BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Residents live near it, play on it, and eat the seafood harvested from it. Water is a way of life in South Mississippi.
Ensuring the quality of that life was the focus of a conference in Biloxi. The annual State of Our Coast conference attracted around 400 community leaders, environmentalists and policy makers.
With frequent water advisories along the beach the first five months of 2016, water quality concerns were among the many topics of discussion.
"Storm water is one of our big problems that will trigger an advisory," said Emily Cotton, who oversees the Coastal monitoring program for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. "Everything that comes down from parking lots, people's yards is swept into the Sound and put bacteria into it."
Among the many BP restoration projects is a design competition to address that issue of storm water runoff into the sound; a worldwide design competition to improve or replace storm water pipes.
"We want to find a solution that aesthetically works. We know that our beaches have a tourism function as well," said wetlands scientist Dr. Robert Kroger. "That aesthetically works with the sand beach authority, but improves water quality."
With so many closures of oyster reefs in Mississippi, oyster farming is becoming more attractive and aquaculture projects remain a popular topic.
"They've been doing it on the East Coast and West Coast for years, and it's been successful on both of those Coasts. So, I'm excited to see it come to the Gulf Coast too. It provides jobs. It provides a niche market that we don't have yet," said Jennifer Jenkins, with Crystal Seas Seafood.
BP funds are also helping re-establish an island. Round Island was 130 acres back in 1890. Today, it's just over 20 acres.
The plan is to build a giant berm around the island, then fill it with dredge spoils.
"The port channel should start after that. And a total of about 2 million to 2 and a half million yards of dredge material will then be pumped into the center of this berm," said George Ramseur, Department of Marine Resources Director of Coastal Restoration.
Also on the list of BP restoration projects is a $7.5 million project that will focus on Turkey Creek in Gulfport. The plan calls for finding ways to reduce flooding, curb erosion and enhance the landscaping along that historic waterway.