MASGC Project Impacts

Community Resilience Index improves preparedness of coastal municipalities in Mississippi, Alabama

Relevance:

As the Gulf Coast population increases, so does the risk of exposure to floods, hurricanes, and other storm-related events. Coastal managers and decision-makers want to increase their communities’ capacity to bounce back from stressors and reduce immediate impacts and long-term economic losses. Communities, however, lack the baseline data needed to measure resilience.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) and trained volunteers facilitated the Community Resilience Index (CRI) in 49 coastal communities across the Gulf region. The self-assessment tool allows communities to use existing knowledge, data and studies to examine resilience in terms of critical infrastructure, community plans and agreements, mitigation measures and other factors. It identifies problems communities should address and where they should allocate resources. MASGC trained 115 facilitators in the Gulf of Mexico, New England, Pacific Islands, Mexico and Bangladesh.

Results:

At least 14 municipalities have taken action to improve resilience to natural hazards. Foley (Alabama) has taken steps to join the Community Rating System and reports better hazard planning communication among city offices. Perdido Beach (Alabama) updated its Comprehensive Plan to include periodic reviews of the CRI to assess progress toward resilience, and the town is developing a communications plan that will encourage citizens to participate in resilience planning efforts. Biloxi (Mississippi) formed better emergency plans and network connections with CSX, whose railroad bisects the city, potentially causing issues in times of emergency.

Recap:

After completing the self-assessment tool, at least 10 municipalities across the Gulf of Mexico region have increased their resilience to natural hazards as a result of participation in the Coastal Community Resilience Index. (2014)

Biloxi adopts new regulation to become more resilient to storms, flooding and sea level rise

Relevance:

Cities located along the Gulf of Mexico are at risk of environmental, economic, and societal impacts from rising sea levels and storm surges. The city of Biloxi, Mississippi is vulnerable to sea level rise with an elevation of 20 feet and 18% of the city already comprised of water. Proactive long-term planning is essential to minimizing community damage from these climate change impacts.

Response:

Working with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Biloxi, Mississippi identified potential risks to its citizens and property from sea level rise and storms. A climate team, made up of the city’s floodplain manager, emergency manager, Community Rating System coordinator, stormwater management coordinator, and Sea Grant’s coastal storms outreach coordinator, developed a plan to share climate information and risks with the public and city officials to increase awareness of these risks. In this plan, Biloxi focused on an outreach and education campaign to their residents which included: (1) preparing flyers mailed to all residents in the city that included information on how to mitigate for flood and climate risks, (2) outreach events at the mall and local festivals to help residents locate their flood zone and visualize increased sea level and storm surge, and (3) hosted a community meeting with a guest speaker who was a climate scientist and could speak to the city’s climate risks and possible adaptation methods.

Results:

Because of the climate team’s work, the City of Biloxi has (1) amended its Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance to require 1 foot of freeboard above base flood elevation for new construction, which will reduce damage to citizens and their property as a result of projected sea-level rise and increased storm surge; (2) adopted a comprehensive Stormwater Management Ordinance in an effort to minimize flooding from climate change impacts; and (3) included sea level rise in the update to their hazard mitigation plan. As a result of these actions, Biloxi is better prepared to adapt to projected climate change impacts.

Recap:

The formation of a City of Biloxi, Mississippi climate team, facilitated by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, resulted in three city actions that have reduced the risk of sea level rise and storms to its citizens. (2014)

Waveland, Mississippi incorporates sea level rise risks in hazard mitigation plans

Relevance:

The impacts of sea level rise over a 100-year period could affect as much as 20% of the city of Waveland, Mississippi. The majority of the northwestern portion of the city will be lost to the Jordan River. In order to plan for future land use, it is important that the city consider risks associated with sea level rise and storm surge inundation not only from the Gulfside, but also the northern parts of the city where waters will be funneled as a result of the close proximity to St. Louis Bay. 

Response:

In partnership with AMEC Environmental and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC), Waveland, Mississippi included sea-level rise adaptation strategies in their 2013 updated Hazard Mitigation Plan. Waveland focused on the creation of maps to visualize future scenarios with increased sea level rise. With data collected by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory at Stennis Space Center and the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer, Waveland, Mississippi was able to produce localized maps showing potential sea level rise inundation at 1-, 3- and 6-foot intervals.

Results:

With technical assistance from MASGC, the city was able to estimate loss values of parcels of land that could potentially be affected by rising waters in these three scenarios. The city was also able to evaluate the placement of current critical facilities and make recommendations for elevation of certain structures. Planning for future scenarios earned their community additional points in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System, which will reduce their risk to future storms and the premiums for their residents.

Recap:

With funding from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Waveland, Mississippi created maps to visualize future sea level rise scenarios and incorporated this new knowledge into their 2013 hazard mitigation plan which was approved by FEMA. (2014)

Orange Beach, Alabama updates Emergency Operations Plan as a result of vulnerability assessment

Relevance:

A comprehensive vulnerability assessment of a community is needed to determine baseline data to prepare for future conditions. Changing climate conditions, such as sea-level rise, heavy precipitation and greater intensity of storms, can exacerbate storm situations.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium worked with the City of Orange Beach to organize a Vulnerability-Consequence Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) workshop. The VCAPS program assists communities in identifying vulnerabilities and is utilized in planning for future conditions (erosion, stormwater, intense storms, drought, wildfires, inland flooding). During the one-day event, participants were asked to map out management concerns for the city, stressors that impact those concerns, and identify processes and events that lead to consequences. Then, participants identified actions to eliminate the consequences and stressors and built a plan for moving forward. A diagramming tool was used to create a “map” from the conversations and was modified and used as a roadmap for future decision-making.

Results:

During this workshop, members from the City of Orange Beach and neighboring cities within the watershed, developed an action plan for responding to increased heavy precipitation events and greater intensity storm events. These actions were incorporated into an updated Emergency Operations Plan that was adopted by the city in 2013. Participants noted the real-time diagramming used in VCAPS supported understanding and sharing of information. It helped to keep participants focused on the process as opposed to personalities and contrasting viewpoints. Participants commented that self-generated scenarios were more credible and the process placed relatively few demands on the time or resources of local officials.

Recap:

The City of Orange Beach adopted a new Emergency Operations Plan as a result of the vulnerability assessment workshop conducted in partnership with Sea Grant. (2014)

Baldwin County, Alabama adopts building codes to increase the resilience of the county and residents

Relevance:

Given the hazards experienced by homeowners across the Gulf Coast in recent years and escalating insurance premiums, much attention has been given to construction practices and how to strengthen homes and reduce the risk to life and property. The Coastal Code Supplement of the 2012 International Residential Code incorporates standards to make new construction more resilient to storms. One of the most important items in the new code is a sealed roof deck. The Institute for Business and Home Safety has conducted research proving that the roof is one of the most vulnerable parts of a home. The most common cause of water damage during a hurricane is roof covering damage and subsequent water infiltration. For approximately $700, a homeowner can drastically reduce this risk by installing a sealed roof deck during new construction or the process of reroofing. The 2012 Coastal Code Supplement, however, has not yet been widely adopted by Alabama communities.

Response:

In April 2012, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium provided funding to the City of Orange Beach to host a building expo on new hazard resilient products and techniques. The City of Orange Beach partnered with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Smart Home America, and the Gulf Coast Chapter of the International Code Council to bring together the key players in hazard resilient construction, including the International Code Council and the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). This was very important for the homeowners because the insurance premium discounts in Alabama are based on IBHS’s Fortified program.  As part of the expo, continuing education training for building code officials, design professionals, contractors, and supplies was conducted. The two days of training were to assist participants with the transition to the 2012 Residential and Building Code. Building code officials gained valuable training on the 2012 IRC and IBC. Coastal decision makers benefited from the expo by gaining a better understanding of risks to their citizens and steps that can be taken to reduce risk as well as insurance premiums for their residents allowing for a quick recovery after disasters. Homeowners benefited by becoming aware of the insurance premium discounts available to them through IBHS’s Fortified program.

Results:

These events were instrumental in providing the training needed to facilitate the adoption of the 2012 Edition of the International Code Series in Baldwin County, Alabama. The 2012 IRC and the Coastal Code Supplement or some modified version of it, were adopted by the Baldwin County Commission and 9 out of 13 municipalities within the county. Also several of the jurisdictions adopted a code-plus supplement based on the Fortified program mandating stronger and better built homes within their jurisdictions. The economic impact can be estimated by calculating the average number of permits pulled and thus the number of homes that are more resilient as a result.  It is estimated that in a 50-year storm event, nearly 50% of homes will be damaged, with an average $11,600 claim per home. Annually in Baldwin County, Alabama, there are an average of 750 new construction projects and 350 re-roofs. If every one of these roofs were strengthened to the Fortified Home standard, which includes the sealed roof deck, the estimated savings for the community in prevented losses would be $6 million. This does not include the displacement cost for the families in these homes, which will be drastically reduced.

Recap:

Outreach and training events on hazard resilient building techniques lead to the adoption of the 2012 International Residential Code and Coastal Code Supplement in Baldwin County, Alabama. (2014)

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)