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Digital Coast Act

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 16, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RUPPERSBERGER. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Digital Coast Act, a bipartisan and bicameral bill that I have put forth for consideration by this Chamber the last 10 years. I have spent a decade pushing this legislation because, while it is critical to coastal communities like mine in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we all have a stake in protecting America's shorelines. But it is not just about protecting our environment, it is about protecting our economy. Our country's 95,000 miles of shoreline are home to more than 42 percent of our country's population and millions of businesses that supply most of our gross domestic product.

This bill's Republican House cosponsor, Mr. Don Young, represents Alaska, a State with 44,000 miles of coastline. The fishing industry is their largest private-sector employer.

Every day, planners in our hometowns are asking questions such as: What is the storm surge in this community?

Or: How much is this bluff going to erode?

Or: What are the water level trends at the marina where we want to build a new dock?

Unfortunately, the current coastal maps and geospatial data they are relying on for answers are woefully inaccurate, outdated, and nonexistent. The Digital Coast Act will allow professionals at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to begin a comprehensive mapping process of our Nation's fragile shorelines.

Coastal communities will be able to use the data to better prepare for storms, manage floods, restore ecosystems, and plan smarter developments near America's coasts, harbors, ports, and shorelines. In Alaska, better mapping will improve search and rescue operations.

Also, NOAA will train decision makers at the local and State level on how to use the data sets to answer questions about storm surge, erosion, and water level trends. The data will also be available on NOAA's website for free and easy public access so that every citizen can leverage the expertise of the Federal Government.

This bill is more important now than it was a decade ago when I first introduced it. We are seeing more storms that are stronger, and sea level rise is accelerating. We can't wait any longer.

In addition to Congressman Don Young, I thank Chairman Grijalva and Ranking Member Bishop for their work in bringing this bill to the floor. Finally, I thank Senators Tammy Baldwin and Lisa Murkowski for championing this bill in the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I urge all my colleagues to support this bipartisan, commonsense investment in our Nation's coastal communities.