September 24, 2014

HIRONO SUPPORTS BILL TO BOOST RESOURCES FOR COASTAL COMMUNITIES IN HAWAII

Last week, Senator Mazie K. Hirono co-sponsored the Digital Coast Act, which will authorize the next phase in coastal mapping at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Coastal mapping provides current data and training to enable coastal communities to make critical planning decisions and better protect and sustain natural resources.

“Protecting Hawaii’s coastal areas is critical to our environment and economy,” said Hirono. “The Digital Coast Act will allow NOAA to continue to build on its successful Digital Coast initiative which focuses on providing the public and private sectors access to a range of important coastal data. We have already seen the effectiveness of coastal mapping in tracking erosion of the Pelekane Bay and improving water quality in Koolaupoko. Expanding the Digital Coast initiative will allow scientists and community members to access data to plan for long-term coastal resilience including managing water resources, tracking changes along the coastline, and combating the threat of global warming.”

“Digital Coast and data and tools provided by NOAA have been useful to state, territorial and county agencies,” said Leo Asuncion of the Hawaii Office of Planning. “In partnership with communities and federal agencies, Digital Coast has been used in Hawaii and the Pacific region to perform a wide range of projects - assessing land-based threats to coral reef habitats, assessing vulnerability differences in tsunami evaluation zones, compiling natural resource data for development of watershed strategies, and capturing traditional knowledge to inform restoration planning.  Digital Coast products are also being used by private sector firms in Hawaii for their land use planning analysis and documents or reports.”

“Communities need high quality data and tools for decision making in the present and planning for the future,” said Kristina Kekuwa, Acting Director, NOAA Pacific Service Center. “The Digital Coast puts all of that in one place where you can find the information you need, search through best practices, and get the technical assistance and training that you need in order to better manage our coastal resources and address the complex issues  we are facing.  Instead of spending time searching for the information you need, you can spend the time applying the information and learning from others to better address the complex coastal issues facing us all.”

“There's so much data out there, that it can sometimes be daunting for communities to find what they need. The Digital Coast provides a user friendly website that communities can access to find reliable data and other tools to help increase their resilience and be ready for the challenges they face in the future,” said Kim Hum, Marine Program Director for the Nature Conservancy’s Hawaii Program. “But it’s not just about the data. The project also provides training to help translate all of that data into usable information for decision making.”

The Digital Coast Act was introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and is co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Maria Cantwell (D-WA.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Angus King (I-ME). Bipartisan companion legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Additional support includes: Continental Mapping Consultants, Quantum Spatial, Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department, American Planning Association (APA), Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), Coastal States Organization (CSO), National Association of Counties (NACo), National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA), National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Urban Land Institute (ULI), Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), and National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS).