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Coastal Alabama to receive $43M in climate change resiliency grants

Posted on May 1, 2023

Alabama is set to receive $43 million in federal grants to make the state’s coastline more resilient to sea level rise caused by climate change.

The grants will go to slow erosion, preserve sensitive tidal marsh land, build habitat for oysters and other fisheries and reduce microplastic pollution in the Gulf of Mexico.

Funding for the projects will come from the Biden Administration’s Climate-Ready Coasts initiative, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to preserving and protecting our nation’s most sensitive coastal habitats , in Alabama and across the country,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a news release. “Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, we’re making investments that will ensure that the Gulf of Mexico remains a vibrant basin for diverse wildlife and an economic engine for southern Alabama for generations to come.”

Administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Climate-Ready Coasts initiative is focused on investing in high-impact projects that create climate solutions by storing carbon; build resilience to coastal hazards such as extreme weather events, pollution and marine debris; restore coastal habitats that help wildlife and humans thrive; and provide employment opportunities.

The grants will go to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy in Alabama, as well as other participating organizations for projects at Coffee Island in the Mississippi Sound, the Perdido Watershed, and Weeks Bay.

“The magnitude of the amount of NOAA grant funds coming to Alabama is impressive, and we are proud of [The Nature Conservancy] and all Coffee Island and Perdido Watershed partners for their collaboration and shared vision in bringing such huge wins to our state,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR).
The Nature Conservancy will lead the two largest projects, one on Coffee Island and one in Baldwin County, encompassing multiple sites throughout the Perdido Bay Watershed.

Mitch Reid, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama, said the projects will pay major dividends for coastal Alabama.

“This is a huge win for Alabama and those who poured their collective hard work into aligning these two projects to meet NOAA’s goals,” Reid said. “We look forward to getting both initiatives off the ground and thank everyone at NOAA for seeing the impact these bring to Alabama’s ecosystem.”

For the Coffee Island project in Mobile County, TNC will construct a 5,000-foot living shoreline breakwater to create and enhance habitat for oysters and other fish while mitigating erosion. TNC is partnering with ADCNR, Volkert, the University of South Alabama, the city of Bayou la Batre and Mayor Henry Barnes for the project, which is slated to begin this summer.

The second project, called the Perdido Watershed Initiative, is planned as a four-year, multi-site project to improve ecosystems and community resilience in the city of Orange Beach, Gilchrist Island, Robinson Island, Walker Island, Lillian Swamp and Bronson Field.

TNC will work with the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program, the city of Orange Beach and Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Environmental Division Director Phillip West, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Mississippi State University, Troy University, and Moffat and Nichol — alongside ADCNR, USA and TNC in Alabama — partnered to bring the grant application and project outline to fruition.

NOAA describes the full list of projects as follows:

  • Implementing Nature-based Solutions for Habitat, Community, and Coastal Resilience in Mississippi Sound, Alabama: The Nature Conservancy, $14.6 million — Construction of living shoreline breakwaters will protect a critical part of the shoreline of Coffee Island, and help address high erosion rates that also affect the mainland communities of Mobile County, including important aquaculture installations in Portersville Bay. 5,000 feet of large, overlapping breakwaters, will be built to help protect marshes, seagrasses, and shorelines that serve as important habitat for recreational and commercial fish species.
  • Perdido Watershed Habitat and Community Resilience Initiative: Incorporating Nature-based and Hybrid Solutions Across Alabama and Florida: The Nature Conservancy: $12.8 million — This large-scale, multi-site effort will build climate resilience by restoring habitat that benefits recreational and commercial fisheries, thereby enhancing recreational opportunities; buffering communities from flooding and storm impacts; and improving water quality. Work will be done at sites in Alabama and Florida which are part of the Perdido Watershed Habitat and Community Resilience Initiative.
  • Coordinated Large Marine Debris Removal in the Gulf of Mexico Gulf of Mexico Alliance: $7.7 million  The Gulf of Mexico Alliance will administer a regional competitive grant program for large marine debris removal in the Gulf of Mexico. The project will also remove previously identified abandoned and derelict vessels across Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Projects in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas are potentially eligible for future funding under this grant program.
  • Gulf of Mexico Community-based Oyster Recycling and Reef Restoration Network Restore America’s Estuaries: $4.9 million  This project will restore oyster reef habitat at sites across the Gulf of Mexico region. Restaurants from around the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas will participate in a comprehensive oyster shell recycling program to help build oyster reefs that provide habitat for a diverse group of species, including recreationally and commercially important fish and their prey. Shell recycling programs and oyster reef restoration sites will be designed to serve local ecosystem and community resilience needs, with an emphasis on tribes and underserved communities.
  • Understanding, Mitigation and Prevention of Waste Plastic Marine Debris in the Gulf Coast Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium: $1.9 million — The burgeoning problem of microplastics will be addressed through a multi-state partnership including 10 wastewater treatment facilities in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The project aims to improve microplastic understanding, develop microplastic reduction techniques, measure microplastic concentration, and enhance collaboration around addressing microplastics in Gulf Coast communities, specifically urban communities, communities that are predominantly Black, and rural, isolated communities.
  • Conservation of Coastal Pine Savanna and Emergent Marsh Habitat on West Fowl River/Mississippi Sound in Mobile County, Alabama Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: $1.1 million — This investment will conserve and protect sensitive tidal marsh, pine flatwood, and savanna habitats, which act as a habitat and nursery ground for commercially and recreationally important fishery species, protect uplands from storm surge and coastal flooding, and allow carbon to be sequestered.
  • Conservation in the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Baldwin County Alabama Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: $147,000 — This investment will help protect the ecological integrity of the area and the important ecosystem services it provides, such as acting as a buffer for storm surge and coastal flooding, providing space for marsh migration, providing carbon sequestration services, and maintaining water quality.


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