KTVA: Murkowski, Young reintroduce coastal mapping initiative

Two of Alaska’s three congressional members are among lawmakers bringing a long-sought bill to improve mapping of the nation’s shorelines back before Congress.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young introduced the Digital Coast Act Tuesday, along with Democratic co-sponsors Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland. The act would authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to begin a full mapping project of the nation’s 95,000 miles of shoreline.

According to the Alaska delegation, Murkowski and Baldwin have twice introduced the bill in the Senate, where it passed with unanimous consent. Young and Ruppersberger are introducing its House version for the sixth time since 2010.

“Coastal communities will be able to use the data to prepare for storms, manage floods, restore ecosystems and plan smarter developments near America's coasts, harbors, ports and shorelines,” officials with the Alaska delegation wrote in a statement.

In Tuesday’s statement, Murkowski emphasized the act’s benefits for understanding Alaska’s ongoing crisis of coastal erosion.

"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,” Murkowski said. “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."

"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,” Young said. “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."

Under the act, NOAA would work with lawmakers to use the data — which would be freely available on its website — to “answer questions about storm surge, erosion, and water level trends.”

Source: KTVA