Southern Company Generation

Recreational and Environmental Enhancement

Renew Our Rivers


In 2000, a single Alabama Power employee with a heart for the environment and his community organized a river clean-up event that would later grow into the nationally-recognized Southern Company initiative, Renew Our Rivers. Since that time, over 7 million pounds of debris have been removed from the waterways of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.

In 2006, sister companies across Southern Company participated together in a Renew Our Rivers event unlike any other to improve the waterways of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, an area in desperate need of clean-up following Hurricane Katrina. 33.5 tons of debris were removed during the highly successful three-day event.

Southern Company owns and operates more than 47,000 MW of generation capacity, including 2,756 MW of hydro capacity, 38,286 MW of fossil capacity, and 5,598 MW of nuclear capacity. Plants are located within the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina.


In 1999, Gene Phifer, an Alabama Power Gadsden Steam Plant employee, organized a small group of plant employees to clean up the shoreline of the Coosa River, adjacent to the plant. The group removed approximately one ton of litter, but Phifer soon realized that the rest of the river desperately needed this same kind of attention. So, in 2000, Phifer organized a much larger clean-up event called Renew the Coosa, involving hundreds of volunteers. The initiative quickly caught on, expanding to several river systems over a three-state area. In 2003, the cleanups were renamed Renew Our Rivers to better reflect the expanded magnitude of the program. In 2005, the goal of removing 5 million cumulative pounds since 2000 was surpassed!

Southern Company owns and operates more than 47,000 MW of generation capacity, including 2,756 MW of hydro capacity, 38,286 MW of fossil capacity, and 5,598 MW of nuclear capacity. Southern Company Generation is the business unit that oversees Southern Company’s coal, oil, gas and hydro generating units. This includes 34 hydropower plants within the states of Alabama and Georgia and fossil fuel plants in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

(left to right) Dave Youlen, Flinda Hill (Southern Company Rep.) and Julie Smith Galvin.


Typical challenges of these annual river and lake cleanups include high levels of debris, large and bulky items (e.g. refrigerators, freezers, and tires) that require specialized clean-up equipment, safety challenges, and finding clean-up sites suitable for volunteers of all ages and capabilities.

In addition to these typical challenges, Hurricane Katrina presented additional unique challenges to the coordination and implementation of successful cleanups at Southern Company’s Mississippi Power. These included boating hazards, volunteer logistics, and limited resources.

Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in August, 2005. Over 100 Mississippi Power employees were left homeless and countless others sustained partial damage to their homes — many of them are still living in FEMA trailers. Waterways were filled with so much debris that navigation was virtually impossible. With all of the devastation, it was over a year later before it was safe enough to even consider a river cleanup.

After it was decided to host a cleanup, the next challenge was how to leverage resources and expertise. Traditionally, Mississippi Power hosted shoreline cleanups where volunteers worked on foot. Clearly a much larger scale effort was needed, utilizing specialized clean-up equipment and expertise.

To reflect the challenges along the Gulf Coast, Southern Company titled its 2006 clean-up campaign Renew Our Rivers: A New Beginning in 2006.


The Renew Our Rivers program is the model of private-public partnerships. The program brings together not only employees but a wide and diverse group of volunteers, including environmental stakeholders and government agencies for a common goal — removing trash from the waterways. In addition to private-public partnerships, the program is innovative in its coordination of employees across four states and operating companies working together to improve the communities in which they live. Employees routinely share their keys to success and celebrate their common achievements.

While most of the 2006 Renew Our Rivers cleanups were coordinated as in the past, it would take additional detail and multiple resources to plan a cleanup for the Gulf Coast. Flinda Hill, Mississippi Power Environmental Specialist and Renew Our Rivers Coordinator, was up to the challenge and enlisted numerous internal and external organizations to help, including nationally recognized Living Lands & Waters, sister companies Alabama Power and Georgia Power, several government agencies, and local businesses. It is not uncommon for Renew Our Rivers coordinators to solicit support from local contacts, but it is very different to cross state and operating company lines to solicit this support. Resources provided by sister companies included volunteers to help with all aspects of the cleanup, including cooking, safety patrol, and other logistics, boats designed for removing large debris, and clean-up supplies.


2006 was another successful year for Renew Our Rivers. Over 984 tons of debris were removed from waterways across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. 33.5 tons of this were the result of the highly successful three-day Mississippi Gulf Coast clean-up. This brings the total to over 7.5 million pounds collected since the program’s inception in 2000.

In addition to the quantifiable results, the impact on stakeholders was tremendous, especially to the coastal residents. As Beth Irving of Living Lands & Waters noted, “We’re used to picking up trash and things that were intentionally put in water by careless people, but it was tough picking up parts of people’s homes.”

In recognition of the efforts in Mississippi and across the Southeast, Southern Company was awarded the 2006 1st Place Award for Litter Prevention by Keep America Beautiful.


Southern Company is excited about the Renew Our Rivers program and the strides it is making in cleaning up our waterways. In keeping with the stretch goals of the past, Toward 11 in 2007 has been selected as the theme for 2007. In addition, plans are currently under way to expand the scope of Renew Our Rivers by increasing the number of cleanups and public participation and by rolling out a system-wide public education campaign geared to elementary school students.

Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands & Waters, in an internal Mississippi Power newsletter article: “It’s great to see so many groups coming together and working for the same cause.” This statement acknowledges the efforts of the many organizations it took to coordinate a successful Renew Our Rivers clean-up across state and company lines.

Ray Empson, President of Keep America Beautiful, in a letter to Jerry Steward, Executive Vice President of Southern Company Generation: “This program continues to set the standard for corporate partnerships along with KAB’s affiliates and communities working together for a better environment for everyone.This has opened a new chapter for unity. Working together removing thousands and thousands of pounds of trash and debris from the coastal rivers in Mississippi was an enormous task.” This statement acknowledges the collaborative partnerships working on a common goal, but also recognizes the challenges faced.