Newswise — Ocean Springs, MS. – The Gulf of Mexico Alliance (Alliance) is pleased to announce Coastal Resilience Awards for eight community projects totaling $347,334. The awards are supported by funding from the NOAA Office for Coastal Management.

In January 2016, the Alliance’s Habitat Resources and Coastal Resilience Teams received a NOAA Coastal Resilience Grant to foster resilience planning and promote best practices for future mitigation actions. The 3-year award will support ten communities across the Gulf region as they identify resilience vulnerabilities and take steps to address them.

The Alliance created an opportunity for Gulf Coast communities to submit project ideas that address a resilience need or gap identified through a vulnerability assessment. Awardees include communities in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. A competition is underway in coastal Alabama with plans to announce an awardee there by August.

The Alliance award will also support the update of existing tools identified by communities as vital to the decision-making process. The project aims to improve risk communication and will develop a Coastal Resilience Roadmap for use throughout the Gulf region to prepare for future hazards.

As the selected communities take steps to enhance their resilience, they will become part of a Resilience Community of Practice. Here, they will share their experiences with their peers and establish best practices from which others may learn. A special call for proposals from coastal Alabama is open to select the final two recipients. The eight communities chosen to date are:

  • New Port Richey, Florida: The city has identified a strong need to protect the city from future flood events.  The Alliance’s grant will help the city to purchase equipment that diverts water to and from large retention areas, helping residents and businesses with flooding issues.
  • City of Treasure Island, Florida: The city wants to address future storm impacts to the barrier island community and sea level rise.  Funds from the Alliance will be used to develop a manual for pre-storm preparation activities as well as a post-disaster recovery plan, develop contracts for storm debris monitoring and removal, and review and recommend development codes to address potential climate change impacts.
  • South Florida Regional Planning Council: This project will focus on Islamorada in the Florida Keys, a community that has identified a need for high-resolution data to evaluate potential storm surge and sea level rise impacts.  They will use LIDAR and storm surge data to redefine the Coastal High Hazard Area (CHHA) for a category one storm at current sea levels and two future sea level scenarios.  This information will be used to identify assets under current and future risk within the CHHA.
  • City of Ocean Springs, Mississippi: The need for continuity planning rose to the top of the city’s Community Resilience Index conversations.  Ocean Springs will use funds from the Alliance to support the development of a business continuity plan.  They will work with the local Chamber of Commerce to identify standards and will offer competitive grants to local businesses to share the cost of preparing the plans.
  • Covington, Louisiana: The City of Covington recently identified a need to accurately notify residents of flash flood events and educate them about appropriate flash flood responses.  The city will use grant funds from the Alliance to create a flood preparation and response plan, complete an emergency response exercise based on the plan, provide education materials to residents, and host a workshop to share lessons-learned with neighboring communities.  Louisiana Sea Grant and the local CRS users group (FLOAT) are key partners.
  • South Padre Island, Texas: The city’s vulnerability assessment process identified a need to increase public access to new ecotourism sites, expand public education programming, and find solutions to low-lying vulnerable lands. The city will use grant funds from the Alliance to develop a Master Plan that identifies and preserves aquatic habitats (such as wetlands and mangroves) that provide protection from sea level rise and storm surge.
  • Rockport, Texas: Funds from the Alliance will be used to support the development of a county-wide multi-jurisdictional Program for Public Information (PPI), which is one of the many activities credited by FEMA’s Community Rating System program.  The City will partner with Texas Sea Grant and Mission-Aransas NERR on this project.
  • Aransas County, Texas: Aransas County will participate in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS) program as a result of the funds from the Alliance.  It is an opportunity to collect documentation, coordinate plans and ordinances, and complete the CRS Quick Check so that Aransas County can strengthen communication protocols for alerts and action notices for the county as well as reduce flood insurance premiums for their residents.  The County will also work with partners at Texas Sea Grant and Mission-Aransas NERR.