State of the Beach/State Reports/MS/Beach Description
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The Mississippi coast fronts the Mississippi Sound, which is bounded on the south by a series of
barrier islands that provide the coast with a buffer against the forces of the Gulf of Mexico. The
state’s coastal zone encompasses the three tidally influenced coastal counties (Hancock,
Harrison, and Jackson) as well as all adjacent coastal waters and the barrier islands. Mississippi’s 436,000 acres of estuarine wetlands (65,453 acres tidal and 370,547 acres non-tidal) are an important resource for the state and the nation.
The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, an 18,400-acre natural area, is located in Jackson County between Pascagoula and the Alabama State line. The Reserve encompasses coastal bay, expansive saltwater marshes, maritime pine forest, pine savanna, and pitcher plant bogs.
- Fact 1: Miles of Coast: 359
- Fact 2: 44 miles of open ocean coastline
- Fact 3: Coastal Population (2000): 363,988
- Fact 4: 12% of the state's population lives within the three coastal counties
Contact Info for Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency
Mississippi Office of Coastal Ecology
Department of Marine Resources
1141 Bayview Avenue, Suite 101
Biloxi, MS 39530
Tina Shumate, Director
Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
6005 Bayou Heron Road
Moss Point, MS 39562
Coastal Zone Management Program
The Mississippi Coastal Program, approved by NOAA in 1980, is comprised of a network of agencies with authority in the coastal zone. The Department of Marine Resources (DMR), through the Office of Coastal Ecology, serves as the lead agency. DMR is governed by a Commission on Marine Resources appointed by the governor. The primary authority guiding the Coastal Program is the Coastal Wetlands Protection Act, which includes a wetlands plan designating the allowable use of the state's tidal wetlands. The Mississippi coastal zone includes the three coastal counties as well as all adjacent coastal waters and the barrier islands of the coast.
The Coastal Wetlands Protection Act establishes the policy of preserving coastal wetlands in their natural state, except where an alteration of a specific coastal wetland serves a higher public interest. The Coastal Program implements this policy largely through two key components: The Wetlands Permitting Program coordinates the permitting of wetland uses within the state's coastal zone among the permitting authorities (DMR, Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers) and is also responsible for reviewing proposed projects for federal consistency. The Coastal Preserves Program strives to effectively preserve, conserve, restore, and manage Mississippi's coastal ecosystems. The Coastal Program is also responsible for the state's Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program.
There are four programs within the Office of Coastal Management and Planning. The first is a planning assistance program to assist the 11 coastal cities and six coastal counties with planning needs for their regions. The second is a smart growth program. This program is designed to assist the six-county region with education on smart growth. The program began with the Storm Water Toolbox. The third program is the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area (NHA). The mission of the Mississippi Gulf Coast NHA is to continue growth of the economy by using natural resources, heritage and recreational and historical assets in the six-county region. The fourth program is the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP). Grants from CIAP total $120 million for the six coastal counties of Mississippi.
NOAA's latest evaluation of Mississippi's Coastal Zone Management Program can be found here.
- Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. Gordon. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217. 1999.
- Bernd-Cohen and Gordon. Ibid.
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