The American Electric Power Foundation announced Monday (April 20) it will give $200,000 to the Illinois River Watershed Partnership.
The two-year grant will support the organization’s programs in Arkansas and Oklahoma, including its water quality assessment program and mobile learning labs for area schools throughout the watershed.
The American Electric Power Foundation receives its funding from Columbus, Ohio-based utility American Electric Power (AEP), parent company of Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), which serves about 119,000 Arkansas customers.
Coal-fired Flint Creek Power Plant is located on Little Flint Creek, a tributary of Flint Creek and the Illinois River. The Gentry power plant is operated by SWEPCO and co-owned by SWEPCO and the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. The 500-acre SWEPCO Lake is also part of the Illinois River watershed and serves as a cooling reservoir for the power plant.
“We appreciate this generous grant, which will help us engage local youth in watershed education and research,” said Nicole Hardiman, IRWP executive director. “We want to build a conservation ethic in future generations, while also producing information for targeted outreach and best management practice implementation. The grant will enhance our ability to provide interactive, science-based field trips for local students, as well as work with student teams to collect useful ecological information about local creeks and streams.”
Jeff Milford, SWEPCO external affairs manager in Fayetteville, noted the importance of the power plant and SWEPCO Lake to the watershed.
“The mission of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership is a natural fit with SWEPCO’s commitment to environmental stewardship in all our operations,” Milford said. “We are pleased to present this two-year gift totaling $200,000 to support the outstanding work of the IRWP.”
SWEPCO also hosts a tree farm at the Gentry power plant, where 1,000 trees in containers are grown annually for planting by IRWP volunteers along the banks of streams in the watershed.
The Illinois River Watershed Partnership is based in Cave Springs and works to improve the Illinois River through public education and community outreach, water quality monitoring and conservation and restoration practices throughout the watershed. The organization looks to make the Illinois River and its tributaries an ecosystem where ecological protection, conservation and economically productive uses support aquatic and riparian communities and meet all state and federal water quality standards, promote economic sustainability and provide recreational opportunities.
The American Electric Power Foundation supports charitable initiatives involving higher dollar values and multi-year commitments in the communities served by AEP and initiatives outside of AEP’s 11-state service area. The foundation is focused on improving lives through education from early childhood to higher education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math and the environment and by meeting basic needs for emergency shelter, affordable housing and the elimination of hunger. It also provides support to protect the environment, healthcare and safety and enrich life through art, music and cultural heritage.