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News Releases from Region 04

Mississippi State Universitys Gulf Community Design Studio Receives First Place EPA Gulf Guardian Award

Contact Information: 
Davina Marraccini (marraccini.davina@epa.gov)
404-562-8293, 404-562-8400

ATLANTA - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program recognized Mississippi State University's Gulf Community Design Studio (GCCDS) in Biloxi, Miss. with a First Place 2015 Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic/Non-Profit Category. The awards ceremony was held today at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas.

In 2009, GCCDS worked to produce neighborhood plans for East Biloxi, Miss., a community still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. From a list of concerns, residents responded positively to suggestions to improve a degraded inner-city bayou. GCCDS began its work to restore Bayou Auguste by engaging elementary student in environmental education activities, and later expanded outreach to a wider audience of residents. The goals of the project were to restore and expand the natural habitat, to make a beautiful natural place free of invasive species and litter, to provide public access and learning opportunities, and to increase local environmental stewardship.

GCCDS worked in partnership with other organizations to transform Bayou Auguste into a neighborhood nature park. GCCDS secured several grants and led a partnership with the City of Biloxi, the Biloxi Housing Authority, Biloxi Public Schools, and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. The City provided assistance to remove fill material and a retaining wall and to reshape the stream bank. Hundreds of students and volunteers planted native plant species along the upland habitats of Bayou Auguste that reduce erosion and filter stormwater runoff and improve water quality.

"This is the 13th year of the Gulf Guardian Awards, and I am proud to say that each year the winners in all categories have represented the very best of environmental accomplishments in the Gulf of Mexico," said Diane Altsman, chief of staff for the Gulf of Mexico Program. "The Gulf of Mexico Program partnership works to improve the environmental health of the Gulf, and the Gulf Guardian Awards is an important way for us to recognize these valuable efforts."

The Bayou Auguste restoration has improved Gulf heath. To date, the project has improved a nine acre site of tidal marsh, created three acres of tidal marsh and restored 2,000 feet of previously channelized and degraded streambank along Bayou Auguste. These newly established plant communities along Bayou Auguste also serve as a food source, breeding ground and natural cover for many marine and avian animal species. Some key fish species have benefitted and are critical to maintaining a balanced ecosystem as well as supporting Mississippi's fishing economy. The restored site is often used for educational programs and offers a place for people to bird watch, fish, go crabbing or just relax.

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. First, second and third place awards are given in seven categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts.

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

More information about the Gulf of Mexico Program: www.epa.gov/gmpo

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