Gulf Coast Community Design Studio sees big win

David Perkes, director for the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, looks over the site of the Bayou Auguste restoration project in 2012 at East Biloxi. A division of Mississippi State University's College of Architecture, Art and Design, the design studio recently won a Gulf Guardian Award from the Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf of Mexico Program. The team secured grants and utilized volunteers to build a neighborhood wetland park at the site. PHOTO: Megan Bean | Public Affairs

A Gulf Coast-based research center for Mississippi State University has earned national recognition for a bayou restoration project.

MSU's Gulf Coast Community Design Studio -- one of two research centers in the College of Architecture, Art and Design -- placed first in the Gulf Guardian Awards civic/nonprofits category for its Bayou Auguste project in East Biloxi, a community devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf of Mexico Program, the awards recognize environmental stewardship in the five Gulf Coast states -- Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

Utilizing more than 2,800 volunteer hours, the team removed debris and repaired the bayou's wetland habitat by building a neighborhood wetland park. Students and community volunteers also engaged in educational programs focused on improving the bayou's functions of restoring and improving the nursery habitat for fish and shrimp, reducing pollution and debris entering the ocean through the integrated bayou and storm water system, and creating a marshland to contain floodwater from extreme storm events.

GCCDS led a partnership with the city of Biloxi, the Biloxi Housing Authority, Biloxi Public School District and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, Women in Construction and Cypress Environmental, and secured multiple grants for the project.

"It has been rewarding to hear from people in the neighborhood who now talk about Bayou Auguste as an amenity instead of a garbage-filled ditch," said David Perkes, director for the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. "We are pleased that the project has been recognized with a Gulf Guardian Award. As the RESTORE funds are being allocated to projects on the Gulf Coast, the Bayou Auguste project provides a convincing example of the impact of working with the community to improve the environment with our neighborhoods."

An EPA press release said the Bayou Auguste restoration has already improved Gulf health, establishing plant communities that serve as a food source, breeding ground and natural cover for many marine and avian animal species. This helps, the release continued, establish a balanced ecosystem and support Mississippi's fishing industry.

Begun in 2000, the Gulf Guardian Awards recognize businesses, agencies, individuals and community groups who work to improve Gulf health. The top three in each of seven categories receive awards.

"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.

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Zack Plair | Public Affairs

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