In its first executive session of the new Congress, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the Digital Coast Act (S. 110), a bill to improve the collection, consolidation, and distribution of coastal data at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Digital Coast data help coastal planners predict flooding and storm surge, assess hazard risk and vulnerability, design emergency response and recovery plans, understand community resilience and long-range coastal change, and assess habitat and ecosystem health.
Through the Digital Coast Partnership, APA has been a strong advocate for formalizing NOAA’s Digital Coast project through legislation and providing adequate federal appropriations for robust funding.
At the end of last year, the Digital Coast Act moved closer to final passage than ever before, receiving a bipartisan vote of approval on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, the House ran out of time to vote on the Senate’s version and send it to the president’s desk before the end of the 114th Congress.
While the act fell short of final passage, momentum at the end of last year demonstrated strong bipartisan support for the initiative. This will undoubtedly be helpful as we work to get S. 110 across the finish line in the 115th Congress.
Thanks to ceaseless efforts on the parts of the bill’s cosponsors — Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Corey Booker (D-N.J.) — Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune (R-N.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) agreed to build upon December’s momentum and mark up S. 110 in the first committee-wide executive meeting this year.
On Tuesday, members of the Commerce Committee approved the bill by voice vote, with Sen. Thune expressing his hope that it and the other bills they passed as a committee would see quick action on the Senate floor.
This early committee action on S. 110 demonstrates that senators understand the importance of coastal data and are prioritizing efforts to make the Digital Coast program a reality. However, to bring this issue up for a vote on the Senate floor and to move it through the House, your legislators need to hear from you about why this program is so vital to the future of our coastal regions.
Take a minute now and ask your legislators to support NOAA’s Digital Coast program. You can also thank S. 110’s original cosponsors as well as Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson for their support of the Digital Coast program and their efforts to prioritize this issue.
Only with your help can we ensure planners have access to accurate, up-to-date coastal data, which is essential to building vibrant, resilient communities on our nation's vulnerable shores.
Top image: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, near Half Moon Bay, California. Image from NOAA Photo Library at Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
About the Author
Kirsten Holland is policy associate at Advocacy Associates.