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senate Bill S. 1069

Reauthorizing NOAA’s ‘Digital Coast’ Program to Provide Coastal Communities With Management Tools

Argument in favor

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Digital Coast Program is an important resource that helps communities manage their coastal resources. It should be continued to ensure that America’s coastlines are mapped and managed effectively.

Argument opposed

The Digital Coast program is largely duplicative with another NOAA program, the National Coastal Zone Management Program, which comprehensively addresses the United States’ coastal issues through a voluntary partnership between the federal government and coastal and Great Lakes states and territories. There’s no need for both programs.

What is Senate Bill S. 1069?

This bill, known as the Digital Coast Act, would provide statutory authority for and revise the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Digital Coast program. This program provides the geospatial data, high tech mapping tools, and related training that communities use to manage their coastal resources. 

Additionally, this bill would direct NOAA to focus on filling data needs and gaps for critical coastal management issues and to support continued improvement in existing efforts to coordinate the acquisition and integration of key data sets needed for coastal management. It would also authorize NOAA to enter into financial agreements and collect fees to carry out the Digital Coast program.


Coastal communities; coastal resource management; Digital Coast Program; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1069

$18.00 Million
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that this bill would cost $18 million over the 2020-2029 period.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress 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. 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.”

Original Republican cosponsor Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) adds:

“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. 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.”

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), sponsor of this bill’s House companion, says the continuation of the Digital Coast program is needed to ensure accurate mapping of America’s 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. 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.”

Original House cosponsor Rep. Don Young (R-AK) adds:

“No other state in the nation understands the need for coastal resilience and mapping more than Alaska. 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 American Planning Association supports this bill. Its president, Kurt Christiansen, says:

“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.”

This bill passed the Senate by voice vote with the support of three bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including two Republicans and one Democrat. Its House companion passed the House Committee on Natural Resources by unanimous consent.

The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors, Association of State Floodplain Managers, U.S. GEO, MAPPS (a national association of geospatial firms) and others support this legislation.

This bill passed the Senate with unanimous consent in both the 114th and 115th Congresses.

Of Note: NOAA’s Digital Coast Project is a collaborative online database of the most up-to-date coastal information. This database is available to both the public and private sectors. Additionally, Digital Coast provides tools for coastal communities to decipher and use high-tech mapping data to make accurate decisions and smart investments in coastal communities.

In an April 2015 report, NOAA reported that the Digital Coast program’s main benefits were:

  • Efficiency gains in the form of time savings, leveraging NOAA investments in infrastructure, and avoiding duplication of effort; and
  • Effectiveness in the form of Digital Coast resources helping users improve their effectiveness in performing their work.


Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: NOAA)


Digital Coast Act

Official Title

Digital Coast Act, as amended

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
    IntroducedApril 9th, 2019