Assessing Floods Risks for Community-Led Action

Gulfport, Mississippi

Featured image for the project, Assessing Floods Risks for Community-Led Action

Description

Gulfport, the second-largest city in Mississippi, and surrounding areas have faced many natural disasters since the landfall of Hurricane Camille in 1969 to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but the inherent resilience of its citizens to rebuild and endure continue to keep the spirited community coming back. However, a lack of adequate drainage (open a closed ditches) to complement the revitalization and development efforts within the coastal area of the city creates large flooding events following short rain periods. The recent reduction in wetlands regulation, zoning changes, industrial development, and the expansion of impervious surfaces as citizens move north from the beachfront has further exacerbated these localized flooding issues. This creates flooding issues along the interstate, with subdivisions to the south of I-10 facing the most severe impacts, specifically the historically significant communities of Turkey Creek (one of the first settlements established by emancipated African Americans) and Forest Heights (one of the nation’s first integrated home ownership developments for low income families).

Residents in Gulfport neighborhoods are continually facing heavy rains which leads to flooding that often enter houses and yield to constant development without adequate drainage for storm water management. Heavy-use diesel traffic along the 25th St. corridor and stripping roads to dirt for redevelopment in nearby Biloxi has residents concerned about local air quality and associated health concerns. They currently have working relationships with NAACP, US Climate Action Network, HBCUs, and the National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program.

The goal of this project is to bring objective scientific evidence and understanding to the questions and priorities of residents around flooding and air quality, so the community can use that science to make decisions and take actions alongside elected officials.

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization and with our national partner, Higher Ground.

Contact

Ms. Katerine Egland is co-founder of the Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO), a Gulf Coast grassroots coalition of diverse, consensus-based group of educational, economics, health, environmental justice, climate justice, religious, and policy advocates and professionals that represent the interest of building better communities.

Scientist Wanted

Katherine seeks a scientific partner knowledgeable in wetlands issues to help EEECHO investigate the flooding and air quality issues in Gulfport and Biloxi, MS. The work will also include education on flood risk, stormwater management plans, recommendations on how to mitigate future flooding, and health concerns associated with poor air quality.

The scientist will also work with the community leads to prepare recommendations for presentation to residents and local government entities.

As an initial first step, a scientist is requested for 2-3 months to work with Katherine to:

  • visit the neighborhoods with the community leaders,
  • evaluate baseline conditions,
  • examine and aggregate existing hydrological or air quality assessments,
  • summarize the vulnerabilities and map solutions,
  • outline and recommend actions that can be taken to improve conditions throughout the community.

These initial steps will provide a foundation and refined scope upon which to shape best management practices for the remainder of this Thriving Earth Exchange -Higher Ground project.

Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.

 

Timeline and Outcome

Work will begin as soon as possible (June 2019). The first phase of this project will take approximately 2-3 months. Once a refined project scope is identified, the remainder of the project is expected to last 12-16 months.

 

Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Background in hydrology or environmental engineering
  • Understanding of wetland ecosystems and their regulation
  • Experience working on projects that address urban stormwater management
  • Willingness to work with environmental justice communities required
  • Ability to translate difficult science terminology for a lay audience
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas
  • Cultural sensitivity awareness
  • Well-respected and regarded in their field
  • The scientist should be able to visit the community in-person and able to observe the neighborhood with community leaders

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of Thriving Earth Exchange’s new cohorts. Thriving Earth Exchange has partnered with Higher Ground which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future. Thriving Earth Exchange is working with fifteen of their grassroots groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better characterize neighborhood-level flood risks and work effectively with local decision makers to mitigate those risks.