U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Lisa Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Aid Shoreline Communities

Bill Delivers Next Generation Coastal Information for Improved Water Resource Management, Disaster Response, Long-Term Planning and Restoration

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation, the Digital Coast Act, to help coastal communities better prepare for storms, cope with varying water levels, and strengthen coastal economic development planning efforts.

“Wisconsin’s Great Lakes are a great asset for our quality of life and also for our long-term economic security. Our shoreline communities face a variety of challenges to keep their harbors open, their waters clean and their beaches ready for visitors,” said Senator Baldwin. “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.”

“Alaska is facing significant shoreline erosion, threatening coastal communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems. But until recently, our understanding of the extent of this challenge has been poor, inhibiting our ability to develop effective solutions,” said Senator Murkowski. “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. Along with my ocean data bill, the BLUE GLOBE Act, the Digital Coast Act helps give us a stronger understanding of what’s happening along our shorelines and underneath our waters. For a state with more shoreline than all of the other U.S. states combined, what we do with that information is our next challenge.”

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) currently assembles and hosts the Digital Coast Project, a collaborative online database of the most up-to-date coastal information, and makes it available to both the public and private sectors. 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 coastal communities.

The Digital Coast Act authorizes the next phase in coastal mapping at NOAA by ensuring that communities will continue to have the data to make smart choices for economic development, shoreline management and coastal restoration. The bill supports further development of the current project, including increasing access to uniform, up-to-date data, to help communities get the coastal data they need to respond to emergencies, plan for long-term coastal resilience, and manage their water resources.

Baldwin and Murkowski’s legislation passed the U.S. Senate with unanimous consent during the 114th and 115th Sessions of Congress. Companion legislation was introduced in the House today by Representatives C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Don Young (R-AK).

“Senator Baldwin and Senator Murkowski’s leadership on coastal issues supports the work local communities do to manage risk and protect people and property from extreme weather and changing conditions. This legislation will directly improve local disaster response and hazard mitigation planning. This bill will help local communities minimize potential loss of life and damage to infrastructure, private property, and conservation areas. The Digital Coast Act is an important step for effective coastal management. It will provide these data points with additional planning tools, resources, and training planners need to build stronger, more resilient coastal communities,” said Kurt Christiansen, President of the American Planning Association.

“Thank you to Senator Baldwin for sponsoring the Digital Coast Act. Working in partnership with NOAA, state and territory coastal zone management programs provide critical long term planning for coastal communities that balances the need for economic development and resource protection to ensure coastal areas are economic drivers today and in the future. The Digital Coast is an essential tool in a coastal manager's toolbox to support our nation’s coastal resources and economies with planning tools, data, and training,” said Bradley Watson, Executive Director of the Coastal States Organization.

“Our nation’s coasts are not only where the majority of our population lives and works, much of our nation’s natural heritage and wealth in natural resources are also concentrated in these areas. Senator Baldwin's bill will strengthen the Digital Coast program, which has helped The Nature Conservancy’s Wisconsin, Great Lakes and coastal conservation staff access and share data and tools with partners to improve resilience, enhancing the environment and economies of communities across the country,” said Todd Holschbach, Director of Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin.

“The Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors (WSLS) commends Sen. Baldwin for her leadership in introducing this legislation which will create a program to implement the recommendations of numerous reports that have highlighted the need for surveying data of our coasts, harbors, ports, shorelines and resources for economic growth, recreational activities, and conservation of our fragile coastal environment,” said Terry Van Hout, President of the Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors. 

Supporters of the Digital Coast Act include Quantum Spatial, Inc., The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors, Association of State Floodplain Managers, U.S. GEO, National Society of Professional Surveyors, National States Geographic Information Council, MAPPS (a national association of geospatial firms), American Planning Association, Coastal States Organization, National Association of Counties, and the Digital Coastal Partnership Advocacy Coalition. Read what supporters are saying about the Digital Coast Act here.

More information on the Digital Coast Act is available here. The full text of the legislation is available here.