The 63rd Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference

August 15-19, 2009

TO: Members of the Gulf Coast & Atlantic States Regional Task Force
FR: Senator David Baria, Mississippi
Presiding Officer, Gulf Coast & Atlantic States Regional Task Force
RE: Report of Activities of the Gulf Coast and Atlantic States Regional Task Force at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, August 15-19, 2009

The Gulf Coast & Atlantic States Regional Task Force convened on Monday, August 17, for a program session during the 63rd SLC Annual Meeting.  The following is a summary of the speaker presentations and Task Force activities from the program.  An attendance list is attached.

Program Session, August 17
I.          Creating Resilient Coastal Communities
Tracie Sempier, Ph.D., Coastal Storms Outreach Coordinator, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Mississippi


The Coastal Resilience Index is a tool communities use to examine how prepared they are for storms and storm recovery. The purpose of the Index is to provide a simple, inexpensive method for community leaders to perform a self-assessment of their community’s resilience to coastal hazards. It identifies weaknesses a community should address prior to the next hazard event and it guides discussion within a community.

Dr. Sempier’s Presentation

Dr. Sempier began her presentation by providing the definition of a Sea Grant.  She stated that there is one in every coastal state and 32 in the entire country.  It is a federal/university partnership to bridge the gap between research and application of research in local communities.  The major themes of a Sea Grant consist of education, outreach, and extension.  The four areas of focus include the maintenance of a safe and sustainable food supply, protection of healthy coastal ecosystems, continuance of sustainable coastal development, and the implementation of hazard resilience in coastal communities.  These four areas support the goals of the coastal storms program.

After highlighting the focus and goals of the Sea Grant, Dr. Sempier discussed the Coastal Resilience Index and Mapping Tool.  The Index was created to provide a simple, inexpensive method for community leaders to perform a self-assessment of their community’s resilience to coastal hazards.  The tool also helps to identify weaknesses a community may want to address prior to the next hazard event.  She clarified that the Index is for use within a community, not to be used for comparison between communities.

Dr. Sempier discussed the formatting of the Index with the Task Force.  By her assessment the Index has six tables and eight pages. The questions are simple and can be mainly answered “yes” or “no”.  She explained that the entire Index can be completed in less than three hours.  Some of the topics covered in the Index include an evaluation of critical facilities, transportation strategies, community plans and agreements, mitigation measures, business plans, and social systems.

Ten communities participated in a pilot test of the Index and shared some of the results which included:

Dr. Sempier explained that the Index will be a useful tool for communities that have not experienced a storm of record like Katrina, Ike or Rita.  It also is useful for communities that have survived a major storm event, as it will serve as a reminder to be vigilant and prepared by communicating with local government leaders and sharing ideas about vulnerable areas that need to be reinforced prior to the next storm event.

According to Dr. Sempier, her office will disseminate the Index and offer assistance to communities interested in completing it, and that her office is working on developing a mapping tool to be distributed with the Index.

Next, Dr. Sempier gave an overview of the “StormSmart Coasts Network” which seeks to connect coastal decision-makers and help them find and share the latest information regarding the protection of coastal communities from storms, floods, sea level rises and climate change.  Some of the objectives included the creation of a regional web portal for use by local officials working in coastal communities, as well as the development a of Gulf of Mexico Resilience Clearinghouse website to facilitate the implementation of community web pages.

Under the “StormSmart Coasts Network,” Dr. Sempier highlighted a database where communities can to go find funding and technical advice for all aspects of storm preparation and recovery, as well as forums by which communities can share ideas and ask questions.

In closing, Dr. Sempier discussed the “Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards,” which will be distributed by her office.  She stated that the Handbook was designed for homeowners to help them reduce some of the threats that natural hazards posed to families and property.  She explained that state and federal agencies, private companies, and nonprofit organizations will work together to create the comprehensive and easy-to-read Handbook.  The Handbook will be distributed via paperback publishing and available for download.

II.        FEMA’S Community Rating System and Development Strategies in the Coastal Zone
Berry Williams, President, Berry A. Williams and Associates, North Carolina


A discussion on Hazard Mitigation Development Strategies in the Coastal Zone and the Flood Insurance Incentives under the NFIP’s Community Rating System, which is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements.

Mr. Williams’s Presentation

Mr. Williams began his presentation by showing some slides of communities that were ravaged by disaster.  Following the slides, Mr. Williams offered his definition of a sustainable community which is one that experiences a minimum disruption to life and its economy after a major storm and keeps at-risk individuals safe from hazards in their homes and workplaces.

He explained the following factors that make a sustainable community:

Mr. Williams discussed the 18 Community Rating System (CRS) activities that sustain communities and highlighted the four categories of the CRS, which are public information, mapping and regulations, flood damage reduction and flood preparedness. 

As previously stated, the CRS is a voluntary incentive program for NFIP participating communities.  He explained that adherence to the CRS guidelines can offer reduced flood insurance premiums for citizens in return for better floodplain management by communities.  The CRS is modeled after the Insurance Service Offices’ fire insurance rating system.

Mr. Williams briefly discussed the CRS points and credit discounts available to the communities and states that fall under the Task Force’s jurisdiction and compared them to communities outside of the Task Force’s area to show the scale of the CRS.

He outlined the goals of the CRS which include the reduction of flood damage to insurable property, the strengthening of the insurance aspects of NFIP and the promotion of a comprehensive approach to Floodplain Management.

Following the CRS overview, Mr. Williams discussed the individual CRS categories.

For the first category regarding public information, Mr. Williams stated that credit is assigned for providing inquirers information about the community’s flood hazards (FIRM), special hazards and development regulations.

The second category, mapping and regulations, addressed open space preservation, whereby a community preserves flood-prone property that is publicly owned or part of a controlled open space.  He listed Jupiter, Florida, as an example.  The town of Jupiter has an open space program funded by a $17 million land acquisition bond to preserve environmentally sensitive lands and lands for open spaces.

Mr. Williams also addressed the mapping of areas not mapped by FEMA, as well as the identification of flood-related risks, coastal erosion regulations, coastal A-zone regulations, storm water management and the adoption of higher construction standards.  He pointed out that the average flood loss for structures with enclosures was three times higher than the average flood loss for structures without enclosures.

The discussion of category three, flood damage reduction, centers on floodplain management and mitigation actions.  Category four focuses on flood preparedness and, more specifically, a flood warning program, as well as an emergency operation plan.

In closing, Mr. Williams urged states to include climate change considerations when making public investments/policies and to adopt pre-disaster policies for post-disaster recovery.
According to Mr. Williams, states should implement policies that encourage local involvement, responsibility and accountability for managing risks associated with natural hazards and enable local governments to adopt regulations that manage the natural hazard risks within their jurisdiction.  He also encouraged states to foster local resiliency by incorporating sustainable hazard mitigation criteria into all new development plans and projects.

Following the presentations, Senator David Baria thanked Dr. Sempier and Mr. Williams for their contributions and opened the floor for questions.

III.       Southern Legislative Conference 64th Annual Meeting, Charleston, South Carolina

The SLC will meet for the 64th Annual Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, July 31 - August 4, 2010.  In keeping with the wishes of the SLC presiding officers, please note that meeting notification does not authorize travel.

SLC Staff Contact

If you have any questions regarding this report, please contact Ms. Lori Moore in the Atlanta office at (404) 633-1866 or


Attendance List
Southern Legislative Conference 63rd Annual Meeting
Gulf Coast & Atlantic States Regional Task Force
August 17, 2009
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

(List reflects those attendees whose names appeared on the sign-in sheet)


Representative James Buskey
Representative Randy Davis
Representative Joseph Mitchell
Representative Howard Sanderford

Marsha Kwalwasser, Northrop Grumman Corporation

Representative Harry Geisinger
Representative Al Williams
Gerri Combs, Southern Arts Federation
Ken Nemeth, Southern States Energy Board

Representative Simone Champagne
Adriane Spencer, AstraZeneca

Senator David Baria
Senator E. Vincent Davis
Senator Hillman Frazier
Tracie Sempier, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium

North Carolina
Representative James Boles
Michelle Brock, Office of Emergency Management, Winston-Salem & Forsyth County
Darrell Jeter, Office of Emergency Management, Winston-Salem & Forsyth County
Melton Sadler, Office of Emergency Management, Winston-Salem & Forsyth County
Cady Thomas, North Carolina Association of Realtors
Berry Williams, Berry Williams & Associates

South Carolina
Representative Nelson Hardwick
Don Hottel, House Staff

Senator Ophelia Ford
Sophia McBride

Senator Emmett Hanger
Kathleen O’Hearn, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
Daniel Rothschild, Gulf Coast Recovery Project, Mercatus Center, George Mason University

Washington, D.C.
Mike Smith, The Council of State Governments