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Ruppersberger, Young Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Protect Coastal Communities and Citizens

Mar 21, 2016
Press Release
Legislation helps update coastal mapping and make it accessible to non-experts

(Washington, DC) – Congressmen C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Don Young (R-AK) last week introduced bipartisan legislation that will help local and state governments build coastal resiliency along the nation’s 95,000 miles of shoreline. The “Digital Coast Act” will provide coastal communities with 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.

Geospatial mapping information can be complicated, very expensive to collect and difficult to use without in-house expertise.

“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 “Yet current coastal maps and geospatial data are woefully inaccurate, outdated or even nonexistent.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.” 

The bill, H.R. 4738, 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 like, “What is the storm surge threat in this area?” or “How much will this bluff erode over the next decade?” or “What are water level trends at the marina where a dock is being built?”

This is the fourth time Congressmen Ruppersberger and Young have introduced the Digital Coast Act since 2010. Congressman Ruppersberger’s district includes hundreds of miles of coastline including 200 in Baltimore County alone.