Senate Commerce Committee Advances Digital Coast Legislation

Earlier the week, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to advance the Digital Coast Act (S. 2325) out of committee. This is an exciting step towards helping planners working on hazard mitigation and resiliency efforts in coastal communities get the data they need to make informed and effective plans.

The bipartisan Digital Coast Act was introduced by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). It authorizes the Digital Coast program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This program aims to collect, consolidate, and publically disseminate a wide array of coastal data, which can help planners better prepare for storms, flooding, sea level rise, and other coastal occurrences that affect a community's infrastructure and well-being.

In the House, Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.-02) and Don Young (R-Alaska-01) have introduced companion legislation, but that has yet to be considered in a committee markup.

APA has officially endorsed the Digital Coast Act and has been actively involved for several years in the Digital Coast Partnership, a coalition working to advance this legislation and generally support NOAA's collection and distribution of coastal data.

Coastal communities are vital to our nation's economy, generating more than half of US GDP. They are also popular, vibrant places to live and work; over 50 percent of Americans reside on or near a coast. Yet these communities have become increasingly vulnerable to the detrimental effects of natural disasters and climate change.

The Commerce Committee's action on the Digital Coast Act takes a critical next step towards strengthening these communities by supporting the continued collection and public accessibility of NOAA's coastal data. The bill is now ready for consideration and final passage on the Senate floor. But in order for that to happen, Senators need to recognize the importance of this legislation and ensure it is given the opportunity to receive a final vote on the floor.

April 28, 2016

By Kirsten Holland