Gulf of Mexico

Background Information

Over 20 million people live along the Gulf Coast, and the region is expected to continue growing. A series of catastrophic disasters in the region over the last 12 years has led to severe economic, environmental, and social distress. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast, surpassing the 1,000-year flood plain in many areas and destroying more than 52,000 housing units. Post-Katrina rebuilding saw a shift from the older, historically densely populated areas to the north. Meanwhile, large employment centers and public transit services remain primarily in the south, resulting in longer commutes to jobs, a rapid increase in vehicle miles traveled, poor access to essential community facilities, and a lack of employment opportunities for those without access to transportation. All of these factors have contributed to decreased livability and an increased cost of living for many coastal residents.

Just as the region was beginning to rebuild infrastructure and expand critical community facilities to new growth areas, the national recession took hold. The financial crisis brought housing construction to a near standstill, resulting in unequal rebuilding that has left behind many vulnerable populations. In the midst of the recession, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill dealt a devastating blow to coastal ecology, regional tourism, and the mariculture industry.

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA), established in 2004, is a partnership of five U.S. states along the Gulf of Mexico coast, federal agencies, academic organizations, businesses, and non-governmental organizations dedicated to the environmental and economic health of the region. GOMA is currently one year into its third Five-Year Action Plan, which focuses on preparing for future shocks and stressors by increasing coastal resilience.

Team Summary

All members of this team are part of the GOMA – Coastal Resilience Priority Issues Team. This team has worked together for three years writing the current Gulf of Mexico Alliance Governors Action Plan III and Tier II Document. The GOMA Resilience Team members attending this workshop represent three of the Alliance’s five states: Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas.

Promising Practices

  • GOMA is built upon unique partnerships, and finds success through active public and private sector collaborations. The alliance has been able to successfully leverage private sector resources to fund public sector projects and research that corresponds to their action plans.
  • GOMA has developed a Community Resilience Index and Community Self Assessment as primary tools to measure equity in all communities within their region.
  • A key part of the alliance’s mission is to include the community and educate the public. They actively hold workshops and trainings for local planners and stakeholders on their tools, research, and action plans.

Key Challenges

  • Navigating the new constraints to funding for environmental work in the public sector.
  • Understanding how to develop solutions for hazard resilience while also implementing projects and policies to overcome and correct for those vulnerabilities.
  • Building consensus across local jurisdictions on projects surrounding equity issues and opportunities.
  • Limited capacity among local nonprofits, parishes, and municipalities to engage with this work.
  • Inspiring behavior changes and combating complacency with Gulf residents around disaster impacts and risks.