Texas OneGulf: Ongoing and Completed Projects for Texas and the Gulf of Mexico

Texas OneGulf

Beginning in 2015, the first 5 years of operation for the RESTORE funded Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence resulted in 7 projects totaling nearly $3 million for research addressing priority problems affecting the health and wellbeing of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.

These projects represented the first major allocation of research dollars from the Texas OneGulf consortium, which was created after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to direct funding in support of programs, projects and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region. The projects tackled a variety of issues that directly impact Texas, the Gulf of Mexico and its residents, from developing a report card to assess Gulf of Mexico and Texas coastal health and productivity, to using underwater gliders to search the coast for hypoxic dead zones, to helping Texas communities recover from Hurricane Harvey.

Upcoming Projects

Under the FY23 Notice of Funding, three projects have been selected and will be beginning soon.  

Ongoing Projects

Under the FY22 Notice of Funding, two projects were funded and are currently ongoing. These projects include:

Evaluating the Fiscal and Social Implications of Property Buyouts in Floodprone Communities
Lead Institution: Texas A&M University at Galveston

Managed retreat has been recognized as an essential strategy for reducing flood risks in low-lying coastal areas where structural protection alone is insufficient to address repetitive losses from flooding. In the U.S., retreat is often implemented through government acquisitions of properties (“buyouts”) and is primarily funded by the federal government. Buyouts can offer considerable social benefits by reducing future disaster losses (e.g., through reducing exposure of population and assets in high-risk areas) and creating environmental amenity (e.g., open space) and other ecosystem services. However, buyouts may also raise fiscal concerns in the aftermath of damaging storms and floods when communities already feel fiscally distressed: pose direct costs (acquisition and site maintenance) to local governments and may reduce local property tax revenues. In addition to fiscal concerns, because it is unclear where the residents relocate after accepting buyouts, the spatial shift of the risk because of the “unmanaged” relocation could result in unintended emergence of vulnerable hotspots and counteract the program’s goals to enhance community resilience. The purpose is to:

  • Establish a baseline to understand the risk (hazard and vulnerability) and fiscal implications of historically implemented property buyouts that are in flood-prone areas.
  • Define the risk as the product of hazard (physical magnitude, return period and extent),exposure of assets and people, and their susceptibility to suffer damages (i.e., social vulnerability), and co-develop a GIS-based decision-support tool that best suits local needs by consolidating data on previous buyouts funded by different federal and local sources and evaluating their risk and fiscal implications both at the buyout site as well as in the relocation neighborhoods. This data-intensive tool will help inform future buyout implementation to promote communities’ resilience to flood risk.

An Observational Study of Ship Channel and Shallow Bay Interactions and their Influence on Sediment Transport, Mixing, and Water Quality in Corpus Christi Bay
Lead Institution: Texas A&M University at Galveston

Estuarine mixing governs the exchange of salt and freshwater in an estuary and is important to estuary health as it is closely related to nutrient cycling, contaminant and sediment transport, and residence time among other health indicators. The overarching goal of this project is to deploy a cost-effective experimental data array along a transect leading across the edge of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel or as close as permitted. This array will collect key parameters related to mixing in this environment (turbidity, salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen) in real time and send the data to repositories available to the public and decision makers. This work is important to guide design of dredging projects, understand their impact, and help to monitor the modified ship channel and projects created through beneficial use of the dredged sediments. The purpose is to:

  • Deploy a cost-effective experimental data array along a transect leading across the edge of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. This array will collect key parameters related to mixing in this environment (turbidity, salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen) in real time and send the data to repositories available to the public and decision makers.
  • Improve our understanding of three stressors: suspended sediment dynamics and exchange controls on nutrient loading and salinity.

Completed Projects

Geospatial Framework and Analysis for Coastal Resilience, South Texas Coastal Bend
Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Resilient growth and economic and commercial development on the Texas coast requires geospatial understanding, mapping and analysis, which is needed to increase the understanding of resilience and improve decisions made in all local government departments. With quantified assessments, local officials can be empowered with actionable intelligence across all departments including planning, stormwater, public safety, ecological health, and emergency management. However, this technical capability is often lacking in small and rural communities, which can lead to haphazard growth and economic development, and the lack of protection for natural assets such as green space for flood retention. Such is the case in many of the counties of the South Texas Coastal Bend. This study addressed this issue in three counties of the Coastal Bend by completing: 1) Key “direct impact” assessments on assets such as critical facilities, commercial and industrial property, and natural assets by spatially distinct threats such as stormwater flooding, riverine flooding, sea level rise, and storm surge for Nueces, Kleberg and Kenedy Counties. 2) A tailored viewer website to host these data as GIS layers through an open-access web-based planning tool that incorporates assessments into desktop projects and provides a basis for a common operating picture for the three communities, with potential for additional communities and enhanced functionality. Data will be housed in the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) for long-term accessibility.

Hurricane Harvey Decision-Support - Resilient Environments and Communities
Lead Institution: University of Texas Medical Branch

This interdisciplinary project focused on various aspect of Harvey recovery, from human coastal communities to coastal ecosystems. Researchers monitored the effects and recovery dynamics of Hurricane Harvey’s impact on key waterbodies, investigated planning-policy-resource allocations in impacted communities, provided recommendations to improve integration of hazard mitigation planning at the local and county scale, used social network analysis to characterize relationships that are key to strengthening the mitigation and recovery process, and conducted a legal review of key challenges and considerations for disaster response and resilience in Texas, including by identifying gaps and conflicts.

Disaster Research Response Infrastructure
Lead Institution: Texas A&M University

The Texas OneGulf Disaster Research Response (DR2) Program investigated for the first time an infrastructure to support disaster research response encompassing both environmental, human health and economic assessment capabilities that can be employed rapidly to assess the impact of disasters along the Texas Gulf coast in real-time. It is important to create a dialog between community stakeholders and researchers that builds trust, facilitates access and allows for the sharing of information, concerns, etc. between and among the stakeholder groups. DR2 activities contribute to disaster preparedness, response and recovery by providing critical information key to effective decision-making when disasters strike.

Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring and Assessment Plan for Texas
Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) pose a significant and growing threat to ocean and human health, namely through toxin production and the disruption of natural processes that are otherwise important for ecosystem health and human livelihood (e.g., nutrient cycling, oxygenation, fisheries production). This study addresses two priority needs pertaining to HABs on the Texas coast, including: 1) An immediate need to understand the evolution and drivers of K. brevis blooms and toxin production in estuarine environments where human exposure to algal toxins is most likely, and 2) A longer-term need to develop a comprehensive HAB monitoring program and network in the Coastal Bend region of Texas that will ultimately serve as a framework for the rest of the Texas coast.

Glider Applications to Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone Monitoring
Lead Institution: Texas A&M University

Sustained and recurring hypoxia conditions in the Gulf of Mexico represent a disaster, however disaster responders are hindered by a lack of real-time data. This project provided a methodology to collect real-time data and project conditions into the future, both of which are valuable assets to first responders. This project contributes to these efforts because the placement of gliders in the Gulf of Mexico provided objective and metric-based assessments to evaluate the state of Gulf health and productivity in real-time. Real-time data in the areas of ocean observing, data acquisition and management, and system analytics and modeling decreases the amount of time needed to respond to disaster events detected by the gliders and increases the information needed to facilitate a risk-assessment-based process to inform policy and decision-makers for the benefit of Texas and the Gulf.

Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Plan
Lead Institution: University of Texas Medical Branch

This project was formed to create Stakeholder Communication and Engagement Plan for Texas OneGulf by engaging diverse groups, including academic clinicians and scientists, community organizations, industry representatives, local and regional authorities, emergency response officials, and policy-makers involved in disaster preparedness, response, and resiliency. The aims of the project included to: 1) provide a stakeholder analysis, with emphasis on decision-makers; 2) solicit broad-based stakeholder perceptions of short- and long-term issues and threats related to the Gulf; 3) analyze the ability of the Texas OneGulf Network of Experts (TONE) to help address these issues; and 4) develop a comprehensive Communications and Engagement Plan for Texas OneGulf based on findings.

Strategic Research and Action Plan (SRAP)
Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

This project developed a strategic planning process to address priority Gulf problems to guide a grant process that fosters a science-based and solutions driven framework addressing the disciplines designated in the RESTORE Act. This project provided the mechanism for regular review and revision of the SRAP throughout OneGulf, and sets priorities for all activities and funding for the Center of Excellence.

Texas OneGulf Knowledge Base (TOKB)
Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

This project brought together extensive, complementary and well-maintained online information systems for marine science, oceanographic and related data currently available from the Gulf of Mexico. The development and launching of the first version of the website was a significant milestone to establish the TOKB for managing the coast and providing data and tools for addressing future environmental issues.

Texas Governor's Office Fund Projects

Governor’s Funds in the amount of $2,094,648 were also provided to support the Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence in: gathering and improving knowledge regarding the economic and environmental sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico to inform decision-makers; aiding in the protection of the environment; developing of preventive measures to preclude a similar oil spill as experienced at the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The 12 projects included:

  • Gulf of Mexico Report Card Prototype for Texas
    Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
    This project developed a prototype Gulf of Mexico Report Card by evaluating the overall ecosystem health of the Texas Gulf Coast. Workshops of scientists, stakeholders and Texas environmental managers convened to identify the pressures and stressors that impinge on coastal Texas ecosystems and define long-term sustainability goals. Texas OneGulf continues to develop this work and hopes to grow the Report Card spatially, across the entire Gulf, as well as thematically, adding additional categories for, e.g., socioeconomics.
  • Socio-Economic Indicators for Coastal Community Disaster Response and Resilience
    Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
    Researchers collaborated to identify socio-economic indicators that can be used in disaster response assessments by: Bringing together leading expertise in this area to populate a searchable database of indicators for community and human wellbeing; working with the Gulf of Mexico National Estuarine Research Reserves to apply these in a local context; and publishing online and in-print a guide to socio‐economic indicators for disaster response and community resilience.
  • Red Tide Data Integration Project
    Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
    The Texas Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Data Integration Project employed Texas researchers with expertise in HABs and coastal processes and medical researchers familiar with data about the effects of HABs on humans to work together to better prepare first responders, emergency rooms and the medical system in responding to red tide events, minimizing human health risks. Considerable temporal and spatial data exist on red tides occurring in coastal water adjacent to the mid-coast of Texas. No one has analyzed these environmental and medical datasets with the objective of developing a predictive model.
  • Texas OneGulf Operations: TAMU-CC
    Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  • Texas OneGulf Network of Experts Communication
    Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
    Support the development and implementation of the Texas OneGulf Network of Experts (TONE)
  • Species Identification Training for Effective Monitoring and Management of Harmful Algal Blooms
    Lead Institution: Texas A&M University-Galveston
    Support the development of algal taxonomic and identification training programs
  • Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence Pilot Project Program
    Lead institution: University of Texas Medical Branch
    Support a communications strategy for Texas OneGulf, including that development and implementation of a communication strategy that will advance Texas OneGulf projects and activities with the goal of informing Texas researchers and the public about TOCOE initiatives.
  • Developing a Predictive Ecosystem Model for the Lower Laguna Madre, Isotope Geochemistry of Texas Coastal Waters
    Lead institution: University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley
    Research into estuarine ecological functions, developing predictive tools for sustainable management of the LLM, and developing a system—level approach to observing and monitoring the LLM that can be used into the future.
  • Isotope Geochemistry of Texas Coastal Waters
    Lead institution: Texas A&M University
    To support research to detect and monitor hypoxia in Texas coastal waters, including research of the effectiveness of ocean gliders with telemetric capabilities for the purpose of monitoring and predicting dead zones, environmental flows and other ongoing issues.
  • The Marine Microbiome as a Sentinel for Ecological Health and Resiliency
    Lead institution: University of Texas Medical Branch
    Establish the base line of diversity and species composition in microbial communities resident in near shore Gulf of Mexico environs, and to monitor changes in the microbiomes associated with petrogenic pollutants.
  • Restoring and Enhancing Structuring Complex Nursery Habitat to Enhance Reef Fish Populations
    Lead institution: Texas A&M University-Galveston
    To provide critical data on the function and efficacy of low-relief nurseries. The proposed research will provide baseline biological information on the fishery benefits of creating and enhancing low—relief nursery habitat on the inner continental shelf in the NW Gulf of Mexico.
  • Impact of Environmental Criminal Enforcement on Disaster Response
    Lead institution: University of Houston
    To support a study whether industrial disasters actually trigger environmental criminal investigation or enforcement and the degree to which these fears and concerns about criminal liability have hampered or constrained first responses to disasters.

This project was paid for [in part] with federal funding from the Department of the Treasury through the State of Texas under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act).