NOAA Digital Coast: Panel Praises The Power Of Partnerships

2019-08-23T09:55:01+00:00 June 11, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What it was

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing titled “A Decade of the Digital Coast Partnership Program: Successes and Opportunities.”

Why it matters

From planning infrastructure to making evacuation recommendations during a hurricane, the nearly 40 percent of Americans who live on the nation’s coasts need access to reliable information and tools to address the needs of their communities. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Digital Coast compiles and curates information from hundreds of private organizations, academic institutions, and government agencies to make robust data on the nation’s coasts readily accessible in a timely manner. Coastal communities frequently use these data to make wise, cost-effective, and even life-saving coastal management decisions.

Key points

Senators and witnesses alike hailed the successes of NOAA’s Digital Coast. Subcommittee Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK) and Ranking Member Tammy Baldwin (WI) both cheered the program’s collaboration with stakeholders in the private sector, academia, and government entities to build the platform into a tool for better coastal management at every level. Among the main successes is the project’s impressive return on investment, which is expected to exceed 400 percent over the next 15 years of continued operation.

Mr. Paul Barnes (Geographic and Information Services Director; Harrison County, Mississippi) testified on behalf of the National Association of Counties on the benefits of Digital Coast for counties across the country. He pointed out one of the main strengths of the partnership is it provides accessibility to communities who lack the resources to gather these data themselves. Mr. Barnes shared how he and other county planners use the platform when siting new public infrastructure projects to ensure their long-term safety and viability, particularly in advance of coastal changes.

Communities also use the Digital Coast in emergency situations by using visualization tools to make decisions on evacuations and safety. Mr. Tyson Fettes (Register of Deeds; Racine County, Wisconsin) explained how its flood level data improved real-time disaster response during record flooding in Racine County in 2017.

Senators and witnesses agreed leveraging the power of partnerships through Digital Coast saves tax dollars, improves safety, and contributes to vibrant coastal economies in both the short- and long-term.


“Beyond just a database, Digital Coast also provides tools for coastal communities to decipher and use the high-tech mapping data to make accurate decisions and smart investments in their communities.” — Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK)

“This tiny Digital Coast program, funded at $1.7 million in fiscal year 2017, has been leveraged to save countless taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be spent duplicating effort or wasting time and money to find this data elsewhere.” — Ranking Member Tammy Baldwin (WI)

“Digital Coast provides a high return on investment, is a leading public-private partnership, and supports economic development. In short, Digital Coast is government done right.”— Ms. Nicole LeBoeuf, Deputy Assistant Administrator, NOAA

Next Steps

Last year, Ranking Member Baldwin introduced the Digital Coast Act (S.110) to formally authorize and expand the project. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent just months after being introduced but still awaits action in the House. The House must pass S.110 by January 3, 2019 — the end of the 115th Congress — for it to be signed into law.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Visit the NOAA Digital Coast website

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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