Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) was awarded a Five Star grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in support of its ongoing Protect The Vernon project. The grant, totaling $93,200, includes more than $45,000 in matching funds and on-the-ground support from local experts, municipalities, and organizations. The funding will allow ORK to engage stakeholders in a scientific plan and help move the Vernon River toward greater ecological health. Ultimately, ORK envisions this restoration project to serve as a model for restoring other water bodies in our basin. 

The NFWF Urban Waters Restoration Program helps develop community capacity by providing modest assistance to diverse local partnerships for river, wetland, riparian, forest and coastal restoration, and wildlife conservation. Water monitoring, stormwater management, source water protection, urban tree canopy restoration, and projects designed to prevent trash from entering waterways are just some of the types of projects that are awarded grants.

Aspects of the project include:

  • Installation of multiple litter booms to capture litter and plastic pollution before it reaches larger water bodies
  • Analyze captured litter for possible mitigation solutions
  • Monitor bacterial levels at multiple locations to  identify and respond to pollution sources
  • Train and engage community volunteers to monitor water quality 
  • Educate and engage young people via K-12 classroom settings
  • Provide collegiate internships in data collection and analysis

The representative group of stakeholders and partners includes ORK, Skidaway Institute for Oceanography, City of Savannah, Chatham County, Savannah State University, Chatham Academy, Heard Elementary, Town of Vernonburg, Georgia Adopt-A-Stream, and Cuddybum Hydrology.

“The goal of this project is to reduce bacterial and plastic contamination from entering into the Vernon River and our coastal marshes and we are involving the many great community partners to accomplish this. With the support of this grant we will be able to reach people of all ages and backgrounds, making these efforts a long-term, sustainable solution.” 

Damon Mullis, riverkeeper and executive director

More details about the Protect the Vernon project and continuing updates are available at https://www.ogeecheeriverkeeper.org/vernon.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper