On September 18, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources passed the bipartisan Digital Coast Act (H.R. 2189), which would codify the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Digital Coast program. Digital Coast is an online resource that houses data, tools and training to help coastal counties protect county-owned infrastructure and our residents and businesses against hurricanes, earthquakes, drought, tsunamis and other disasters. The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration.
Introduced by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the bill’s passage out of committee is a significant step towards program permanency, a priority championed by NACo.
In June 2018, NACo testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard in support of NOAA’s Digital Cost program. Appearing on behalf of NACo, Mr. Paul Barnes, Geographic Information Services Director for Harrison County, Miss., discussed the importance of Digital Coast for county governments in preparing for and responding to natural disasters.
Barnes’ testimony highlighted several examples of the effectiveness of the program, including Harrison County’s use of Digital Coast to predict storm surges and flooding in advance of a hurricane or storm event. He explained, “Because of Digital Coast, we can more easily determine whether our residents should shelter in place, evacuate in zones or undertake a full-scale evacuation.”
There is currently a companion bill to H.R. 2189 in the Senate, S. 1069, which has been championed by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). While there has been no action on S. 1069 in the 116th Congress, in the last Congress, an identical bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
NACo will continue to work with Congress to pass the Digital Coast Act.