MASGC Project Impacts

Coastal stewardship training increases knowledge, facilitates environmentally focused volunteer service

Relevance:

Many environmentally conscious individuals are eager to learn more about their local flora and fauna and would like to participate in environment-based volunteer service opportunities, but these opportunities are often difficult to find.

Response:

The Mississippi Master Naturalist Program was formed with the mission of developing an organization of knowledgeable volunteers to help promote conservation and management of Mississippi’s natural resources through education, outreach and service within their communities.

Results:

In 2016, the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program held a basic training course for the program’s coastal chapter and certified 13 individuals. According to pre- and post-test assessments, the participants’ environmental knowledge improved an average of 10 percent. Post-course evaluations showed that 100 percent of the students gained knowledge, 100 percent of the students intended to apply their newly gained knowledge and 100 percent of the students gained knowledge about collaborating with resource professionals. Total cost of the Master Naturalist course (with CEUs) is $240 and completion of the course qualifies participants for 4 CEU credits ($60 per CEU). A similar plant ID course offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service costs $1,195 and is worth 3 CEUs ($398.33 per CEU). Based on the comparison between the two programs on a per CEU basis, the Mississippi Master Naturalist program offered $17,593.16 in comparable savings. In 2016, program participants documented 2,090 volunteer service hours valued at $40,776 and reached or educated more than 28,000 people. One student learned about conservation easements during the training and conserved 20 acres of her property for future generations. 

Recap:

The Mississippi Master Naturalist Program has increased the awareness of environmental issues in Mississippi and Alabama while providing volunteer service to environmental activities. (2016)

Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program mobilizes almost 2,500 volunteers, removes more than 14 tons of litter

Relevance:

Litter is an issue that impairs the environment, stormwater infrastructure, tourism and industry along coastlines.

Response:

 Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium extension specialist led and contributed to all aspects of the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program, which works to prevent and remove litter from the coastal environment through education, outreach, research and cleanup events. As part of the Coastal Cleanup Program, the MASGC extension specialist trained site captains at four trainings, managed volunteer registrations, led planning efforts, distributed supplies, analyzed volunteers’ litter data cards and prepared cleanup summary reports.

Results:

In 2016, the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup event attracted 2,489 volunteers that contributed 7,467 volunteer hours and removed 14.1 tons of litter from coastal Mississippi beaches, waterways, wetlands and roads. The value of this volunteer effort exceeded $145,681.

Recap:

The Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program, coordinated by a Sea Grant extension specialist, was responsible for removing over 14 tons of litter from the coastal environment and educating more than 2,500 volunteers and site captains about litter prevention. (2016)

Sea Grant support to communities in the CRS Program saves an estimated $123,307 in flood insurance premiums

Relevance:

Coastal municipalities face unique planning challenges related to flooding, both from the region’s high annual rainfall totals and propensity for coastal storms. City land use planners and floodplain managers often lack the broad base of knowledge to develop a more holistic approach to flooding and flood mitigation.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) outreach team worked extensively with local floodplain managers through its partnership with Coastal Hazard Outreach Strategy Team (C-HOST), MASGC crafted continuing education activities, workshops, and flood outreach projects which resulted in securing CRS credits.

Results:

In 2016, MASGC partnered with the Association of State Floodplain Managers to convene a No Adverse Impact Workshop in Biloxi, Mississippi. In its interactions with C-HOST, MASGC provided technical assistance by organizing monthly meetings. MASGC has managed the logistics for flood outreach events, such as the Home Product Show at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, the annual Edgewater Mall outreach event in Biloxi and a presentation at the Realtors General Membership meeting. MASGC also provided assistance to the city of Biloxi in creating and implementing its Program for Public Information (PPI). 

Recap:

MASGC saved an estimated $123,307 in flood insurance premiums for coastal communities through assisting them with activities in the CRS Program which also reduced their vulnerability to flooding. Through a well-established partnership with C-HOST, MASGC was able to support numerous flood outreach activities and training opportunities, allowing participating CRS communities to improve their overall rating. (2016)

Low-impact development ordinances encourage Smart Growth practices in the D’Olive Watershed

Relevance:

Non-point source pollution is a significant contributor to water quality degradation and can diminish the chance to pursue meaningful stream restoration. Impervious cover in the D’Olive Watershed in Alabama in increasing, and there is more stormwater runoff and changes to drainage patterns. Erosion and sedimentation concerns in the watershed’s stream network and in D’Olive Bay and Mobile Bay, its receiving waters, have escalated.

Response:

The D’Olive Watershed Working Group (DWWG), a coalition of federal, state and local agencies, property owners, developers and commercial interests, completed a comprehensive watershed management plan (WMP) in 2010. On the plan’s recommendation, the D’Olive Intergovernmental Task Force (DITF) was formed in 2011 and has been strategically implementing management measures set forth in the plan. Communities within the watershed include the cities of Daphne and Spanish Fort. Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program have partnered to facilitate the DITF since its inception.

Results:

Through MASGC and Mobile Bay National Estuary Program outreach programs for the D’Olive Intergovernmental Task Force, Daphne and Spanish Fort adopted  consistent design guidance ordinances to encourage low-impact development (LID)/green infrastructure techniques in effort to minimize impervious cover in future developments within the watershed. In 2016, the City of Spanish Fort enacted new subdivision regulations which allow for low-impact development as an option in future construction.

Recap:

The City of Spanish Fort, Alabama, adopted new subdivision regulations to allow future development in the D’Olive Watershed to incorporate smart growth concepts and minimize impacts of impervious cover.

U.S. fish feed production becomes more economically competitive and environmentally sustainable due to Sea Grant-supported activities

Relevance:

Taurine is a nutrient required in the diet of many fish species. Although taurine has traditionally been supplied to the fish via fishmeal, scrutiny over the sustainability of fishmeal as a major source of protein has pushed researchers and industry toward using alternative protein sources, such as plants. However, plants contain no taurine, and feeds using high levels of plant protein must be supplemented with taurine to avoid a deficiency detrimental to the growth and health of the animal. Because taurine is not approved for use in fish feeds in the United States, feed manufacturers are forced to use higher levels of fishmeal, which results in higher prices and is widely recognized as unsustainable. Additionally, U.S. feed manufacturers  cannot compete on the international feed market, since taurine is approved everywhere else in the world.

Response:

MASGC-supported researchers examined information on the efficacy and safety of crystalline taurine used in fish feeds and conducted research to fill knowledge gaps. They petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to amend the current taurine definition to include fish.

Results:

Crystalline taurine was both efficacious and safe to use in fish feeds. The FDA and AAFCO approved the use of taurine on Jan. 18, 2017. Feed manufacturers can now include crystalline taurine in their formulation, further reduce use of fishmeal and other animal proteins to reduce cost, and improve sustainability of their feeds. They can better compete with other feed manufacturers around the world. 

Recap:

Due to MASGC supported activities, U.S. fish feed manufacturers are able to produce fish feeds that are more sustainable, lower in production costs and more competitive on the international market. (2016)

Integrated program expands oyster farming industry in Alabama

Relevance:

The Gulf Coast oyster industry has suffered a number of setbacks, both natural and manmade, that are challenging an industry built around inexpensive, plentiful oysters. Off-bottom oyster farming for the high-value, half-shell niche market provides an opportunity for Gulf residents to create jobs, provide high quality oysters for the marketplace and improves the environment.

Response:

Sea Grant-funded scientists, extension staff and legal staff created an integrated program utilizing translational research and outreach programs on production methods and best management practices. 

Results:

Based on a situation and outlook survey of 2016 farms, nine of 13 permitted farms reported 18.1 acres of production with total annual sales of almost $2 million. More than 2.8 million oysters were produced on 18.1 acres. The nine farms who responded to the survey employed 20 full time employees and 10 part-time employees.

Recap:

The Alabama oyster farming industry is valued at $2,000,000 per year and employs more than 30 people. (2016)

Thousands of P-12 students increase their understanding of healthy coastal ecosystems, fisheries and resilience through place-based hands-on learning

Relevance:

Place-based educational opportunities increase marine and environmental science knowledge and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) literacy through direct experiences in coastal environments. The experiences increase student understanding of how coastal sciences and research enhance quality of life, promote sustainability of coastal resources and help individuals make responsible decisions concerning coastal resources.

Response:

MASGC-supported environmental centers in Mississippi and Alabama (Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Environmental Studies Center, and the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory) implemented programs of varying length (1-4 hours) for P-12 students. Specific program topics ranged from estuarine ecology to marine technology and included the practice of science, technology, engineering and math skills. Experiential programs were developed in conjunction with the national and state educational standards.

Results:

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Academic Year program, Mobile County Public Schools’ Environmental Studies Center’s (ESC) Project SEA ICE (Special Enrichment Activities in Coastal Ecology) and environmental education programs and the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab’s Marine Education Center’s Coastal Sciences Camps and Miss Peetsy-B Bayou Tours resulted in 16,467 P-12 students actively engaged in field experiences aboard boats, in salt marshes, at beaches, in forests and in other coastal habitats with wildlife. These experiences increased their understanding and appreciation of these habitats or organisms and developed science, technology, engineering and math skills, including authentic methods of data collection and interpretation. At the ESC, pre- and post-trip environmental knowledge data shows that student knowledge increased by 20 percent after the one-day program. Pre- and post-testing of students participating in DISL’s Academic Year classes showed a statistically significant increase (n=1,232, p<0.0001) in content knowledge, averaging a 30-percent gain.

Recap:

More than 16,000 students increased their environmental literacy and improved their STEM skills by participating in field-based education experiences through Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium-supported programs at three environmental centers. (2016)

Workforce development through graduate education

Relevance:

Graduate education is a significant component of MASGC’s annual budget. Graduates go on to land jobs in academia, industry and environmental non-profit organizations.  

Response:

During the 2016-2017 reporting period, two Ph.D. degrees and three master's degrees were awarded. Based on literature values, the value of a master's degree is valued at $584,881 and a Ph.D. is valued at $1,315,982 over the course of a 30-year career. 

Results:

The economic impact of graduate education was $4,386,607. This value is based on a 30-year career and therefore will only be reported one time.

Recap:

MASGC support for graduate education is valued at $4,386,607. (2016)

Alabama volunteers grow oysters to replant reef habitat

Relevance:

With an estimated 80-percent loss in global oyster reefs, restoration programs are a vital piece to the recovery program for northern Gulf Coast oyster habitats. The Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program in Alabama is a volunteer-based project focusing on education and restoration of oyster reef habitat in Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound. The 2016 season brought the total program restocking potential to 36.5 acres since its inception. Its success spawned a secondary program in Little Lagoon (AL) for the 2017 season.

Response:

The Mobile Bay  2016 seasons included 90 volunteers at 45 sites. The volunteers grew 58,500 advanced stocker sized oysters (mean height of 53.2 mm) for replanting degraded reef sites in Mobile Bay. Oysters were grown from private piers from early July through November generating an economic and ecological impact upon planting in November 2016.

Results:

The oysters produced by Alabama oyster gardeners in 2016 were replanted on designated reef sites in partnership with the Alabama Department of Marine Resources. The volume of oysters grown was sufficient for restoration of 2.89 acres at a density of 5 advanced stocker (spawning) adults per square meter. This acreage has a value of $55,000 as extrapolated from Kroeger (2012) for TNC.

Recap:

90 volunteers in Alabama produced enough oysters to replant 2.89 acres of oyster reef habitat in Mobile Bay. (2016)

Living shorelines program saves waterfront property owners money and preserves habitat

Relevance:

Wind, water and wave action cause erosion and result in loss of residential and commercial property, reduction of storm-buffering capacity, aquatic and terrestrial habitat loss, increased suspended solids  and water quality degradation along coastlines. To combat these effects, property owners often harden their shorelines with bulkheads or seawalls. While these methods are somewhat effective at reducing erosion, they also are associated with continual maintenance and a loss of intertidal habitat. Intertidal habitat is extremely important for producing the ecosystem functions and services necessary to maintain a healthy coastal ecosystem.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s living shorelines program seeks out and evaluates alternatives to hardened shorelines, such as living shorelines, for environmental and economic benefits. This program uses the gathered information to produce outreach and extension materials to educate a range of stakeholders from private property owners to government agencies. The program shares information about site suitability, cost and benefits of different erosion control techniques that lead to informed decision making and money savings. In 2016, the Living Shorelines Program organized two workshops for resource managers and landowners. 

Results:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant extension efforts informed decision-making on protection, restoration or enhancement of more than 3 linear miles of shoreline and saved two landowners more than $40,000 in sustainable erosion control.

Recap:

Living shorelines education and extension efforts focused on educating resource managers and landowners on the site suitability, cost, and benefits of current erosion control techniques led to protection, restoration or enhancement of shorelines and money savings to landowners. (2016)

Field-based hands-on education programs increase marine, environmental science, STEM literacy

Relevance:

Field-based hands-on education programs can increase marine and environmental science and STEM literacy through active involvement in learning. Sea Grant’s goals include an environmentally literate public. Increased literacy will ensure that the public incorporates broad understandings of their actions on the environment into personal decisions.

Response:

In 2015, field-based hands-on learning experiences at three MASGC-supported environmental centers in Mississippi and Alabama enabled 11,614 students and teachers to develop a personal understanding of and relationship to coastal habitats (e.g., estuaries, wetlands, forests, barrier islands), their resident organisms and their ecological processes. All programs addressed specific science, ocean and climate literacy concepts while developing science, technology, engineering and math skills through authentic methods of data collection.

Results:

A total of 4,108 pre- and post-test assessments indicated significant improvement in student content knowledge at all three environmental education center locations with statistically significant content knowledge gains ranging from 19 percent to 37 percent. Evaluations indicated teachers considered the field-based professional development to be valuable or very valuable (n=92). 

Recap:

Almost 12,000 students and teachers increased their marine and environmental science and Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) literacy by participating in environmental field-based education experiences through MASGC supported programs at Discovery Hall Programs (Dauphin Island Sea Lab), the Environmental Studies Center (Mobile County Public School System) and the Marine Education Center (Gulf Coast Research Laboratory). (2015)

Community Resilience Index serves as model for two sector Indices

Relevance:

The evaluation of the Community Resilience Index revealed that, though the CRI is a useable tool and model for an effective approach to identifying resilience strengths and weaknesses, other sectors within the community structure would benefit from similar resilience planning.

Response:

MASGC enlisted stakeholders from fisheries businesses and tourism businesses to develop resilience indices specific to these sectors.  Both indices were piloted with businesses for feedback and refined, and once finalized, introduced as part of a greater resilience toolbox for the Gulf of Mexico region.  Introductory workshops were held for current CRI facilitators and during a Gulf Sea Grant Extension Regional meeting.

Results:

MASGC now has broader outreach capabilities related to resilience planning for fisheries and tourism businesses and has begun introducing the concepts of resilience gap planning to new audiences and providing new tools to the region.

Recap:

Two sector indices, fisheries and tourism, were developed and disseminated, following the community resilience index model and in response to feedback from the CRI evaluation. (2015)

Increasing local government capacity to foster community resilience

Relevance:

Municipalities in coastal areas face unique planning challenges related to coastal erosion, flooding and the threat of hurricanes. City land use planners and floodplain managers may lack the resources, tools, and knowledge to address the issues in a comprehensive manner.

Response:

MASGC, with its diverse team of coastal scientists and outreach specialists, is uniquely positioned to bring the latest coastal science and policy to local government officials. In 2015, MASGC partnered with the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association to organize a climate workshop series, which provided continuing education for planners and floodplain managers on coastal sustainability and local resiliency. MASGC also continued to provide technical assistance and support to Mississippi’s Coastal Hazards Outreach Strategy Team (CHOST).

Results:

Fifty individuals received professional development training and continuing education credits through the 2015 climate workshop series. MASGC has also facilitated numerous CHOST events and activities, including the annual mall outreach event and a February 2016 workshop co-sponsored by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and MASGC to provide an introduction to FEMA’s Community Rating System program. 

Recap:

MASGC serves as a valuable outlet for continuing education by addressing diverse coastal disciplines through planning workshops, while also directly facilitating community engagement by rendering aid to professional support groups such as CHOST. (2015)

Communities receive technical assistance on Program for Public Information

Relevance:

In 2013, FEMA revised the eligible activities for points under the Community Rating System (CRS). User groups no longer receive points. Communities need new ways to recoup lost points, to maintain class ratings and associated discounts on flood insurance policies. Under the new CRS manual, communities gain points by participating in the newly created Program for Public Information (PPI). Because the PPI is complex and requires approval from local governments, communities requested technical assistance.

Response:

MASGC worked with partners, including national PPI experts, to develop a daylong intensive PPI training targeted to floodplain managers and CRS coordinators in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The workshop was held Jan. 22, 2015 and attended by 42 individuals representing 7 organizations, 22 communities, and 6 counties. Following the workshop, MASGC provided individual technical assistance on the formation of a PPI to Mississippi coastal communities. To date, MASGC has met with the cities of Long Beach, Pass Christian, Biloxi and Harrison County. MASGC has facilitated Biloxi’s creation of a PPI by drafting documents, inventorying flood insurance outreach activities, and facilitating PPI committee meetings.

Results:

With facilitation from MASGC, Biloxi, MS has established a PPI committee that brings together local government officials and community stakeholders. Through the committee, Biloxi has developed a stronger dialogue with community stakeholders that will allow Biloxi to further refine flood insurance outreach strategies in the future.

Recap:

MASGC facilitates creation of Program for Public Information to assist communities with maintaining Community Rating Scores and associated discounts on flood insurance policies. (2015)

City evaluates vulnerability of infrastructure, prioritizes actions based on predicted flooding due

Relevance:

As climate continues to change, localized flooding is becoming more frequent. Local hazard mitigation plans generally do not take into consideration the increased flooding risks due to sea level rise. Data is not available at a scale where decisions can be made to protect critical infrastructure and facilities.  

Response:

The City of Ocean Springs used funds from a small grant provided by MASGC to produce localized maps depicting vulnerability of roads, beaches and other infrastructure to flooding due to sea-level rise. The study outlined recommended mitigation actions along with a summary of their pros and cons (e.g. adapting infrastructure to coastal drainage, erosion prevention and transportation infrastructure). The city then conducted a public outreach campaign to determine what types of mitigation measures residents would support to address these vulnerabilities.

Results:

The City of Ocean Springs conducted a sea-level rise study to identify critical infrastructure at risk to flooding. The city prioritized mitigation actions and is working to address its vulnerabilities through applying for grant opportunities, updating codes and revisiting their comprehensive plan.

Recap:

The results of The City of Ocean Springs’ sea-level rise vulnerability study and subsequent public outreach led to updates in its zoning code and comprehensive plan. The city also used information from the study to prioritize capital improvements. (2015)

Field-applicable Vibrio parahaemolyticus detection kits validated for use

Relevance:

Despite Vibrio parahaemolyticus management plans and industry efforts, illness rates continue to go up indicating that industry and regulators have been unable to manage the problem. Rapid and easy-to-use tests kits for enumeration of total and pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus in oysters will provide investigators a rapid and cost-effective tool to evaluate not only the practice of re-submersion following anti-biofouling, but also other aquaculture practices that state and federal regulators may find likely to increase the risk of vibrio illness. 

Response:

The team of Mississippi State University and FDA has developed a simple, rapid and low cost Vp assay kits to currently accepted methods that will expand industry capacity to develop new PHP approaches, such as high-salinity relaying or depuration.

Results:

These tests provide a simple, rapid (18 hour) result for total and potentially pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus levels in oysters. Initial testing demonstrated 100 percent specificity against 48 V. parahaemolyticus and 26 non-Vp and sensitivity of less than 10 cells/test. Using the 96-well plate format, comparability testing demonstrated excellent reliability of these test kits, with 183 naturally-incurred oyster samples from the Gulf, Atlantic and Pacific coasts tested and good agreement (P < 0.05) was observed between the test kit for total V. parahaemolyticus and Most Probable Number real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction.

Recap:

Scientists create a rapid, easy-to-use and cost-effective Vp assay kit to detect V. parahaemolyticus in oyster samples. (2015)

Marine safety training saves lives

Relevance:

Commercial fishing continues to be the most dangerous occupation in the United States. In 2014, 38 commercial fishing fatalities were reported in the US. Fatalities occurred most frequently along the East Coast (42 percent) and in the Gulf of Mexico (26 percent). Seven of the fatalities in the Gulf of Mexico were suffered by the shrimp fleet. To address commercial fishing-related fatalities, federal law requires that captains of vessels operating in federal waters ensure that crew members receive safety instructions and onboard safety drills are conducted once a month by certified Commercial Fishing Vessel Drill Conductors. A limited number of trainers are available to offer courses in the Gulf of Mexico, which can make it difficult for the Gulf fleet to operate in compliance with the law.

Response:

To meet this educational need, MASGC outreach personnel obtained U.S. Coast Guard certification to offer Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) Commercial Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor training courses. MASGC organized and implemented two 12-hour courses for 27 professional fishermen in 2015. 

Results:

To date, a total of 90 fishermen in Mississippi and Alabama have become Coast Guard Certified Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Drill conductors as a result of MASGC’s role in organizing and implementing training. In August 2014, two AMSEA-trained Vietnamese fishermen, one of which was trained by MASGC outreach personnel, survived a vessel collision and successfully abandoned into their life raft.

Recap:

MASGC offered safety training for commercial fishermen that helped them comply with U.S. Coast Guard safety drill requirements and reduced fatalities in the Gulf of Mexico fleet. (2015)

Coastal surveys inform beach, dune management in Nueces County, Texas

Relevance:

Nueces County needed a current and accurate survey of the mean high tide (MHT) and mean low tide (MLT) lines on Mustang and North Padre Island. The barrier island and the Gulf beaches have always been the number one attraction for visitors. These assets are extremely important to the residents of the community, but equally important to flora and fauna of the biotic community (some of which are listed as critical or endangered) unique to this area of the coastal zone of Texas. Maintaining an accurate assessment of mean high and low tide, as well as the line of vegetation, is a critical input to the methods the county and city use to protect the dune system from development encroachment.

Response:

The project accomplished four specific tasks. 

Task 1: Completed Coastal Jurisdictional Boundary Surveys for 22 miles of Gulf of Mexico shoreline along Mustang and North Padre Island. 

Task 2: Reviewed and assimilated available historical data. 

Task 3: Coastal Habitat Restoration GIS (CHRGIS). 

Task 4: Summarized project and made recommendations future efforts.

Results:

Nueces County established solid baseline survey data to establish setback rules that protect massive dune structures, mitigate storm-related impacts to property and ensure beaches remain open and accessible. 

Recap:

This Nueces County, Texas, project established solid baseline coastal boundary lines from which all management, policy, permitting and regulatory efforts are derived. It also promoted coastal resilience and protection of 22 miles of beaches and dune systems. (2015)

Volunteers grow oysters for reef restoration

Relevance:

The Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program in Alabama is volunteer-based project that focuses on education, restoration/enhancement and research by bringing the reef to the people. Now in its twelfth year of operation, the oyster gardening program has produced nearly 750,000 oysters for restoration and enhancement efforts within Mobile Bay. 

Response:

Volunteers around Mobile Bay grow juvenile oysters from their wharves to be planted on restoration sites in Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound. In 2015, volunteers from 35 sites successfully grew and planted 43,571 oysters with a mean height of 53.5mm.

Results:

The oysters planted by volunteers in 2015 were sufficient to restore 2.15 acres of reef with an economic value estimated at $41,464.88.

Recap:

Volunteer oyster gardening citizen scientists, in partnership with MASGC Extension, restored up to 2.15 acres of oyster reef with a value of $41,464.88. (2015)

Trawl gear programming reduces operation costs of Gulf of Mexico shrimpers

Relevance:

Diesel engines power the majority of fishing vessels in the United States, and diesel fuel is the largest component of operating costs on Gulf shrimp vessels. To survive, shrimpers need to increase fuel efficiency to decrease operational costs.

Response:

The use of energy-efficient trawl gear with less drag can reduce fuel costs. The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) conducted field research and documented the fuel savings and catch retention associated with available energy-efficient trawl gear and more efficient turtle excluder/bycatch reduction devices. To inform decision-making, MASGC shared the results with fishermen through gear demonstrations at dockside visits and as part of other outreach efforts. Vietnamese-Americans with limited English language skills own and operate a large percentage of the offshore fishing fleet in the northern Gulf. An MASGC staff member used his Vietnamese language skills to reach this underserved clientele group.

Results:

Over 20 shrimp vessels have adopted the use of energy-efficient trawl gear. All reported fuel savings similar to the field trials, and most have continued to use the gear. Based on conservative estimates of fuel savings (1.5 gallons per hour, a 12-hour fishing day, 180 days per year and fuel cost of $3 per gallon), each vessel is saving about $10,000 a year in operating costs. Cost savings continue to accrue and are greater with rising fuel costs. Total savings to the fleet has topped $1 million since the program’s inception.

Recap:

MASGC programming leads Gulf shrimp fishermen to adopt energy-efficient trawl gear and save over $1 million in operating costs. (2014)

Integrated program responsible for the creation of oyster farming industry in Alabama

Relevance:

The Gulf Coast oyster industry has suffered a number of setbacks, both natural and manmade, that are challenging an industry built around inexpensive, plentiful oysters. Off-bottom oyster farming for the high-value, half-shell niche market, as practiced on the northeast and Pacific coasts, provides an opportunity for Gulf residents to create jobs, increase profits and diversify the oyster industry.

Response:

Sea Grant-funded scientists established two large oyster farming parks that serve as platforms for training and business development, as part of a partnership between Louisiana Sea Grant, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC), Auburn University, and Louisiana State University. The parks demonstrate grow-out and harvesting technology and techniques. Scientists also provided technical advice and evaluations of possible sites to potential oyster farmers. Along with scientists, Sea Grant legal specialists were integral in providing research to inform passage of state legislation that clarified and simplified the permitting process.

Results:

Nine new commercial oyster farms have been established in Alabama, with a total farm-gate value exceeding $825,000 to date, which is expected to more than double in 2015, increasing incomes and generation of local jobs (at least 6 full-time positions and over 10 part-time positions). At least 5 wholesalers in Alabama also profited from the sales of these oysters. Two new oyster equipment companies were established in Alabama, with total sales inception well over $100,000. Several applications for new commercial farms are pending the results of the governor’s review board mandated by Alabama HB 361 (on which Dr. Walton served). This work has also led the Gulf Oyster Industry Council to invite Dr. Walton to participate in their annual ‘Walk on the Hill’ in Washington, D.C. as a technical advisor on oyster farming since 2012. In partnership with Organized Seafood Association of Alabama (OSAA), MASGC has conducted a hands-on training program Oyster Farming Fundamentals, which has trained 16 adult students that have collectively raised 350,000 oyster seed, and developing a “vo-tech” program that trains high school students to be oyster farmers.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant research and outreach leads to development of commercial off-bottom oyster farming industry in Alabama that approaches $1 million per year. (2014)

Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Drill Conductor Training

Relevance:

Commercial fishing continues to be the most dangerous occupation in the United States. According to National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) fatality statistics for the commercial fishing industry, almost a quarter (9, 24%) of the 2010 fatalities occurred in the shrimp fishery, seven of which were in the Gulf of Mexico. To address commercial fishing-related fatalities, federal law requires that captains of vessels operating in federal waters ensure that crew members receive safety instructions and onboard safety drills are conducted once a month by certified Commercial Fishing Vessel Drill Conductors. A limited number of trainers are available to offer courses in the Gulf of Mexico, which can make it difficult for the Gulf fleet to operate in compliance with the law.

Response:

To meet this educational need, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) outreach personnel obtained U.S. Coast Guard certification to offer Commercial Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor training courses. MASGC organized and implemented two 12-hour courses for 25 professional fishermen in 2014. Upon completion of the course, the fishermen met Coast Guard requirements to become certified Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Drill Conductors. MASGC was able to provide most of the oral and written material in the Vietnamese and English languages.

Results:

To date, a total of 73 fishermen in Mississippi and Alabama have become Coast Guard Certified Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Drill conductors as a result of MASGC’s role in organizing and implementing training.

Recap:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium helps commercial fishermen meet U.S. Coast Guard safety drill requirements by offering training to fishermen (many who speak Vietnamese) that allows them to obtain certification. (2014)

HACCP training helps local seafood business retain national supermarket account

Relevance:

The national economic downturn negatively impacted a large cross section of water-dependent businesses along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. Low seafood prices and complex seafood processing regulations have adversely impacted many sectors including the seafood industry.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) extension specialists worked with processors to ensure that their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) training was up to date so they could remain operational. 

Results:

HACCP training by an MASGC extension specialist prevented one seafood processor from losing a significant national supermarket chain account and shutting down permanently because its employees did not have adequate HACCP training. Working with the owners of the processing company, MASGC quickly certified employees in HACCP, and the operation reopened within 36 hours. This training saved the account and the business. 

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium enabled a local seafood business to remain open and retain a contract with a major national supermarket chain. (2014) 

Inland shrimp farming operations improve production projects by increasing survival juvenile shrimp

Relevance:

Poor survival of post-larvae shrimp following acclimation to low-salinity waters has been a problem for farmers raising shrimp inland since the beginning of the west Alabama inland shrimp industry in 1999. As post-larvae are a significant expense for inland farmers, improved acclimation techniques were required to increase survival and subsequently improve profit margins.

Response:

A growth trial was conducted at different salinities and temperatures to explore the effects on growth and survival of juvenile shrimp. Another study was conducted to evaluate how various aqueous sodium-potassium ratios at different temperatures impacted survival, growth and osmoregulatory capacity of shrimp. Researchers are transferring research results to local farmers to improve on-site acclimation of post-larval shrimp.

Results:

Alabama producers are now more aware of the effects of shifting temperature and salinity and their effects on shrimp survival. Adoption of these techniques has led to better survival during the production season. Increased survival at acclimation has allowed farmers to increase their production at harvest by more than 500 pounds per acre compared to when the study began in 2008. The annual economic impact is approximately $1,200,000 to date ($200,000 per year).

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant improved acclimation techniques that inland shrimp farmers in Alabama use, thus increasing survival and production of shrimp by 500 pounds per acre. (2014)

Trade Adjustment Assistance training leads to more than $2M in direct payments to AL, MS shrimpers

Relevance:

Producers in the U.S. shrimp industry are experiencing economic hardships because of rising production costs and competition from imported shrimp causing many shrimpers to be forced into leaving the industry. In order for the domestic fishery to remain viable, producers need to learn how to reduce operating costs and get more money for their catch. In 2010, the Southern Shrimp Alliance successfully petitioned for shrimp harvested in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) to be considered an eligible commodity for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Farmers program in FY2010. Nearly 4,000 members of the shrimping industry from throughout the eight states applied to participate in the FY2010 TAA program.

Response:

Before becoming eligible for cash benefits, each producer must receive 12 hours of TAA Intensive Technical Assistance and develop an initial business plan that will help them become more competitive in the world marketplace. In 2011, 22 3-hour TAA workshops were conducted on topics designed to increase the global competitiveness and economic levels of Gulf and South Atlantic shrimpers. Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant outreach personnel developed training modules, help industry members fill out forms and paperwork, and assisted with workshop advertisement, logistics, and facilitation. More than 750 commercial fishermen from Alabama and Mississippi participated in the TAA workshops.

Results:

In Alabama and Mississippi, 789 shrimpers each received 12 hours of Intensive Technical Assistance under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program for Shrimpers, making each eligible for $4,000 in cash benefits. So far, this totals $3,156,000 in additional earnings for these producers, which will increase as more applicants complete the training requirements.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium outreach was instrumental in helping shrimpers obtain training and cash benefits under the USDA Trade Adjustment Assistance Program. For more information on this program, visit www.taaforfarmers.org. (2014)

Low-impact development ordinances encourage smart growth practices in Alabama’s D’Olive Watershed

Relevance:

When impervious cover within a watershed exceeds 25 percent, the chance to pursue meaningful stream restoration is greatly diminished. Currently, impervious cover within the D’Olive Watershed ranges from 20-25%. According to the D’Olive Watershed Management Plan, impervious cover could approach 38% (assuming 100% build-out by 2020). Increased volume and velocity of stormwater runoff and changes to drainage patterns have escalated concerns over erosion and sedimentation within the watershed’s stream network and D’Olive Bay and Mobile Bay, its receiving waters.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program facilitate the D’Olive Intergovernmental Task Force in an effort to restore the D’Olive Watershed, which includes the cities of Daphne and Spanish Fort. The task force formed in 2011 on recommendation of the D’Olive Watershed Working Group, a coalition of federal, state and local agencies, property owners, developers and commercial interests. The task force strategically implements management measures set forth in the watershed management plan.

Results:

Through the D’Olive Watershed Working Group, Daphne and Spanish Fort have worked to implement consistent ordinances to encourage low-impact development (LID) and green infrastructure techniques to minimize impervious cover in future developments. In 2013, Daphne enacted Ordinance No. 2013-12, which states, “In order to preserve the integrity, stability, and the value of land, the City encourages the use of innovative, LEED-certified and/or other green practices in development design” and includes recommended LID practices.

Recap:

LID and green infrastructure ordinances adopted by Daphne in 2013 and under development in Spanish Fort will allow future development to incorporate smart growth concepts, minimizing impacts of impervious cover. (2014)

Semmes, Alabama, includes low-impact development provisions into subdivision regulations

Relevance:

The city of Semmes is a newly incorporated city in the 8-Mile Creek watershed in Mobile County, Alabama, with a population of 3,015 people. The Semmes Planning Commission seeks to foster future growth while preserving the rural character of the community. 38 % of the total acres and 15% of the total parcels of property in the city’s jurisdiction are currently undeveloped. As a new city, the Planning Commission needed to develop planning documents and regulations that guided future development, yet ensured achievement of community goals, such as protecting streams, open space and fostering conservation development.

Response:

Auburn University researchers, funded by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium to develop watershed models to predict water quality impacts of land use change, met with Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Semmes City officials to discuss the benefits of low impact development (LID). LID is an approach to land development (or re-development) that attempts to work with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. LID employs principles such as preserving and recreating natural landscape features and minimizing effective imperviousness to create functional and appealing site drainage.

Results:

Several of the actions and policies suggested by the researchers were incorporated into the Semmes Subdivision Regulations, adopted on January 27, 2012 and subsequently revised on several occasions. For instance, model stream buffer policies were adopted and are measured as follows: “Within 150 feet of a public drinking water source and any associated tributaries and/or wetlands; within 100 feet of streams and associated wetlands; and within 75 feet of natural drainage features and adjacent and/or isolated wetlands.” These stream buffers and other policies will promote water quality, natural resource planning, and low impact development within Semmes.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant researchers helped the City of Semmes develop and adopt subdivision regulations that focus on conservation, stream conservation, stream buffer, and LID policies. (2014)

Certification programs enhance stewardship knowledge and practices of Alabama nature-based tourism

Relevance:

Both residents and visitors to the Gulf Coast are increasingly interested in experiencing the natural history and culture of coastal and ocean environments. Wildlife viewing activities hold tremendous potential for stimulating local economies while celebrating natural wonders and cultural heritage. To be successful, nature-tourism experiences should provide quality opportunities to engage the public with natural resources in ways that lead to greater understanding and appreciation, while protecting and preserving the wildlife populations they are viewing.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Outreach Program offered professional development programs and certification opportunities for nature-based tourism businesses.  The Coastal Nature Guide Certification Program helped nature-tourism professionals build and enhance the skills needed to adopt and promote sustainable wildlife viewing practices that help preserve healthy and resilient coasts along the Gulf of Mexico. The Certified Fishers Invested in Sustainable Harvest (CFISH) program, which was based on the Coastal Nature Guide Program, provided training on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico, sustainable fishing practices, applicable resource laws and regulations, promotion of good stewardship practices, and responsible advertising.

Results:

Six coastal nature guides and 24 captains and deckhands in Alabama received professional development training and received certification through the Coastal Nature Guide Certification and Certified Fishers Invested in Sustainable Harvest (CFISH) programs. These individuals are now better prepared to incorporate stewardship principles and practices into their tours and business operations.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant nature tourism specialists provided professional development training and certification to nature guides and charter fishermen to enhance stewardship of coastal resources. (2014)

Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant legal research informs judicial analysis

Relevance:

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that private property may not be taken for public use without just compensation. In 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a regulation that goes “too far” amounts to a taking. Federal and state courts have been struggling to figure out when a regulation goes “too far” for the past 80 years. Takings claims involving the regulation of coastal property have proven particularly challenging for courts due to the intersection of private and public rights in the coastal zone. Because the law in this area is complex and evolving, state and local governments are reluctant to enact new laws and regulations to address ongoing and emerging coastal hazards, which increases the risk of future environmental and social harm.

Response:

In 2010, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program and project partners Florida Sea Grant, Louisiana Sea Grant Law and Policy Program, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, and Texas Wesleyan School of Law launched a new legal research and outreach project on the impact of the “regulatory takings” doctrine on the ability of local governments to implement sea level rise adaptation policies. This work was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Programs, the Environmental Protection Agency Gulf of Mexico Program and the Northern Gulf Institute. The project team conducted in-depth legal research on a range of legal issues and produced five law review articles that were published in the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law.

Results:

The project team’s research is informing the legal debate regarding the impact of the takings doctrine on state and local coastal management decisions. In a high-profile Texas regulatory takings case, Severance v. Patterson, involving the Texas Open Beaches Act, a dissenting judge cited one of the project team’s law review articles seven times to support his argument that the majority was not adequately considering the potential environmental impact of its ruling.

Recap:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program and project partners conducted legal research on the impact of the regulatory takings doctrine that informed the legal debate regarding the Texas Open Beaches Act. (2014)

Gulf Shores, Alabama, adopts overlay zone to encourage establishment of waterway village

Relevance:

Gulf Shores, Alabama, has experienced significant challenges in recent years, including damaging hurricanes and oil spill impacts to its beaches. Gulf Shores recognizes the critical need to diversify its economy and encourage development and investment away from the popular Gulf Coast beaches. In 2010, the Gulf Shores City Planner attended a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant outreach workshop on planning techniques to preserve and enhance working waterfronts. Following the workshop, the Gulf Shores Planning and Zoning Department began exploring the creation of a waterfront development plan on the Intracoastal Waterway. As with any new planning initiative, a number of legal and regulatory questions had to be addressed before the City’s vision could be implemented.

Response:

At the request of Gulf Shores, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Outreach Program and its legal specialists conducted research on ways to encourage the return of water-dependent businesses along the Intracoastal Waterway. Specifically, the research focused on two key components of Gulf Shore’s development plan:  establishment of a seafood market/exchange and the creation of a pedestrian greenway along the waterfront. MASGC legal specialists identified regulations for seafood markets and exchanges and potential issues and challenges with getting them started. They also researched issues associated with creating a pedestrian pathway, and provided examples of language used in other cities to address working waterfronts in local policies.

Results:

As a result of this partnership, Gulf Shores became the first community in Alabama to adopt a local ordinance to preserve waterfront heritage. In 2012, the Gulf Shores Planning and Zoning Commission approved a historic downtown overlay district called the “Waterway Village.” The Waterway Village District Overlay defines working waterfronts within the district and includes specific language that protects, preserves and advances the traditional culture of working waterfronts. This new overlay zone will allow for the re-establishment of certain types of water-dependent businesses that historically were part of the waterfront.

Recap:

With legal research and outreach support from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Gulf Shores, Alabama, adopted an overlay zone to increase access to and encourage re-establishment of water-dependent businesses on the Intracoastal Waterway. (2014)

Local governments participate in the Community Rating System, decrease flood insurance cost for Gulf

Relevance:

The increasing cost of flood and wind insurance is making it difficult for coastal residents to be financially resilient. Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program and its incentive-based program, the Community Rating System (CRS), has become essential to mitigating for future hazards, as well as reducing insurance premiums.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium offered technical assistance, hosted workshops, or planned meetings with 10 communities and two counties to increase community participation in the CRS. It also assisted these communities in improving their CRS class rating. By participating in the Coastal Hazard Outreach Strategy Team (C-HOST), Sea Grant extension staff conducted informal needs assessments to determine challenges associated with the CRS. Joint outreach campaigns with CRS communities were conducted to address these challenges which included radio PSAs and billboards about purchasing flood insurance, TV spots reminding residents of flood risks, and flood warning materials placed in the yellow pages books which are received by all coastal residents. These activities earned CRS points for participating C-HOST member communities. 

Results:

The NOAA Coastal Storms Program in coordination with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium conducted an evaluation of the Gulf of Mexico Region to determine the economic impact and benefits of this assistance. When compared to control groups in North Carolina and Florida, communities in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana increased their CRS participation by 14 communities and decreased their class rating by 0.6 from 2007 to 2013 (i.e., more than a half of a class better than the control group). These improvements in flood protection lead to reduced risk of flood damage and can result in significant cost savings for those needing to purchase insurance.

Recap:

The Coastal Storms Program in the Gulf of Mexico helped 29 communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana improve their flood insurance ratings saving residential and commercial policyholders hundreds of dollars annually. (2014)

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)  

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)

The Oyster Trail public art, education project supports oyster gardening program

Relevance:

The Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program is a volunteer-based project that focuses on education, restoration/enhancement and research by bringing the reef to the people. Since the program began in 2001, oyster gardeners have produced nearly 700,000 oysters (enough to restore approximately 34.5 acres) for restoration and enhancement efforts within Mobile Bay, which is enough to restore 34.5 acres. Additional volunteers and funding were needed to support these restoration efforts.

Response:

MASGC launched The Oyster Trail, an interactive scavenger hunt through Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama. The Oyster Trail currently has 20 5-foot-tall oyster statues that local artists have painted. A business, group or nongovernmental organization pays a yearly fee to sponsor an oyster on their property or in a public space. Each fiberglass oyster statue includes a fact plaque that displays information about oysters or estuaries. Maps and a scavenger hunt form (which includes a list of questions about the oyster facts) can be found around town or on The Oyster Trail’s website. Proceeds from oyster sponsorships go to support the ongoing restoration efforts of the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program.

Results:

18 businesses, groups, NGOs are active sponsors of The Oyster Trail. Statues placed in 18 locations around Mobile Bay provide a visual reminder of our connection to the estuarine environment and generated $32,400 in proceeds to support the Trail and Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program. Proceeds go toward material, logistical and equipment costs associated with gardening and planting efforts in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound.

Recap:

MASGC Oyster Trail raises awareness and funds for the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program’s restoration efforts. (2014)

Coastal Alabama rain barrel program reduces residential stormwater impacts

Relevance:

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, polluted stormwater is the No. 1 water-quality issue. Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over land or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops) and does not percolate into the ground. The runoff accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment and other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if it is untreated and discharged into waterways. The primary method to control stormwater discharge is the use of best management practices (BMPs).

Response:

As part of the Alabama Rain Barrel Project, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) conducted workshops for citizens to build 55-gallon rain barrels. The workshops included educational sessions that taught citizens how to protect water quality and conserve water resources. Additionally, the session discussed how rain barrels help protect water quality, replenish groundwater sources and reduce the use of potable water. The workshops also stressed the importance of proper disposal of household wastes and appropriate fertilizer application practices in an effort to minimize the impacts of pollutants impacting coastal waters.

Results:

At workshops, 45 area residents constructed rain barrels, which were then installed at their residences. In addition to workshops, the Coastal Alabama Rain Barrel program has worked with partners to install low impact development (LID) demonstration sites and provide rain barrels for area schools and community gardens. To date, over 700 rain barrels have been constructed at workshops in Coastal Alabama and Mississippi. Post-workshop surveys indicate workshop attendees were willing to adopt other best management practices, in addition to rain barrels, to help protect coastal water resources. These rain barrels, and cisterns installed in three area LID demonstration projects, keep approximately 2,242,800 gallons of stormwater from entering local waterways every year.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant rain barrel workshops and LID demonstration sites have raised awareness and educated the public about water quality impacts associated with urban stormwater runoff. Workshops have enabled coastal residents to implement practical BMPs, reducing residential stormwater runoff. (2014)

Low-grade weirs treat more than 12,500 acres, remove 45 percent of nitrate-nitrogen from water

Relevance:

Non-point source nutrient loading from agricultural sources can result in coastal hypoxia. Innovative best management practices need to be developed and evaluated to enhance nutrient management at this source and ultimately improve water quality throughout the watershed including coastal regions.

Response:

Scientists evaluated the ability of low-grade weirs to reduce nitrate-nitrogen experimentally and from a field demonstration standpoint.

Results:

Both experimental and field results highlighted greater than 45-percent reductions in nitrate-nitrogen from runoff and identified best management practices (BMP) for using low-grade weirs. Additional benefits from the low-grade weirs include better drainage to farms and retention of four times more sediment than systems that did not have weirs. From 2010-2015 a total of 13,058 acres of surface drainage are being controlled and treated through the use of approximately 68 low-grade weirs. Finally, the MASGC-supported low-grade weir research helped launch a large, multifaceted research and outreach program called REACH (http://www.reach.msstate.edu/) that now develops, tests and shares additional water quality BMPs and solutions to improve land management throughout the region.

Recap:

Low-grade weirs developed and tested through MASGC support are managing 13,058 acres of surface water run-off and serve as innovative BMPs that consistently decrease base-flow and storm-flow nitrate-N levels by greater than 45% and retain four times more sediment than non-weir systems, which improves water quality throughout the watershed and in coastal regions. (2014)

Science puts invasive jellyfish impacts in international spotlight

Relevance:

The Gulf of Mexico experienced blooms of millions of jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctate) native to Australian waters, and the potential adverse impacts to native fish populations, food web dynamics and commercially important species was unknown.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium invested in several research and monitoring projects to understand the causes of the jellyfish blooms, population dynamics of the jellyfish and the local and regional impacts this introduced species had on the local ecology and commercially important fish species.

Results:

This program discovered important and high-profile results including the presence of three distinct species with invasion tracks worldwide. Phyllorhiza is now understood to be the most successful invasive jellyfish in the world. To meet this significant problem, Sea Grant-funded researchers successfully developed a genetic identification test to use on mixed fouling assemblages to determine presence of Phyllorhiza on hulls of ships.

Sea Grant was also responsible for funding the first International Conference on Jellyfish Blooms held in 2000 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Wildly successful, there have been three additional conferences over the past 13 years in Australia (2007), Argentina (2010) and Japan (2013). Interest in jellyfish science has been increasing since MASGC’s foundational effort. The 2013 conference in Japan presented nearly twice as much science as the first conference. Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant is also directly responsible for other important research syntheses related to jellyfish blooms and for several citizen science efforts around the world.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant used a multi-pronged approach of monitoring, genetic and ecological analyses and spatial studies, to understand the impacts of an invasive jellyfish species and greatly increased the international focus on jellyfish invasions and their ecological impacts. (2014)

Program helps create Living Shorelines Permit, protects habitat

Relevance:

Living shorelines present an ecological and economic alternative to bulkheads and seawalls that may be viable for low-erosional settings. A living shoreline uses living plant material, oyster shells, earthen material or a combination of natural structures with riprap or offshore breakwaters to protect property from erosion.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) educates the public, state and federal regulatory agencies and private contractors about the benefits of installing natural erosion control structures to protect private and public shoreline properties. Since 2004, MASGC personnel have planned and conducted six workshops about living shorelines in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, published three extension publications related to natural erosion control structures and made numerous presentations to promote alternatives to vertical bulkheads throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico Alliance Training Program adopted the structure and content of these workshops, and it has conducted multiple trainings throughout the Gulf of Mexico. More than 504 participants, including waterfront property owners, consultants, researchers and local, state, and federal managers, attended these workshops. 

Results:

As a result of five separate living shoreline projects, more than 2,000 linear feet of living shorelines were installed, which protect 25 acres of salt marsh. The workshops also have proven influential in facilitating change in shoreline protection regulatory policy. In October 2011, the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers adopted a new “Living Shorelines” General Permit (GP-10). The general permit is applicable within the states of Alabama and Mississippi and will make it easier for businesses, landscape and marine contractors, and shoreline property owners to install natural erosion structures to protect their eroding shorelines as opposed to bulkheads or seawalls.

Recap:

MASGC outreach activities contributed to the development of a Living Shorelines General Permit by the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (2014)

Stewardship program managers use Sea Grant research to refine plans for burning high marshes in MS

Relevance:

Habitat degradation caused by storm debris has decreased ecological services provided by coastal ecosystems and has altered their resilience to climate change. Research on storm and fire impacts, which are predicted to increase in frequency or intensity with climate change, can inform resource managers on methods strategies to sustain coastal ecosystems.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) researchers worked with Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve partners to assess the interactive effects of prescribed fire and hurricanes on a black needlerush marsh. This approach permitted an examination of multiple-factor interactions that influence ecological processes and ecosystem sustainability.

Results:

MASGC supported researchers found that high marsh areas are more vulnerable to fire than other marsh areas because they accumulated highly combustible wrack after hurricanes, and the plants are therefore slower to recover following a fire. Resource managers for the state of Mississippi are using these research results to refine prescription plans for burning on state lands and to minimize risks to potentially vulnerable high marsh areas.

Recap:

Managers at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve make coastal management decisions based on Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded research on hurricanes and fire interactions in a black needlerush marsh. (2014)

Water-quality monitoring program affects management decisions in Alabama lagoon

Relevance:

Little Lagoon is a poorly-flushed lagoon, which makes it vulnerable to anthropogenic impact. Symptoms of degraded ecological status include episodic hypoxia, recurring blooms of the toxic harmful algal blooms (HAB)-forming diatom Pseudo-nitzschia spp, occasional high to very high numbers of fecal coliform bacteria and, less frequently, E. coli.

Response:

In a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded project, a biweekly sampling program was established with a core group of eight volunteers from the grassroots Little Lagoon Preservation Society (LLPS) to monitor water quality and identify the environmental and/or anthropogenic drivers.

Results:

The research-volunteer team has identified drivers of water quality and HABs in the lagoon and identified unusually high fecal coliform numbers in the lagoon when the pass was closed following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Data and their implications have been presented publicly via LLPS quarterly meetings and website. When fecal coliform numbers were elevated, data and interpretation were communicated promptly to federal, state and municipal personnel responsible for maintaining water quality. Water-quality managers reopened the pass daily in response to the monitoring information. The archive of data has been made available on request to municipal utility managers in response to concerns about the impact of septic tanks adjacent to the lagoon.

Recap:

During the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, on-the-ground data collection showed a spike in coliform bacteria in Little Lagoon in Alabama. Based on the data, state managers decided to reopen the pass daily to flush the 2,400-acre system. This management decision put health concerns above potential impacts of oil entering the lagoon. (2014)

Gulf Sea Grant programs leverage more than $10 million in resources to address regional needs

Relevance:

The Gulf of Mexico has experienced severely damaging technological (oil spills) and natural (hurricanes) disasters within the last ten years. These stressors have reinforced the importance of collaboration among federal agencies, state agencies, universities, non-government organizations and others to address a wide range of regional concerns facing coastal communities and the environment.  

Response:

MASGC responded to current and emerging regional needs and developed a unified approach to address these needs. MASGC partnered with the three other Gulf Sea Grant programs and multiple National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) groups, the NOAA Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration Team, the Environmental Protection Agency Gulf of Mexico Program and other federal agencies. The Sea Grant programs also served in leadership positions in several regional collaboration efforts, including the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (the coastal regional governance structure), Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, National Academy of Science Gulf Program and others. Led by MASGC, the Gulf Sea Grant programs and the NOAA’s Coastal Storms Program partnered to improve coastal community resilience, ensure seafood sustainability and improve the health of ecosystems Gulf-wide. In addition, MASGC in partnership with the Gulf Sea Grant programs led the development of the Gulf of Mexico Research Plan (GMRP) and are addressing regional research priorities identified in it. The four Sea Grant programs also implemented a community-based restoration partnership with NOAA. 

Results:

Between 2007 and 2013, the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant programs expanded from managing one regional research competition solely funded by the Sea Grant programs to managing multiple regional research, restoration and resilience competitions and managing several regional outreach efforts. In many cases MASGC led the development and implementation of the regional activities during this timeframe. The regional activities (and funding levels) that the four Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant programs managed and/or implemented during this time period cover wide range of regionally-relevant topics, such as restoration ($1.7 million), coastal storms ($3.4 million), climate and sea-level rise ($2.1 million), ecosystem service valuation ($1.7 million), marine mammal interactions ($340,000), regional research planning activities ($790,000) and oil spill related and other activities ($305,000). The programs represent more than $10 million in research and outreach funds for the region. Because of the success of Sea Grant’s regional activities, in 2014 MASGC began two new regional activities. This includes coordinating an oil spill outreach program with the three Gulf Sea Grant programs and coordinating NOAA’s sentinel site program in the Gulf of Mexico and when combined total more than $1.5 million additional funds. Through these regional activities the network of Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant extension agents has successfully brought regional tools and services, such as the Sea Grant-developed Coastal Community Resilience Index, peer-listening training and seafood safety and sustainability training to more than 72 communities across the region. 

Recap:

The four Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant college programs successfully built a regional research and outreach portfolio totaling more than $10 million between 2007 and 2013 by building strong coalitions of partners to address regional concerns and due to this success new regional activities have begun in 2014. (2014)

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant serves coastal communities during oil-spill crisis

Relevance:

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was caused by an explosion of a deepwater drilling platform, which capsized and sank on April 22, 2010. In addition to loss of life and injuries to rig workers, the incident created an environmental and economic catastrophe as approximately 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf. Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant’s ability to step in as a “boots-on-the-ground,” honest broker of information was valuable to coastal communities and federal response agencies.

Response:

MASGC worked closely with the other Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant College Programs, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), other federal agencies, state agencies, non-governmental organizations, universities and land grant cooperative extension services to identify and address oil-spill-related needs of Gulf Coast residents. Sea Grant led or provided substantial support for 48 oil-spill-related trainings, workshops and town hall meetings with more than 2,683 participants. The Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant College Programs developed a regional website with links to oil-spill-related resources. Sea Grant also used its staff capabilities to ensure that the underserved Vietnamese-American community had access to information related to the claims process, financial management and BP’s Vessels of Opportunity Program.

A peer-listening program trained residents to help friends and family with mental-health challenges related to the oil spill. MASGC directly or indirectly trained more than 7,000 peer listeners from non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, city governments and communities. Sea Grant and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System developed a training program with BP for homeowners to teach them how to protect people, pets and property when cleaning up oil on their property. Sea Grant and Cooperative Extension also organized a seafood working group to provide guidance and coordination regarding seafood safety, fisheries closures and approaches to re-opening closed fisheries. They also formed a team consisting of four task forces to address oil-spill issues: damage assessment, family stress and financial management, food safety and consumer confidence, and oil-spill communications.

The MASGC legal program and extension specialists assisted those impacted by the spill by providing legal explanations, translation services, assistance regarding the damage claim process and other services.

MASGC conducted public forums using credible experts from 12 federal, state and local programs, and more than 500 people attended.

MASGC worked with NOAA’s external affairs office to foster communication between constituents and NOAA. Sea Grant served as the local-knowledge source to help federal partners understand the political landscape within affected communities. Sea Grant provided information through community meetings and leadership visits about commercial fishing industry issues, including seafood safety and fisheries closures; recreational fishing and charter boat issues; oil spills and hurricanes; volunteer coordination; response capacity of university programs; and services available through community outreach organizations.

Gulf Sea Grant programs in partnership with NOAA and regional partners developed an online database that allowed people to upload or query oil-spill research and monitoring activities. The database included more than 200 activities, and more than 5,700 unique visitors accessed the database. The four Gulf Sea Grant programs are coordinated an update to the Gulf of Mexico Regional Research Plan. MASGC served as the science advisor to the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission.

MASGC continues to help five years after the spill by providing expertise on oil spill related activities such as the National Academy of Science Gulf Program and through leading and implementing an oil spill science outreach program for the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative with the other three Gulf Sea Grant programs.

Results:

MASGC and the four Gulf Sea Grant programs were able to successfully reach all of their target audiences through customized trainings, workshops and symposia and well as deliver up-to-date oil spill information through a variety of ways including print, video, web, presentations, and other means. Many of the people directly impacted by the spill continued to seek information from Sea Grant staff over the course of the spill and afterwards because Sea Grant staff were viewed as providing credible, useful information.

Recap:

Since 2010 MASGC has provided science-based information through its extension, outreach and education programs to coastal residents and businesses regarding all aspects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, helping to mitigate the negative economic, environmental and social impacts. (2014)  

More than 150,000 teachers and students increase marine science and STEM literacy through programs

Relevance:

People are more likely to act as good stewards of the natural environment if they understand what is of value and how it works. Training for in-service teachers and experiential student learning experiences are efficient ways to disseminate new and relevant research results to enhance environmental stewardship and increase STEM literacy. 

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s education program, which is comprised of Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Discovery Hall Programs, Mobile County Public Schools’ Environmental Studies Center and The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab’s Marine Education Center, worked with scientists and other content experts to develop and implement 84 professional development programs related to the four Sea Grant focus areas, including but not limited to climate change, oil spills, fisheries, restoration and wetland ecology. On-site field based programs at each facility and off-site experiential programs enabled K-12 students and their teachers to develop a personal understanding of estuaries, rivers, watersheds, salt marshes, beaches and more.  

Results:

Pre- and post-test assessments indicated significant improvement in student content knowledge after student programs. Between 2010 and 2013, professional development workshops engaged 1,533 teachers in active learning experiences to learn specific content and how to align it to age-appropriate learning standards for their students. Also during this time, the MASGC education program reached 94,760 K-12 students and teachers through on-site programs and 70,692 K-12 students through off-site experiential programs.

Recap:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s education program addresses all four Sea Grant focus areas, and between 2010 and 2013 the education program reached more than 1,500 teachers who took part in professional development programs and significantly improved their content knowledge and almost 95,000 K-12 students who participated in on-site field-based programs and more than 70,000 K-12 students who participated in off-site experiential programs. (2014)

Local governments participate in the Community Rating System, decrease flood insurance cost for Gulf

Relevance:

The increasing cost of flood and wind insurance is making it difficult for coastal residents to be financially resilient. Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program and its incentive-based program, the Community Rating System (CRS), has become essential to mitigating for future hazards, as well as reducing insurance premiums.

Response:

Sea Grant offered technical assistance, hosted workshops or planned meetings with 10 communities and two counties to increase community participation in the CRS. It also assisted other communities in improving their CRS class rating. The NOAA Coastal Storms Program in coordination with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium conducted an evaluation of the Gulf of Mexico Region to determine the economic impact and benefits of this assistance.

Results:

When compared to control groups in North Carolina and Florida, communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana increased their CRS participation by 14 communities and decreased their class rating by 0.6 from 2007 to 2013 (i.e. more than a half of a class better than the control group). These improvements in flood protection lead to reduced risk of flood damage and can result in significant cost savings for those needing to purchase insurance.

Recap:

Across Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, there were 29 communities that moved from no discount to a 5-percent discount on flood insurance or from a 5-percent to a 10-percent discount between 2007 and 2013. These improvements saved residential policyholders $29-$98 annually and commercial policyholders $83-$329, depending on level of coverage. (2013)

Research, outreach facilitate creation of first commercial oyster farms in northern Gulf of Mexico

Relevance:

The Gulf Coast oyster industry has suffered a number of setbacks, both natural and manmade, challenging an industry built around inexpensive, plentiful oysters. Off-bottom oyster farming for the the high-value, half-shell niche market, as practiced on the northeast and Pacific coasts, provides an opportunity for Gulf residents to create jobs, increase profits and diversify the oyster industry.

Response:

Sea Grant-funded scientists established two large oyster farming parks that serve as platforms for training and business development, as part of a partnership between Louisiana Sea Grant, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Auburn University and Louisiana State University. The parks demonstrate grow-out and harvesting technology and techniques. Scientists also provided technical advice and evaluations of possible sites to potential oyster farmers. Along with scientists, legal researchers were integral in passing state legislation that clarified and simplified the permitting process.

Results:

Eight oyster farms in Alabama and Louisiana have more than 9 acres in production. Since the aquaculture project began in 2010, at least 585,000 oysters have gone to market with a wholesale value of at least $225,000. The oyster farms have created four long-term, part-time jobs. Three aquaculture gear distributors also have opened businesses. Legislation was passed that clarified and simplified the permitting process in both states. In Alabama, for example, legislation passed in 2013 reduced initial permitting confusion and out-of-pocket expenses by more than $5,000.

Recap:

Commercial off-bottom oyster farming was established in Alabama and Louisiana, and larger oyster farm parks now serve as centers for industry development. (2013)

Trawl gear programming reduces Gulf of Mexico shrimpers’ operational costs

Relevance:

Diesel engines power the majority of fishing vessels in the United States, and diesel fuel is the largest component of operating costs on Gulf shrimp vessels. To survive, shrimpers need to increase fuel efficiency to decrease operational costs.

Response:

The use of energy-efficient trawl gear with less drag can reduce fuel costs. The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) conducted field research and documented the fuel savings and catch retention associated with available energy-efficient trawl gear and more efficient turtle excluder/bycatch reduction devices. To inform decision-making, MASGC shared the results with fishermen through gear demonstrations at dockside visits and as part of other outreach efforts. Vietnamese-Americans with limited English language skills own and operate a large percentage of the offshore fishing fleet in the northern Gulf. An MASGC staff member used his Vietnamese language skills to reach this underserved clientele group.

Results:

Over 20 shrimp vessels have adopted the use of energy-efficient trawl gear. All reported fuel savings similar to the field trials, and most have continued to use the gear. Based on conservative estimates of fuel savings (1.5 gallons per hour, a 12-hour fishing day, 180 days per year and fuel cost of $3 per gallon), each vessel is saving about $10,000 a year in operating costs. Cost savings continue to accrue and are greater with rising fuel costs. Total savings to the fleet has topped $1 million since the program&rsquo;s inception.

Recap:

MASGC programming leads Gulf shrimp fishermen to adopt of energy-efficient trawl gear and save over $1 million in operating costs. (2013)

Low-impact development ordinances encourage smart growth practices in Alabama’s D’Olive

Relevance:

When impervious cover within a watershed exceeds 25 percent, the chance to pursue meaningful stream restoration is greatly diminished. Currently, impervious cover within D'Olive Watershed ranges from 20-25 percent. Assuming 100-percent build-out by 2020, impervious cover could approach 38 percent, according to the D'Olive Watershed Management Plan. Increased volume and velocity of stormwater runoff and changes to drainage patterns have escalated concerns over erosion and sedimentation within the watershed's stream network and D'Olive Bay and Mobile Bay, its receiving waters.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program facilitate the D&rsquo;Olive Intergovernmental Task Force in effort to restore D'Olive Watershed, which includes the cities of Daphne and Spanish Fort. The task force formed in 2011 on recommendation of the D'Olive Watershed Working Group, a coalition of federal, state and local agencies, property owners, developers and commercial interests. The task force strategically implements management measures set forth in the watershed management plan.

Results:

Daphne and Spanish Fort have worked to implement consistent ordinances to encourage low-impact development (LID) and green infrastructure techniques to minimize impervious cover in future developments. In 2013, Daphne enacted Ordinance No. 2013-12, which states, "In order to preserve the integrity, stability, and the value of land, the City encourages the use of innovative, LEED-certified and/or other green practices in development design" and includes recommended LID practices.

Recap:

LID and green infrastructure ordinances adopted by Daphne in 2013 and under development in Spanish Fort will allow future development to incorporate smart growth concepts, minimizing impacts of impervious cover. (2013)

Restoration of more than 2,500 coastal acres benefits fish, shellfish and residents

Relevance:

An outdated flood-control structure in New Orleans and logging roads in Apalachicola, Florida, impaired the natural movement of water. In New Orleans, the flood-control gate prevented the natural flow of water and movement of fish between Lake Pontchartrain and the area behind the gate. It also prevented people from catching recreationally important fish in City Park and made it impossible to travel via water (kayak, canoe, etc.) between the park and Lake Pontchartrain. In a rural coastal area of Florida, the improper design of dirt roads caused Apalachicola Bay to have rapidly changing salinity levels after rainfall events, which adversely impacted important fish and shellfish species.

Response:

Through a community-based NOAA Restoration Center partnership with the four Sea Grant College Programs in the Gulf of Mexico, the Orleans Levee District received funding to remove a large concrete barrier in New Orleans, and the Northwest Florida Water Management District received funding to install 10 low-water crossings, 15 culvert modifications and 24 ditch plugs in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system.

Results:

Two restoration projects restored natural flow or sheet flow, as well as more than 4 miles of passage and 2,560 coastal acres. The projects directly benefited 13 freshwater and 20 saltwater fish species. In addition, the projects provided enhanced recreational opportunities, such as fishing for additional fish species and accessing more waterways via kayak and canoe.

Recap:

Two restoration projects restored more than 2,560 coastal acres to a more natural state, which benefited fish and shellfish and allowed people to enjoy additional nature-based recreational opportunities. 2013.

New regulation makes Biloxi more resilient to storms, flooding and sea-level rise

Relevance:

Cities located along the Gulf of Mexico are at risk of environment, economic and societal impacts from rising sea levels and storm surges. Proactive long-term planning is essential to minimizing community damage from these climate change impacts.

Response:

Working with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the Mississippi city of Biloxi 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.

Results:

Because of the climate team&rsquo;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 its updated hazard mitigation plan, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved. As a result of these actions, Biloxi is better prepared to adapt to projected climate change impacts.

Recap:

The formation of a climate team, facilitated by MASGC, for the City of Biloxi, resulted in three city actions that have reduced the risk of sea-level rise and storms to its citizens.