Digital Coast Act Reintroduced to Senate

Bipartisan legislation ensures that coastal communities will continue to have the data to make smart choices for economic development, shoreline management and coastal restoration

By Bronwyn Walls | April 11, 2019

Yesterday, U.S. Senators Baldwin (D-WI) and Murkowski (R-AK) and Representatives Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Young (R-AK) reintroduced bipartisan legislation, the Digital Coast Act, to assist coastal communities with storm preparation and strengthen coastal economic development planning efforts. (S.1069 and H.R.2189)

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) currently hosts the Digital Coast Project, a collaborative online database of the most up-to-date coastal information, supported by NSGIC and seven other partner organizations. The Digital Coast provides data to public and private sector entities while also providing decision-making tools and resources for coastal communities.

“Coastal issues have enormous consequences for NSGIC member states. The effects of climate change, sea-level rise and increasing populations are becoming more pronounced and take a serious toll on the national economy. Funding NOAA’s Digital Coast Project will prevent costly duplication of effort by multiple state and local governments.” said NSGIC Executive Director Molly Schar.

The Digital Coast Act supports further development of the current Digital Coast Project by increasing communities’ access to consistent and updated data. The access provided assists communities in responding to emergencies, coastal resilience planning, and water resource management. Benefits of Digital Coast have been documented by NOAA as 3.5 times greater than the costs, translating into a return on investment of nearly 250 percent.

“This bipartisan legislation is about making sure our coastal communities have the resources and tools they need to adapt to changing environmental conditions, maintain healthy shores and make smart planning decisions to support their local economies and way of life,” said Senator Baldwin in a statement, who recognizes the challenges faced by shoreline communities on Wisconsin’s Great Lakes.

In Alaska, which has more shoreline than all of the other U.S. states combined, Senator Murkowski understands the threats that shoreline erosion places on infrastructure and ecosystems. “By comprehensively mapping and surveying our coastline, we can ensure we have readily accessible and up-to-date tools for coastal management, planning, and disaster response,” said Senator Murkowski in a statement, “What we do with that information is our next challenge.” 

Baldwin and Murkowski’s legislation passed the U.S. Senate with unanimous consent during the 114th and 115th Sessions of Congress. Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Sullivan (R-AK) are cosponsoring the current bill.