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