Improving Water Quality through Watershed Planning, Design and Innovative Outreach Activities

Author(s): Johnson, K.

Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio (GCCDS), in partnership with the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain (LTMCP) and with input from community leaders and residents, is developing a Watershed Implementation Plan for Rotten Bayou Watershed in Hancock and Harrison Counties, Mississippi. In addition to developing a written plan, the work includes extensive education, community outreach, and demonstration projects of best management practices. Meaningful engagement is critical both to address conditions that cause nonpoint source pollution and to develop a plan that has good community buy-in to ensure implementation. Innovative engagement approaches are necessary in Rotten Bayou Watershed for two main reasons. First, there is currently very limited public access to the Bayou so few residents in the watershed have a direct connection to or an appreciation of the waterways they impact. Second, there are essentially two “communities” that make up the watershed: Fenton/Dedeaux and Diamondhead. Fenton/Dedeaux is a rural community with many residents that have deep roots in the area. Diamondhead is a planned retirement community that recently became Mississippi’s newest city and is made up of many transplants to the area Effectively communicating with residents in these two communities; appealing to their different interests and values; and uniting them in the cause of improving water quality in Rotten Bayou requires multiple and creative approaches to outreach. The presentation will introduce conference attendees to the unique planning and outreach methods being utilized in developing the Rotten Bayou Watershed Implementation Plan. Strategies include working with non-traditional partners such as a churches, summer library reading programs, golf courses and an educational puppet show; utilizing social media and raffles to make participation appealing and accessible; and leveraging funding from NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico B-WET Program to connect students at a local elementary school to the watershed planning work. The Watershed Implementation Plan for Rotten Bayou Watershed is funded in part by a grant from the EPA to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality under the provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act along with State and local match.
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