The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program recognized Mississippi resident Tracie Sempier with the First Place 2015 Gulf Guardian Award in the Individual Category. The awards ceremony was held July 30, 2015, at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Since 2008, Sempier has been a driver for the development of one of the most influential programs for coastal resilience planning in the Gulf of Mexico. In her roles with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium based in Ocean Springs, Miss., and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, she has helped inform Gulf coastal communities about the risks posed by coastal hazards, and has helped connect those communities to resources and assistance using a unique, hands-on approach to outreach. Her work has helped reduce the negative impacts of coastal storms on communities, the environment and natural resources across the region.
Photo caption: Tracie Sempier, third from left, accepts her first-place Gulf Guardian Award on July 30 at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas. Several members of the U.S. EPA presented the award. They included Stanley A. Meiburg, deputy administrator, U.S. EPA, Washington, D.C., left, Heather McTeer-Toney, regional administrator, U.S. EPA Region 4, Atlanta; and Ron Curry, regional administrator, U.S. EPA Region 6, Dallas.
“This is the 13th year of the Gulf Guardian Awards, and I am proud to say that each year the winners in all categories have represented the very best of environmental accomplishments in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Diane Altsman, chief of staff for the Gulf of Mexico Program. “The Gulf of Mexico Program partnership works to improve the environmental health of the Gulf, and the Gulf Guardian Awards is an important way for us to recognize these valuable efforts.”
Some examples of Sempier’s work come from her involvement in coastal resilience planning. Sempier led the development of the Coastal Resilience Index, a simple self-assessment tool that helps communities understand their level of risk to coastal hazards. The widespread implementation of this tool has served as the catalyst for the development of many on-the-ground resilience planning efforts, including local hazard mitigation plans, community resilience plans and the Community Rating System Users groups across the region. Sempier was also a critical advisor in the development and implementation of StormSmart Coasts, one of the first web-based resilience tools.
Sempier continues to help communities address coastal resilience through floodplain awareness. With her knowledge of FEMA’s Community Rating System and floodplain management, Sempier assisted in increasing the floodplain awareness in Gulf communities. In Mississippi, she serves as a key member of the regional Coastal Hazard Outreach Strategy Team that brings together local government officials, community stakeholders, private businesses and major employers to educate residents about flood hazards, protection measures and insurance, including the National Flood Insurance Program. This group has improved floodplain management in 11 Mississippi coastal communities.
The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the individuals, businesses, community groups and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. First, second and third place awards are given in seven categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts.
The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Program is underwritten by the EPA and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf states. The Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.
More information about the Gulf of Mexico Program: www.epa.gov/gmpo
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