nation of existing onshore and offshore data. The result is a lack of standardized, uniform geospatial products that span the coastal zone. This inability to produce a seamless map (or chart) across the land-water interface is a severe impediment to understanding the many processes that are continuous across the shoreline. The lack of standardization has also led government agencies, the research community, and the private sector to undertake the expensive and time-consuming task of separately generating new data and maps to accompany almost all new studies and initiatives. The lack of coordination of coastal zone mapping efforts inevitably leads to the potential for redundancy of surveys or products.
At least 15 federal agencies are involved in the primary collection or use of coastal geospatial data, often with responsibilities shared among multiple divisions within the same agency. In addition, a plethora of state and local agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations also gather and use coastal zone information. This has resulted in a chaotic collection of potentially overlapping, and often uncoordinated, coastal mapping and charting products that can frustrate the efforts of users to take advantage of existing datasets and build on past studies.
In response to this situation, and believing that an independent external evaluation could provide valuable new ideas, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested that the National Academies undertake a study of national needs for coastal mapping and charting. The study committee was charged to identify and suggest mechanisms for addressing national needs for spatial information in the coastal zone, incorporating an analysis of the major spatial information requirements of federal agencies as well as the principal user groups they support. The committee was tasked to identify high-priority needs, evaluate the potential for meeting those needs based on the current level of effort, and suggest steps to increase collaboration and ensure that the nation’s need for spatial information in the coastal zone is met in an efficient and timely manner.
In order to understand the needs and activities of the very large and diverse community involved with spatial information in the coastal zone, the committee and staff sought information and perspectives from agencies and individuals involved in numerous aspects of coastal zone mapping. Despite the complexities of the numerous issues raised by the many providers and users of coastal zone data, the consistency of needs and concerns raised permitted the committee to quickly converge on a vision for the future of coastal mapping and charting. This vision requires the development of an integrated and coordinated coastal mapping strategy for the nation, based on a foundation—a reference frame—upon which all data collection, analyses, and products can be built. To establish this foun-