Recognizing that coastal communities are at risk to natural, economic, and technological disasters, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (Alliance) provided small grants for communities through a series of different funding opportunities. Documenting the assistance, the recently-published Community Impacts Report Gulf Coast Communities: Taking Action for a Better Tomorrow summarizes the work supported by the Alliance and its partners across the Gulf of Mexico.
Supporting Future Resilience
Often, communities can fund projects after a disaster occurs. Significant resources are made available through multiple channels, but rarely do those support proactive measures against future problems. With a Regional Coastal Resilience Grant from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, the Alliance began to address this critical need.
The Alliance’s Habitat Resources and Coastal Resilience Teams worked together with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium to conduct a small grant program to help communities address their vulnerabilities to future storms. The small grant program supported eight communities and provided for a series of “demonstration projects” at the local level. These demonstrations are shared so that partners can learn from them.
Assisting Hurricane Response
According to NOAA, the 2017 hurricane season was extremely active. The powerful storms Harvey, Irma, and Maria, devastated communities around the Gulf region from Texas to Puerto Rico. Working through strong partnerships, the Alliance developed a fund and solicited small grants to applicants affected by the hurricanes in Texas and Florida.
Supported by private and public funds, eight grants went to non-traditional audiences who did not qualify for the larger Federal assistance. Recipients included non-governmental organizations and small community groups who were not eligible to receive support from a larger parent organization. These groups included neighborhood associations, school organizations, churches, museums, zoos, and wildlife centers.
Adapting to Coastal Changes
The Climate and Resilience Community of Practice (CoP) is a group of professionals who aim to incorporate adaptation strategies into Gulf Coast communities’ comprehensive plans. The Alliance partnered with the CoP to build capacity in local communities. Together, through a capacity building grant from the National Academy of Sciences’ Gulf Research Program, the two organizations worked with members to prepare for and adapt to changing climate conditions. They also worked to lessen the impacts of localized flooding and effects of saltwater intrusion, and to communicate a clear and science-informed message to aid in future decision making.
The multifaceted projects expanded the reach of the CoP and its members to facilitate closing the gap between current science and application. It broadened the scope of membership to include additional Gulf communities, local businesses, and members from the Alliance’s Coastal Resilience and Habitat Resource Teams. Specifically, each of the implementation projects with local communities resulted in best management practices to share across the region.
Investing in Community Needs
In addition, the Alliance awarded two community grants through Gulf Star, the Alliance’s public-private partnership. Gulf Star partners are agencies, businesses, private organizations, and citizens that provide funding for projects tied directly to Gulf economies. These include issues such as sustainable seafood, loss of critical habitats, coastal resilience, water resources, living marine resources, and monitoring.
In Louisiana, the Alliance invested in two communities who evaluated their coastal vulnerabilities. Both communities utilized guidelines specifically tailored to their priorities, the Community Resilience Index, the Ports Resilience Index, and the Fisheries Resilience Index. Developed by the Alliance and its partners, these indices act as inexpensive methods to identify proactive steps toward hazards resilience.
In one project, local stakeholders were able to develop a cross-sector evaluation of overall community resilience. Collaborators with the second project combined traditional science and engineering with culturally significant habitats and historical infrastructure to help continue a way of life.
The work the Alliance does at the local level is quite broad around the region. The Community Impacts Report provides a snapshot of these successes and lays a foundation for future work with our partners.