The nonprofit group restoring habitat along the Kern River in northeast Bakersfield is receiving its single largest grant to date, enough to complete its second phase of plantings, irrigation and community education, it announced Monday.

The state has awarded the Kern River Corridor Endowment more than $1 million to help enhance 159 acres of the 936.8-acre Panorama Vista Preserve, located on the north and south sides of the Kern River below the Panorama Bluffs.

The $1,044,275 from the California Natural Resources Agency will continue the work of restoring the area to what it was like before habitat was destroyed by construction of Isabella Dam in the 1950s -- drying up an important water source -- and agriculture and oil development since the late 1930s.

The endowment has already received for the second phase $235,000 from the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, Habitat Restoration Program; $900,000 from the California Wildlife Commission Board; and $25,000 from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, Partners in Wildlife Program.

The money will fund such things as planning, field preparation, irrigation installation, planting, maintenance and monitoring. It also will cover such educational efforts as adding more signage and hosting more school field trips.

"Restoration is important, but educating the kids, the future stewards of our environment, is also a really important component of what we're doing," said Carolyn Belli of the Kern River Corridor Endowment.

A groundbreaking for the second phase, expected to take five years to complete, is scheduled for late December. Of the 159 acres, about 80 are on the south side of the river while the rest are to the north. It's about 2 1/2 miles of riverfront east of Manor Street, between Manor and China Grade Loop.

It was one of 33 projects approved for funding by the Natural Resources Agency. A formal award ceremony will be held Wednesday along the American River Parkway in Sacramento.

"Our river parkway grants help communities connect children with nature, promote public health by providing families with greater outdoor recreational opportunities, and protect the rivers that provide us with clean water," Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird said n a news release.

For years the Kern River Corridor Endowment, largely powered by smaller grants, has been acquiring land, developing irrigation systems, growing native plants from seed, planting those plants and developing education and recreation programs.

Recently finished Phase I involved 50 acres of restoration including the planting of 6,000 trees, shrubs and vines, Belli said. Eventually the endowment would like to create a lake for birds, turtles and other critters.

"It will add to the aesthetics of Bakersfield, contribute to cleaner air and provide additional recreational possibilities for the public," the endowment website promises.