SitNews: Presidential directive will boost DGGS’ Alaska coastal mapping
President Donald J. Trump’s recent decision to prioritize mapping of Arctic and nearshore coastal areas will advance ongoing state efforts to survey and document Alaska’s coastal conditions, resources and hazards, the director of the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (DGGS) said today.
President Trump’s memo builds upon a 1983 memo issued by President Ronald Reagan, which established the EEZ to advance the development of ocean resources and promote the protection of the marine environment. With more than 13,000 miles of coastline and 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean within its territorial jurisdiction, the United States’ EEZ is among the largest in the world and larger than the combined land area of all 50 states.
The Presidential Memorandum issued Nov. 19 establishes mapping of the coast and undersea areas within the nation’s 200-mile offshore Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) as a national priority, reflecting its importance and value to the nation.
“The U.S. EEZ contains a vast array of underutilized, and likely many undiscovered, natural resources, including critical minerals, marine-derived pharmaceuticals, energy, and areas of significant ecological and conservation value,” the president wrote. “However, only about 40 percent of the U.S. EEZ has been mapped.”
DGGS Director Steve Masterman says the memorandum’s call for thorough coastal mapping dovetails neatly with -- and should bring more focus and resources to bear on – an important part of DGGS’ mission.
“Much of the rest of the country’s coastline has already been mapped and is on schedule to be remapped every five years, but Alaska’s coastline hasn’t been mapped even once,” he said. “As the Arctic is emerging in importance both economically and strategically, its welcome, but not surprising, that mapping our vast coastline and the EEZ are of national importance.”
With activity within the EEZ accounting for $300 billion in economic activity, 3 million jobs and $129 billion in wages nationally, the benefits of accurate mapping information are as clear as the inadequate state of data on Alaska’s shores, Masterman said.
“This is an important step for Alaska, especially for the Arctic as we are woefully behind in developing up-to-date maps for the region,” U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a prepared statement. “The Arctic is crucial to our nation’s geopolitical, economic, and environmental well-being. Alaskans know this better than perhaps anyone else. Our waters are home to an abundant variety of untapped natural resources that can be used for food, medicine, and energy. Only a small part of the Arctic has been charted to modern standards, hindering the safety of maritime operations in the region. This Presidential directive builds on my own efforts to secure strong funding for NOAA's hydrographic surveys to address the backlog of charting needs in the Arctic. Mapping the waters around our state will provide valuable information on critical minerals and coastal resources while supporting safer shipping in the Arctic.”
“As Alaskans, we depend on our oceans to provide for our families and drive our economy,” U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan said in a prepared statement. “Ensuring that the maps of both our state’s and nation’s waters are contemporary is vital to ensuring our economic growth and national security. The provisions outlined in this order will serve to bolster our understanding of our oceans and coastlines, and I commend the President for prioritizing this issue.”
“Ensuring our oceans are thoroughly mapped is one of the most important things we can do to protect our economy and the maritime careers that depend on safe, navigable waters,” Congressman Don Young (R-AK) said in a prepared statement. “This order is once again proof that President Trump and his administration are strong partners for the State of Alaska. As the Arctic’s significance to our global economy continues to grow, a better understanding of our oceans will be crucial. I will continue working with the Alaska Delegation and the Administration to ensure that Alaska is well-equipped for the years ahead.”
By: Mary Kauffman