Representatives Ruppersberger, Young, Esty, and Crist Introduce 2017 Digital Coast Act
(Washington, DC) – Representatives C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Don Young (R-AK), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), and Charlie Crist (D-FL) today introduced bipartisan legislation that will help local and state governments build coastal resiliency along the United States’ 95,000 miles of shoreline.
Geospatial mapping information can be complicated, expensive to collect, and difficult to use without in-house expertise. In the wake of devastating recent Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the need for spatial data on our coasts is critical to emergency preparedness and response efforts.
The Digital Coast Act will provide coastal communities updated mapping data that can be used to prepare for storms, manage floods, restore ecosystems and plan smarter developments near America’s coasts, harbors, ports and shorelines.
“America’s fragile shorelines are home to more than half of our country’s population and millions of businesses that supply most of our gross domestic product,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “Yet current coastal maps and geospatial data are woefully inaccurate, outdated or even nonexistent. The Digital Coast Act will give local planners and managers the high-tech data they need to make accurate decisions and smart investments that could save people and property.”
“No other state in the nation understands the need for coastal resilience and mapping more than Alaska,” said Congressman Don Young. “With more than 44,000 miles of coastline, much of which is not fully mapped, Alaska’s coastal communities rely heavily on our waterways and shipping channels to support all forms of social and economic prosperity: goods from the lower 48, critical transportation needs, search and rescue operations, and the state’s largest private sector employer – our fishing industry. The Digital Coast Act is an important step towards developing a system that supports our coastal communities with up-to-date and reliable information on our coastlines and weather conditions.”
“Pinellas County, which I’m honored to represent, is a peninsula on the peninsula of Florida. Our community’s safety depends on coastal resiliency,” said Representative Crist. “The Digital Coast program provides invaluable data and digital tools to combat increasingly severe storms and rising sea levels which impact tourism and fishing industries – major drivers of our state and local economies. I’m proud to join in introducing this common-sense bill to bolster this critical program to protect people, property, and our economy.”
“In the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Maria, it is more important than ever that we provide communities with the resources they need to prepare for storm surge and encourage smarter development,” Representative Esty said. “The Digital Coast Act will leverage next-generation technologies to make detailed information on weather conditions and coastal regions in danger of flooding available to the local officials tasked with emergency response management, as well as the broader public. This data will give us tools to save lives and protect our families’ and businesses’ property in future storms.”
The bill, H.R. 4062, formally creates the “Digital Coast” program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), allowing it to begin a comprehensive mapping process and make the data available on its website for free and easy public access. NOAA will also train decision-makers at the local and state level on how to use the datasets to answer questions about storm surge, erosion, and water level trends.
This is the fifth time Representatives Ruppersberger and Young have introduced the Digital Coast Act since 2010. They are joined by Representatives Esty and Crist this session of Congress. The companion bill passed with unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate earlier this year.