House bill calls on NOAA to coordinate coastal mapping

A cartographer's job is never finished. Geography changes over time and more accurate mapping tools continue to be developed. What's more, a substantial portion of territory ' which happens to be under water ' has never been accurately mapped.

Those are the main reasons Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) introduced the Ocean and Coastal Mapping Act.

The bill, which passed the House July 23, would task the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with developing a coordinated, comprehensive federal ocean and coastal mapping plan for the Great Lakes and coastal state waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf of the United States.

'Much of the world's oceans are imprecisely mapped and that there exists opportunity for improvement in updating incomplete and outdated nautical charts, for example, through greater coordination and an integrated mapping program,' Bordallo, chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Committee's Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee, told GCN.

Just as important, Bordallo said, the legislation requires NOAA to coordinate federal efforts with state and local mapping efforts, saving millions of dollars by eliminating duplicate effort.

'We have mapped every hill, valley, plateau, river and canyon in the United States landscape,' Bordallo said. 'Yet we have a long way to go before we gain as much understanding and information on the Great Lakes and the exclusive economic zone of our country, including new areas along the continental shelf beyond 200 miles.'

The legislation authorizes $260 million for efforts between 2008 and 2015.
Bordallo said the benefits far outweigh the costs by improving navigation and national security, and helping to identify the location of critical natural undersea formations, such as deep-sea vents and other geothermal landforms. Newer maps would also help 'to manage and conserve fishery resources and protected species, and to identify sources of energy for our country, she said.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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