Mapping our changing coastline

Congress is looking to boost an ongoing project to aggregate U.S. coastal mapping data.

Detail of NOAA map
 

A detail of a NOAA map showing rising sea levels around Charleston, S.C.

Amid a lethal hurricane season that has battered American cities from Houston to San Juan, a bipartisan group in Congress is continuing a push for legislation supporting a federal initiative to better leverage data to help describe and protect America's coastlines.

Dubbed the Digital Coast Act, the sponsors say the legislation would build "coastal resiliency" by strengthening an already-existing federal web-based project, Digital Coast, that was launched thanks to an innovative partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and hundreds of organizations including private industry, local agencies, non-governmental organizations and nonprofits.

A digital ecosystem including atlases, almanacs, reference libraries, archives and shipping data is the result. Digital Coast is curated by NOAA, which calls the project a unique "one-stop shop" for all things coastal, from Ohio's riverbanks to Alaska's Bering Sea.

With half of the American population living and working near a coast, this initiative is critical for coastal safety and also for the nation's future economy and infrastructure, according to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) who wants the project to be backed up by a statutory mandate. Co-sponsors include Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and fellow Democrats Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.).

"Geospatial mapping information can be complicated, expensive to collect, and difficult to use without in-house expertise," according to a statement released by the bill's sponsors.

It's all about data visualization, ease of use and access, said Nicholas Schmidt, chief of the Science and Geospatial Division for NOAA's Office for Coastal Management, who explained that the agency "designed the website" for users to better "visualize data and not have to worry about the technology behind it." He said that the integrity of data was "critical" and that NOAA's job was to serve as curator of the aggregated coastal data and help transform data "into powerful information."

The collaborative nature of the project is key to its success, according to NOAA, which noted that "most users don't have the time or desire to search an array of vast sites to gather relevant data bit by bit. Compiling data sets from other agencies with one point of access saves users valuable time."

The Digital Coast project pulls together materials from multiple jurisdictions -- another reason for federal support, Ruppersberger said.

Previous attempts to pass the bill came up short, as coastal issues had not been perceived as a priority by many people, Ruppersberger explained. But this year, the tide of public opinion may have turned. "Because of the hurricanes, I think maybe people are more aware of why we need data," he said.

Hurricane mapping over the years is one interactive feature on the Digital Coast site at present. Additional context is provided that includes evacuation routes and an archive of post-hurricane recovery efforts. A Sea Level Rise Viewer allows users to visualize coastal flooding scenarios.

Making knowledge transparent, according to Schmidt, should "enable better decision-making" both about ocean- and river-related issues and the land-based economic and community issues that are influenced by coastal factors such as storm surges.

The proposed Digital Coast Act would supply NOAA with the funds needed to ensure the Digital Coast project's future growth -- from increasing the availability of core datasets and geospatial mapping to further extending educational programs. The Senate passed a similar bill in May under unanimous consent.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.