Assessing Flood Risks for Community-Led Action

Gulfport, Mississippi

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


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.


Notes from the Field: Gulfport, MS

From Katherine Egland:

Gianna M. Cothren, Renee Collini and Christopher Anderson came out during a rainstorm for an extremely productive meeting with a small community focus group on Friday, August 2 at Forrest Heights Baptist Church, located at the foot of the Turkey Creek Bridge in Gulfport. Residents were eager to be engaged in shoring their history and experiences and left feeling encouraged about the next steps. The group decided that there is a tremendous need for community education and awareness. Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO) and partners plan to host a series of Town Hall Meetings and wetlands site visits culminating in a full day community training. These events will be open to EEECHO’s student partners at Gulfport High, Central Middle and North Gulfport 7th and 8th Grade schools.

(Photo courtesy of Katherine Egland)


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Project Team

Community Leaders

Katherine 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.


Scientific Partners

Chris Anderson is an Associate Professor at Auburn University. Chris’s research examines the effects of human activities on a wide range of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. His goal is to understand how these disturbances change ecosystem function and how these alterations may be mitigated. He is particularly interested in results that influence regulations, environmental models, and planning which guide land use and natural resource policy.
Chris is also Associate Director for the Auburn University Center for Environmental Studies at the Urban-Rural Interface. The Center supports interdisciplinary research, outreach, and education related to urban land use change. Chris holds a Ph.D. in natural resources from Ohio State University.

Gianna Cothren is an Associate professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of New Orleans with expertise in Coastal Restoration Sustainability & Environmentalism. Her research interests include Urban and rural environmental hydrology; Hydrologic modelling; Geographic Information System (GIS) applications in water resources; and Physical, chemical, and biological wetland functions. Gianna holds a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Louisiana State University.

Renee Collini is the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative Coordinator at the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. Renee works with scientists who are monitoring and collecting data at sanctuaries, estuarine research reserves, marine protected areas and other locations across the Gulf of Mexico (from the Pearl River at the Louisiana-Mississippi state line to the Suwanee River in the Florida Panhandle). She also works with researchers, managers, decision makers and other stakeholders in an outreach role to identify informational gaps and needs in the region. She holds a master’s degree in marine science from University of South Alabama.

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.