Texas Coastal Watershed Program expansion drives move to larger offices

May 06, 2016

By Cindie Powell

HOUSTON, Texas — An influx of new staff funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prompted the Texas Coastal Watershed Program (TCWP) to move to new, larger quarters.

The grant brought six new extension and planning professionals to the Houston-based TCWP, a collaborative effort between the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

The new FEMA grant, called CERC for Community Engagement and Risk Communication, focuses on building risk awareness and disaster resiliency at the local level and helping local officials and citizens make sense of the many challenges and opportunities involved in growth planning.

“The focus of CERC is to help Texas coastal communities go beyond emergency response to achieve long-term resilience to hazards,” said Dr. John Jacob, TCWP Director.

The CERC grant will fund three new projects:

  • County resiliency support will introduce coastal counties to new data and tools to help them determine the best ways to grow while reducing flooding risks, to identify their individual flood-planning options and to align state and federal resources with their specific needs.
  • Training for city leaders will include the continuation of TCWP’s successful Texas Coastal Citizen Planner course, developed specifically for elected and appointed municipal officials. The original course explained legal and regulatory issues related to municipal planning, and follow-up sessions will cover the types of policies cities can adopt to reduce risks from specific hazards like flooding.
  • Workshop mapping for citizens and officials will use FEMA resources to expand the reach of TCWP’s existing software tool, the Community Health and Resources Management (CHARM) mapping application, to include data specific to additional communities across Texas. CHARM’s mapping data allows users to see the consequences of future growth scenarios in dozens of indicators, including resiliency to hazards like flooding and storm surge and environmental health.

“These projects are all designed to promote coastal growth in the right places,” Jacob said. “Avoiding placing homes and other development in harm’s way can reduce the magnitude of emergency response and recovery requirements and the need for expensive infrastructure projects. Educating communities about the risks helps them make good planning choices.”

The CERC effort complements existing TCWP projects focusing on water conservation through the WaterSmart program, wetland restoration and education, stormwater best management practices and stormwater wetland creation.

The new TCWP offices are located at 1335 Regents Park Drive, Suite 260, in southeast Houston’s Clear Lake City.

More information about the FEMA CERC program is available at http://cerc.tamu.edu, and about TCWP at http://tcwp.tamu.edu.

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

The Texas Coastal Watershed Program’s recent increase in staff has required moving to new, larger offices in Houston. Pictured are team members, from left, front row, Yu-Wen Chou, Valeria Rodriguez, Marissa Sipocz, Celina Gauthier Lowry, Stephanie Hendrickson and Amanda Solitro; back row, Md Yousuf Reja, Race Hodges, Daniel Walton, Dr. John Jacob, Walter Peacock, Rebecca DaVanon, Charriss York, Cody Watson, Mary Carol Edwards and Steve Mikulencak.

The Texas Coastal Watershed Program’s new headquarters at 1335 Regents Park Drive in Houston.

-30-

Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.