More than half of all Americans, 153 million people, currently live on or near a coast and an additional 12 million are expected to move to the coasts over the next decade. Yet despite this population density and economic magnet, much of the 95,000 miles of U.S. shoreline does not have current, accurate maps and geospatial information; moreover, much of what does exist pre-dates the 1970s.

Of America's major ports, harbors and shipping areas, there is a 26,000 square nautical mile backlog that will take about 15 years to accurately update with current maps. Given recent natural disasters along our coastlines, including Hurricane's Sandy and Katrina and manmade events such as the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, the need for spatial data on our coasts is critical to emergency preparedness, emergency response, coastal assessments, conservation, and economic growth.

That is why MAPPS, the national association of private sector geospatial firms, applauded the introduction of a bipartisan bill, H.R. 1382, the Digital Coast Act of 2013 by U.S. Reps C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-Md.) and Don Young (R-Alaska). The bill will authorize a "Digital Coast" program whereby the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would develop a coordinated and comprehensive national mapping effort for coastal, state and territorial waters of the United States.

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello said, "The Digital Coast Act is needed to realize the concept of a digital and geospatially enabled view of the Nation's coastlines as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The Digital Coast Act provides an opportunity to help America's ocean, coastal and shoreline areas by addressing issues raised by the U.S. Oceans Commission, the Pew Commission, as well as several NAS reports, all of which have highlighted the need for surveying, charting, remote sensing and geospatial data of America's coasts, harbors, ports, shorelines and ocean resources critical to the nation's most basic economic and recreational activities and to smartly conserve a fragile environment."

MAPPS President Richard "Dick" McDonald, PLS, said, "This Digital Coast program within NOAA will also coordinate the pooling of resources from multiple federal, state, and local agencies and other stakeholders to map the various needs once, and then utilize and apply the high-quality data and products numerous times, thus reducing wasteful duplication, while maximizing the return on investment for all stakeholders."

The Digital Coast is a geospatially enabled program to improve coordination and support work with stakeholders to identify geospatial priorities; improve coordination of coastal mapping and management activities; use standards and standardized methods for data acquisition, processing, and distribution to ensure broadest utility of data; promote best practices when applying geospatial data for coastal decision making; and contract for the collection and creation of quality non-navigation feature data sets to include: shoreline change, satellite and aerial imagery, land use and land cover maps, benthic habitat mapping, terrestrial topography, shallow water bathymetry and submerged aquatic vegetation.

"H.R. 1382 is needed to truly satisfy the concept of a robust Digital Coast, and we commend Reps. Ruppersberger and Young for working in a bipartisan manner to do so," said Palatiello.

Congressman Ruppersberger serves as the ranking member on the House permanent select committee on intelligence. H.R. 1382 was referred to the House committee on natural resources where Congressman Young is a member and former chairman.