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Gulf of Mexico Program Announces Gulf Guardian Award Winners for 2000 - Four From Mississippi

A Partnership With a Purpose

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 22, 2000

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. -- The Gulf of Mexico Program announced the winners of the first-ever 2000 Gulf Guardian Awards today and four of the top 18 are in Mississippi. The winners will be honored at a special luncheon April 11, at the 4th Gulf of Mexico Symposium being held in Mobile, Ala., April 9-12.

"The Gulf Guardian Award is a great way for the Gulf of Mexico Program partnership to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies who are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful, and productive, said Jim Giattina, Gulf Program Director. "We knew there were people out there doing good things, but we were overwhelmed at the quality projects we've learned about during this first award program. The Gulf Guardian Award exemplifies what the Gulf of Mexico Program is all about -- innovative solutions that come about when we pool resources and look for creative ways to positively impact our quality of life and economic well-being."

There were a total of 53 award entries from all five Gulf Coast states - Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas. A first, second, and third place winner is awarded in each of six categories: business, government, civic/nonprofit organizations, youth/education, partnerships, and individual.

"The numerical difference in selecting a first, second, or third place winner, and even those that didn't make the top 18, was mere decimal points," said Giattina. "The projects were all impressive," he added.

The first-place winner in the business category is The Bridges Golf Resort at Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, Miss. The facility was designed by Palmer Design and constructed in 1996. It is located on approximately 110 acres with 35 acres of wetlands, wildlife corridors and 65 acres of maintained turf. Adjacent to the Bay of St. Louis, leading to the Mississippi Sound, in the Southern Coastal Plains region, coastal marsh lands surround the north, northwest and east sides of the course with the dominant ecological communities being pine flatwoods, salt marsh, and freshwater wetlands. Due to the environmentally sensitive location of the golf course, it was designed and continues to be maintained for recreation with conservation as a priority.

The Port of Houston Authority, Houston, Texas, is the first-place winner in the government category. The Port of Houston Authority, with assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, received Congressional authorization in 1996 to widen and deepen the Houston Ship Channel. The Galveston Bay portion of this project will generate approximately 88.3 million cubic yards of dredged material over the next 50 years. This project is recycling the dredged material by creating 4,250 acres of intertidal marsh and a six-acre bird island, thereby replacing critical habitat in Galveston Bay.

In the partnership category, Hancock County in coastal Mississippi takes first-place. A cooperative effort between the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, Hancock County Board of Supervisors, and Hancock County Water and Sewer District resulted in a Strategic Wastewater Management Plan that is a model for other communities to follow. In September 1997, the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce Environmental Committee and the Hancock County Board of Supervisors brought together people in the community to develop a strategic plan for the management of wastewater in Hancock County. Chief among the participants were staff and Board members representing Hancock County Wastewater District No. 1 (since renamed Hancock County Water and Sewer District). The community initiated this effort to find solutions to the impairment of local water bodies from malfunctioning septic tanks and improve public health from the threat of contamination of drinking water in private wells. In three short years, through community planning and consensus building, support from the public, business, and political, sectors the partnership has generated more than $15 million in grants and loans for wastewater collection lines in Southern Hancock County. It is likely that by the end of fiscal year 2001, wastewater collection and treatment will be available to all homes and businesses in the county.

J. L. Scott Marine Education Center & Aquarium at the University of Southern Mississippi in Ocean Springs took second place in the Youth/Education category for "Project Marine Discovery: On The Road." The Center began this program during the 1992-1993 academic year - now in its eighth successful year. The goal of the program is to take marine education on the road to those students who could not visit the Center. Program coordinators estimate they have reached 27,993 students and legislators, and 956 teachers representing 124 schools in three states, thus increasing awareness of aquatic environments

Third place in the Youth/Education category was Mississippi Power Company in Gulfport, for "Celebrate the Gulf: A Marine Education Festival." The Festival is held in October each year at the Pass Christian harbor. It's designed for Grades K-8 children and their families, and showcases Gulf of Mexico resources and how to conserve them. The Festival is a group effort involving local businesses, cities, state, and federal volunteers. It provides an avenue to disseminate health information and conservation practices. It also fills a niche by concentrating purely on marine environmental education.

The Gulf of Mexico Program is already looking for the next round of winners. The 2001 Gulf Guardian Award applications will be available on line beginning April 11. You can find it by visiting the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo and then click on the Gulf Guardian Award dolphin button. Other versions of the application are also available on line. You can also request a printed copy by writing or emailing the Program office. Deadline for submission of 2001 awards is Oct. 2, 2000. The winners will be announced in January 2001 an awarded later in the year.

The Fourth Gulf of Mexico Symposium is offering more than 200 presentations in seven concurrent program tracks over three days. The event is expected to attract more than 1,000 registrants from the Gulf region and throughout the country. The Symposium is considered the nation's largest multi-disciplinary gathering for those concerned about the Gulf.

A highlight of the Symposium is the keynote address, scheduled for the Monday morning Opening Ceremony. Dr. E.O. Wilson of Harvard University, the popular Pulitzer prize-winning author of On Human Nature and The Ants, will return to the site of his boyhood summers in coastal Alabama to deliver the keynote address on biodiversity, the Gulf of Mexico and the new millennium.

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 Coast states. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

For more information, please call Terry Hines Smith at 228-688-1159. A list of all winners is attached.

Posted: 6 April 2000

Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
228-688-3726
FAX: 228-688-2709


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