Register now for Bays and Bayous

Registration is now open for the 2016 Mississippi-Alabama Bays and Bayous Symposium.



Innovative national conference to explore how communities solve waterfront challenges

photo of sailboats in biscayne bay

Situated on Biscayne Bay, the city of Miami experiences many of the issues that waterfront communities face each day. (Florida Sea Grant photo)

As urban, commercial, and rural waterfronts across the U.S. face challenges to their continued existence and development, community leaders are increasingly finding solutions by listening, learning and interacting with each other.

That’s the impetus behind the National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium, which runs this year from Nov.16-19 in Tampa, Fla.

It’s the only conference of its kind to bring together planners, property developers, researchers, elected officials, attorneys, and other stakeholders from waterfront communities to learn about local, state and national initiatives, management approaches and tools to address issues of water access and water-dependent industries.

Attendees will hear about new approaches that increase the capacity of coastal communities to balance competing uses and plan for the future of working waterfronts and waterways, according to conference organizer Bob Swett, a specialist in boating issues and waterways planning for Florida Sea Grant.

“They are dedicated champions of local working waterfronts, and they come from throughout the U.S. to share ideas and solutions, and to learn about new approaches,” he said. “Being in the company of hundreds of such like-minded souls can be quite transformative.”

This year’s conference includes sessions on redevelopment of waterfront communities, marine industry sustainability, surviving commercial fishing declines, land-use issues related to waterway management, and preserving maritime culture and heritage.

Registration for the symposium is $425 until Oct. 19. For commercials entities and organizations wishing to engage with attendees, sponsorships that include display space are available through a range of packages on a first-come, first-served basis.

Complete symposium details are available at the conference website,

O’Keefe to facilitate Alabama Working Waterfront Coalition, coordinate exhibit

Kristen O'Keefe

Kristen O’Keefe has joined the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Team.

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center welcome Kristen O’Keefe in her new role as a coastal community development specialist.

Working with the Alabama Working Waterfront Coalition, O’Keefe will help facilitate coalition meetings as the group works to support recreational and commercial water access and businesses that rely on water access for survival.

O’Keefe also is coordinating the first Alabama Working Waterfront Exhibit, which will take place May 4-5 in Bayou La Batre in conjunction with the Blessing of the Fleet. The exhibit will be a community event that celebrates the culture and importance of Alabama’s waterfront communities.

“We are looking forward to highlighting Alabama waterfront history and culture at this event, which we hope continues annually,” said LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the Auburn University Marine Programs. “Kristen already has 13 organizations and businesses committed to taking part in the working waterfront exhibit.”

O’Keefe also will work to help facilitate cooperation between waterfront users and elected officials, on such topics as water access and user conflicts. She will support of the Alabama Waterfronts Access Study Committee’s recommendations, spreading public awareness of the importance of a working waterfront and enhancing the coordination efforts of the Alabama Working Waterfront Coalition.

“I believe having a balanced, healthy working waterfront is necessary to ensure a sustainable future for the coastal counties of Alabama, as well as the entire state,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Florida State University. She also is a part-time contract employee with the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, where she works as a project coordinator on the review and revision effort of the Alabama Gulf Ecological Management Sites program and facilitator of the Coastal Marine Spatial Planning steering committee.

O’Keefe can be reached at 251-438-5690 or