November 18, 2011

APA, NOAA Collaborate on Coastal Planning

CHICAGO — Access to geospatial data for coastal communities and additional training on using available tools were identified as the top priorities by members of the American Planning Association (APA) responding to the APA Digital Coast Needs Assessment Survey. APA is a member of the Digital Coast Partnership, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The survey was conducted of APA members working in coastal communities, including along tidal estuaries, marine coasts, and the Great Lakes. It was administered by APA's Hazards Planning Research Center to identify opportunities for additional training and data that would best serve coastal planners.

Survey responses confirm that planners have a need for current NOAA Digital Coast geospatial tools — tools that apply various analyses to geographic data. The data is essential in developing plans and mitigating future problems that may harm residents as a result of various current and potential problems including rising sea levels, storm surges, and coastal erosion. Sixty-eight percent of the survey respondents indicated the need for more data specifically about land elevation and approximately one-quarter of the respondents stated they have a need for more data projections for relative sea level rise.

Training deficits on how to use available tools remain a challenge for planners. Most of the respondents rated themselves as competent in the use of geospatial technology, although they fall short of expert-level status. More than half the survey respondents expressed a deep interest in GIS Tools for Strategic Conservation Planning and Coastal Inundation Mapping.

Communicating with policy makers was another challenge identified by survey respondents. Forty-seven percent said the lack of immediacy associated with the issues makes it difficult to obtain support regarding long-term benefits of restricting new development in environmentally fragile areas. Also, communicating about potential risks associated with sea-level rise presented another challenge.

The need for additional information and data is evident in coastal communities across the U.S. APA, along with NOAA, the Digital Coast Partnership and other allied organizations are working together to address growing challenges and increase the number of trained professionals in geospatial technology and marine planning.

Full analysis of the survey is available at:


Roberta Rewers, APA Public Affairs; 312-786-6395;