MASGC Project Impacts

Ocean Springs addresses high-risk areas after sea level rise visualization reveals vulnerabilities

Relevance:

Rising sea levels, temperature increases, more intense storms, and greater precipitation plague coastal communities. Taking action to prepare for these future climate conditions requires localized data and visualizations to aid in making informed decisions regarding the best adaptation strategies.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium provided a grant to the City of Ocean Springs which allowed them to produce high resolution visualizations of sea level rise for the city and assisted their Planning Commission with identifying specific mitigation activities for reducing vulnerability to sea level rise and storm surge. The project included city management, public works, first responders, and planning commission members who worked together on a sea level rise committee that produced a report which included prioritized recommendations for future land use planning and infrastructure siting decisions. 

Results:

As a result of the localized sea level rise projections and the information provided in this committee’s report, a prioritized list of infrastructure improvements, investment strategies, land use plan options, and first-responder tactics was disseminated to the appropriate city departments. Leaders are using the information to apply for funds, allocate funds (as they become available) to address vulnerabilities, and guide future policy decisions. Through use of this information, the city can provide better protection for its residents and fiscal health by protecting both the physical infrastructure and the quality of life.

Recap:

Visualization maps of predicted localized sea level rise assisted the City of Ocean Springs in prioritizing infrastructure improvements, investment strategies, and assisted in future land use decisions. (2014)  

Step-by-step guide facilitates participation in the Community Rating System program

Relevance:

Participation in the Community Rating System offers substantial benefits to a community, but navigating the application process for the Program can be somewhat daunting.  Assistance is often needed to complete the process.  

Response:

With funding from the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC), the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District developed guidance that communities can use to perform a self‐evaluation before beginning the formal application process. The District’s “Step-by-Step: A Primer for Getting Started in the CRS Community Rating System Program” was reviewed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and shared with seven targeted communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Results:

Local governments in coastal Mississippi are now more knowledgeable about how to participate in the Community Rating System. As a result of this outreach effort, one of the targeted communities, Stone County, submitted an application and was accepted into the Community Rating System of the National Flood Insurance Program at a Class 8 rating. Another, Pearl River County, completed a CAV Community Assistance Visit, a prerequisite for acceptance into the CRS Program. Pearl River County entered the CRS in 2012 as a Class 8 rating as well. Both Stone County and Pearl River County receive a 10% discount on flood insurance for Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) residents and a 5% discount on their premiums for non-SFHA residents.

Recap:

Two communities join the Community Rating System program as the result of Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant outreach efforts. (2014)

Fortified home demonstration projects highlight advantages of implementing more resilient building

Relevance:

Coastal homes are vulnerable to a wide array of hazards and while many building codes have been adopted by local communities to improve their resilience, these are minimum standards. . As technology and engineering advances occur, there are opportunities to build “code plus,” which is above code standards and provides increased strength and resilience to ensure homeowners have a house to come home to after a storm.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium supported the outreach efforts of three local demonstration projects that allowed local homeowners, builders and community leaders to witness the application of “code plus” building. Three homes were used in the demonstration. The first home, The Colby House, included a home retrofit that raised awareness for building “code plus” and was sponsored by Safeco Insurance. The second demonstration home, The Green House, highlighted the advantages and cost-effectiveness of concrete construction and was sponsored by Traveler’s Insurance. The third demonstration home, The Lawrence House, was a successful demonstration of the need for enhanced roofing construction codes. This home included the replacement of a tornado damaged roof to “code plus” fortified standards.

Results:

A partnership among the project leaders, MASGC, the insurance industry, community leaders and Habitat for Humanity resulted in homeowners, community leaders, builders and others viewing “code plus” building practices in action and allowed them to learn more about the advantages and cost benefits of “code plus” building. In addition, Collegiate Build participated in the roofing project, which trained more than 30 college students how to build more resilient construction. Local media also covered the projects and shared with broad audiences. The future savings due to the mitigation activities at the three demonstration sites totals more than $210,000 but had a total $45,000 cost, which results in a 4.7:1 return on investment.

Recap:

Three fortified home demonstration projects in Alabama increased awareness of the benefits of building to “code plus.” The projects’ economic return on investment is estimated at almost 5:1 based on avoided losses due to resilient building practices. (2014)

City of Prichard, Alabama, restores Reading Park Creek streambank

Relevance:

Reading Park Creek, which runs through a passive park in the city of Prichard, was highly degraded due to stormwater runoff and pervasive invasive species. This creek is a tributary to Eight Mile Creek, which is listed on the state’s 303(d) list of impaired waterways due to excessive amounts of pathogenic bacteria. The community is predominantly African-American and historically underserved, and they value their environmental resources and desire more access and recreational opportunities, as evidenced by their participation in the development of the Eight Mile Creek watershed management plan.

Response:

Sea Grant-funded scientists and staff gathered public input and created a plan for the restoration of Reading Park Creek. City of Prichard workers removed invasive species, graded the stream banks and established a flood plain in Jackson Reading City Park. About 45 volunteers helped plant 3,000 native plants along the creek and in upland areas at the site, which is located in the Eight Mile Creek Watershed. Buffer zones 25 to 50 feet from the creek were created to allow pollutant-filtering plants to remain undisturbed. The volunteer hours involved in this project were valued at $3,973.

Results:

The city of Prichard, Alabama, restored 300 linear feet of streambank along the creek in Jackson Reading Park using forested buffers to protect wildlife, remove sediment and filter pollutants.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant helped plan and implement the restoration of 300 linear feet along Reading Park Creek in Prichard, Alabama. (2014)

Ecosystem services provided by oyster projects funded by MASGC

Relevance:

Excessive nutrients and loss of habitat are two types of stress placed on coastal ecosystems. Stormwater runoff from within watersheds is a recognized source nutrient pollution within estuaries. Nutrients such as nitrogen can lead to periodic hypoxic conditions and prevent the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Loss of SAVs and the loss of shoreline habitat due to shoreline development has resulted in a gradual decline of habitat for living marine resources.  

Response:

Oyster gardening has been a successful restoration and environmental stewardship program in the Mobile Bay estuary since 2002.  Over the last four years oyster farming has taken root in Alabama and now provides jobs and high quality oysters for consumers. Ecosystem services like regulating services and habitat services are secondary benefits from oyster gardening and oyster farming. Documenting these services using valid economic values provide a more accurate representation of the importance of oysters and the role they play in our estuaries.

Results:

Combining the results of the oyster gardening restoration-focused program and the commercial off-bottom oyster farming program, the projects conservatively resulted in nearly $300,000 ecosystem services. There were 19,915 pounds of nitrogen removed from the local coastal ecosystems in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound; a service valued at $117,500. Additionally, these projects created critical habitat for a number of species that are commercially and/or recreationally important. Since the projects began, they collectively provided almost $182,000 in habitat benefit.

Recap:

Oysters create habitat and serve a vital role in removing nutrients estuarine environments. In addition to the value of farmed oysters for the consumer, oyster farming and oyster gardening provide habitat and remove nitrogen from the water. (2014)

Restoration of more than 3,000 coastal acres along the Gulf of Mexico benefits fish, shellfish

Relevance:

The natural hydrological flow of fresh, brackish and saltwater is altered when waterways are impaired or modified over time through coastal development. This adversely impacts fish, wildlife and people and changes the structure and function of coastal habitats. Focusing restoration efforts in a concentrated area where there is restriction of water flow can return large-scale benefits to habitats and the animals they support.

Response:

MASGC led a community-based NOAA Restoration Center partnership with the four Sea Grant College Programs in the Gulf of Mexico. This partnership began in 2010 and over a five-year period funded four on-the-ground hydrological restoration projects that included removing a large, outdated flood control barrier in New Orleans, altering sheet flow to a more natural state in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system, removing mosquito ditches that adversely impacted a mangrove forest in Tampa Bay, Florida, and installing culverts in a dirt road to restore tidal exchange between multiple bodies of water in Calhoun County, Texas.  

Results:

This project funded four restoration projects that restored natural flow or sheet flow to sites around the Gulf of Mexico, which total 3,085 restored coastal acres. The projects directly benefited at least 13 freshwater and 20 saltwater species. In addition, the projects provide enhanced recreational opportunities, such as fishing and accessing more waterways via kayak and canoe.

Recap:

Four hydrological restoration projects that were supported through a community-based partnership between NOAA and the four Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant programs restored more than 3,000 coastal acres to a more natural state, which benefited fish and shellfish and allowed people to enjoy additional nature-based recreational opportunities. (2014)