APA Digital Coast Needs Assessment Survey

Communication Challenges

Because the ability to communicate is a key determinant of success in planning, the survey concluded with a short series of questions about the challenges involved in communicating about planning with decision makers and other prime users of data in coastal communities. Links below provide access to regional variations in response to these issues.

The total data are summarized below. Click on a region for specific regional data:

Table 8a.

Communicating Coastal or Marine Planning Information to Users (Question #19)

LEVEL OF EASE # %
Very Easy 24 3.5
Somewhat Easy 110 16.0
Neutral 260 37.8
Somewhat Difficult 175 25.5
Very Difficult 49 7.1
Not Applicable 69 10.0
TOTAL 687 100.0

Table 8a shows how 687 respondents rated the ease with which they communicate coastal or marine planning information to users of their planning practice, analysis, and research. Less than 20% responded that communicating coastal or marine planning information is very or somewhat easy, while nearly 33% responded that communicating coastal or marine planning information is very or somewhat difficult. Ten percent of respondents apparently do not communicate coastal or marine planning information to users, as indicated by their "Not Applicable"; response.

Table 8b.

Planning Information that is Difficult to Communicate to Users (Question #20)

TYPES OF PLANNING INFORMATION # RESPONSESa % ALL RESPONDENTSc
Benefits of limiting development in high-risk areas 303 44.1
Risk posed by sea level rise 261 38.0
Need to coordinate land-use planning & emergency planning 254 37.0
Environmental impacts of population growth 232 33.8
Visual/aesthetic impacts of population growth 221 32.2
Risk posed by coastal storms and flooding 184 26.8
Otherb 50 7.3
Do not have difficulty communicating planning info to users 139 20.2
Total Responses 1644

a. Respondents could select more than one type of planning information

b. Write-in responses for "Other" are provided at the end of this web page.

c. Percentages based on 687 survey respondents. However, respondents were encouraged to identify all applicable types of planning information based on their current or past service in coastal communities. Therefore, total responses exceed total respondents.

Table 8c.

Primary Challenges Communicating About Planning with Decision Makers (Question #21)

CHALLENGE # RESPONSESa % ALL RESPONDENTSc
Competition between diverse community interests and values 381 55.5
Lack of immediacy or urgency connected with the issue 327 47.6
Fear of intruding on property rights 317 46.1
Low political priority/lack of concern 306 44.5
Scientific or technical complexity of the issue 246 35.8
Planning department is not involved in the issue 86 12.5
Other(b) 50 7.3
Do not have challenges communicating with decision-makers 66 9.6
Total Responses 1779

a. Respondents could select more than one challenge.

b. Write-in responses for "Other" are provided at the end of this page.

c. Percentages based on 687 survey respondents. However, respondents were encouraged to identify all applicable challenges based on their current or past service in coastal communities. Therefore, total responses exceed total respondents.


Table 8c shows that more than half of the respondents (56%) cited "competition between diverse community interests and values" as one of their biggest challenges in communicating about planning with local government decision-makers. Between 44% and 48% of respondents cited "lack of immediacy or urgency connected with the issue," "fear of intruding on property rights," and "low political priority/lack of concern." Only 12% indicated lack of involvement by the planning department in the issue, and less than 10% of respondents indicated they do not have significant challenges communicating about planning with decision makers. The bar graph below shows a more visual ranking of these challenges in communication about planning.


Figure 8a.

Percentage of Respondents Citing Primary Challenges Communicating with Decision Makers about Planning

Percentage of Respondents Citing Primary Challenges Communicating with Decision Makers about Planning


Table 8d.

Useful Media for Communicating About Planning with Decision Makers (Question #22)

MEDIA # RESPONSESa % ALL RESPONDENTSc
Maps (printed) 415 60.4
Slide shows (e.g. Power Point) 399 58.1
Mapping tools (electronic) 347 50.5
E-mail 329 47.9
Memos and reports 297 43.2
Visualization tools (CanVis, Coastal Flood Frequency Viewer) 199 29.0
Local news media (newspapers, radio, TV, etc.) 195 28.4
Time-series data in graphic format 190 27.7
Videos 110 16.0
Government TV 83 12.1
Social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) 48 7.0
Otherb 30 4.4
Not Applicable 51 7.4
Total Responses 2693

a. Respondents could select more than one type of media

b. Write-in responses for "Other" are provided at the end of this page.

c. Percentages based on 687 survey respondents. However, respondents were encouraged to identify all applicable types of media based on their current or past service in coastal communities. Therefore, total responses exceed total respondents.


Table 8d shows a wide range in the level of usefulness of media for communicating about planning with local government decision makers. While more than 60% of respondents indicated printed maps were useful, only 7% of respondents indicated social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, are useful. Other media rated useful by more than half of the respondents are slide shows (e.g., Power Point) and electronic mapping tools. Only 7% of respondents indicated the media options presented in the survey were not applicable for communicating with local government decision makers. Figure 8b below provides a more visual ranking of these responses.

Figure 8b.

Respondents' Ranking of Usefulness of Media for Communicating About Planning with Decision Makers

Respondents' Ranking of Usefulness of Media for Communicating About Planning with Decision Makers

Table 8b.

What planning information do you have difficulty communicating to users of your planning practice/analysis/research? (Question #20 — 50 free responses)

  • AESTHETICS
    • Putting "value" on the various aesthetic impacts of different alternatives.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE/HAZARDS
    • I have difficulty explaining why FEMA does not account for sea level rise on flood maps and why NOAA is not giving a target sea level rise for the San Diego Bay. This lack of planning requires each local jurisdiction to adopt their own grading ordinance "fix" to a national problem.
    • Synergistic impacts of climate change and impervious cover on groundwater recharge and stream discharge/nearshore coastal water quality and habitat
    • general planning and risk management
    • Risks posed by decreasing water levels in Great Lakes
    • Local decision makers do not believe their towns are vulnerable to hazards of today- so convincing them of sea level rise is nearly impossible.
    • Flood Zone determinations and regulations
    • cost/benefit tradeoffs in evaluating climate adaptation choices
    • Effects of not having standards increased for risk areas; whereby, a resilient community has a higher standard of living and said community can redevelop more efficiently . . .
  • DEMOGRAPHICS/POPULATION
    • demographic and forecasting concepts
    • not so much impacts of population growth as sprawl
  • ECONOMY/DEVELOPMENT/PROPERTY
    • Benefits of an active economy to all
    • Options with Cost Benefit Information
    • economic development, working waterfront, public access, habitat balance
    • public access
    • Private property rights versus impacts of development in coastal areas - takings issues
    • loss of higher property taxes by limiting population growth along waterfronts
    • Lack of legal authority to restrict development when property owners do not want to cooperate.
    • economic impacts of growth
    • Public interest is legitimate reason to limit private property rights
    • valuing external impacts of development
    • benefits of developing anything
    • Non-sustainability of speculative real estate growth
    • achieving balance between development and protection
  • ENVIRONMENTAL
    • benefits of marine reserves
    • Ecological impact of inappropriate development
    • oceanic data due to availability
    • stormwater quality
    • cumulative impact assessment
    • importance of shoreline restoration and erosion prevention
    • cumulative impacts to coastal resources of individual decisions
  • EQUITY/SOCIAL
    • Equity in climate change and working waterfronts
    • Race
    • Cultural Resource Management
  • MILITARY
    • Informing the public about the military mission within the coastal areas.
  • TRANSPORTATION
    • transportation network disruption anal. see above
  • NONE/INCLUDED ABOVE (1)
  • NOT APPLICABLE
    • Am retired
    • I do not rely on the software for my job, but work with the GIS coordinator on staff.
    • na
    • do not deal much with such info
    • N/A
  • NON-TOPICAL COMMENTARY
    • Time
    • cannot provide classified information to people without security clearances
    • all to political bodies
    • There are costs and somebody gotta pay for them
    • Separation of Powers prevents me from speaking on population growth in high-risk areas
    • Cost to develop proper information sharing tools
    • Technical complexity of some issues/requirements.
    • diplomatic communication without being alarmist
  • SURVEY CRITIQUE
    • The wording of several of these questions is skewed. There are not necessarily impacts to population growth depending on how it is managed. I do not work in a coastal community so, the others are not applicable.

Table 8c.

What are the primary challenges you face in communicating about planning with local government decision makers? (Question #21 — 50 free responses)

  • CHALLENGES
    • achieving balance between property rights and conservation goals
    • appreciating property rights and finding mutually agreeabel solutions which may require code flexibility
    • available data and tools
    • Basic resistance to change
    • belief that climate change is a hoax
    • Belief that planning hinders economic growth
    • can't get a job in an appropriate agency
    • Community policing gets priority [funds] over planning policy
    • Competition between limited multiple priorities, limited funding, and an overwhelming need to address immediate needs first.
    • concerns for economic development
    • Concrete proof of sea level rise and timeframes.
    • cost of viable alternatives
    • Decision makers want hard facts, maps, and other proof before taking on a new political issue.
    • do have tough opposition from decision makers (developer influences)
    • economic, fiscal impacts
    • economics seems to be overtaking all over concerns
    • Electeds and administration do not believe there is a problem and even if there is, it is someone else's to resolve/pay for
    • Ensuring sustainable water resources (water availability and quality) for human settlements in the face of impending natural gas drilling (hydraulic fracturing) given the polarization of interests, pro-development vs natural resource protection
    • Fear of doing something different - hard to convince decision makers to try new things.
    • government agencies have access to sufficient information but mostly have inability to communicate that to the public
    • In some of our coastal areas, the local governments do not understand the importance of protecting the coastal areas for military mission and radar systems.
    • Lack of accurate data, fear of state regulation
    • lack of available oceanic data to local officials
    • lack of funding
    • Lack of funding to respond to hazardous situations.
    • Lack of interdepartmental cooperation.
    • lack of knowledge regarding the importance of planning in the development process
    • lack of risk understanding
    • Limited Budget and Staff Resources
    • Local government decision makers lack economic knowledge
    • More focused on the EPA "TMDL" strats. than a new shoreline....and the "TMDL" strats. need the same GIS capability to communicate THAT more effectively...opportunity for partnering. I can help, Call Ken at Noble Analystics, offices in Annapolis and Chestertown. 410-708-4194. Let's meet for lunch in Silver Spring...NOAA right?
    • New conservatism (Tea Party, Wise Use Movement)
    • Not enough $s - compared to Public Safety
    • political intimidation and interference
    • political nature of planning
    • Politicians choose to ignore scientific evidence and believe Fox "News" instead
    • Race
    • Range, could be any of above - depends on the project & local govt's political commitment
    • science is overwhelming and hard to interpret and then apply. no comparisons. and there's serious potential legal effects that scientists are far, far detached from that their policy recommendations are infeasible.
    • Strong public lobby to disregard or play down hazards planning for coast lots/parcels.
    • they are stupid and are beyond comprehending a dinner menu
    • This is what I've detected when having conversations about actions to take.
    • Too many political decisions rather than based on facts or law.
    • Utility projects are narrow and linear, while most city/county regulations are for parcel based projects.
  • NONE/INCLUDED ABOVE (1)
  • NOT APPLICABLE
    • Am retired
    • na
    • N/A
  • SURVEY CRITIQUE
    • Poorly worded. This question does not define "the issue". Is it planning? Planning is not an "issue" it is a practice, and contains of varied range of issues. Some are technically difficult, some are politically sensitive, some have a property rights component.
    • question unclear

Table 8d.

What types of media are most useful to you in communicating coastal and marine planning information to local government decision makers? (Question #22 — 30 free responses)

  • MEDIA
    • city website and newsletter
    • Community Viz, Digital Coast
    • Conceptual Diagrams: see http://ian.umces.edu/
    • Dept. of Land Conservation & Development Staff- who have given presentations to City Council; very helpful in moving forward the issues of concern and need for action.
    • Face-to-face conversations
    • Face-to-face conversations
    • Face to Face meetings
    • Following the plan when responding to media requests
    • Has to be visual
    • Internet based video and educational materials
    • Local publication that goes to all County addresses and direct mail (postcards, letters)
    • ongoing face-to-face, one-on-one communication
    • other
    • Personal Contact
    • Personally, I would say "time series data in graphic format", which, if said would get rolled eyeballs around here, but if SEEN would start getting some attention on these issues.
    • Presentation in person
    • Public meeting forum
    • Public presentations
    • Reliable internet sources
    • Sensitive habitat photography
    • some communities have access to GIS and understand online map viewers, others would prefer hard copies of maps.
    • State and Federal Govt. intervention.
    • Time-series data and visualization tools would be very useful if our department had access to those tools.
    • Training
    • web sites
    • Webinars
    • Working with them on their priority issues
  • DON'T KNOW
    • Haven't used any visualization tools or time-series data, so don't know
  • SURVEY CRITIQUE
    • Good survey....by the way.
    • Question assumes I am currently in a coastal community