The city is partnering with Auburn University’s Water Resources Center and Bee Laboratory, and with Westervelt Ecological Resources, to design and install the landscaping. In addition, the partners will work together on offering public workshops to build awareness and provide lessons for residents about stormwater management, water quality monitoring and related topics. Also participating are Girl Scouts, who will help plant more than 2,000 native longleaf pine seedlings at the site. The planting will help the local scouts contribute to the ongoing international Girl Scout Tree Promise, with a goal of planting 5 million trees over five years across the globe.

“Each piece of this project is designed to make an immediate impact on the water quality in the Parkerson Mill watershed while improving long-term watershed stewardship in Auburn,” said interim Public Works Director Dan Ballard. “By engaging the community in a purposeful way, we hope to increase awareness and understanding of watershed management and equip residents with tools and skills to make a broader impact throughout the community.”

Parkerson Mill Creek is the site of an ongoing project to construct a greenway on the Auburn University campus and in the city along the creek. Two phases of the Parkerson Mill Creek Greenway have been completed on the campus, with construction of a third phase expected to begin early next year.

Alabama Power volunteers recently partnered with Auburn University Bee Lab, constructing more than 100 beehive “supers” – short for superstructures – that are added to hives for bees to store honey. The company has been involved in several initiatives to support important pollinator populations in Alabama, including bees and bats.

Work on the Five Star project is expected to begin this winter. For more information, contact the Watershed Division of the city of Auburn’s Water Resource Management department at 334-501-3060 or webwtrswr@auburnalabama.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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