FWS Seeks Comments on Coastal Barrier System Maps

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its "Report to Congress: John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System Digital Mapping Pilot Project" and announced the start of a 90-day public comment period.

The report, which was directed by the Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act of 2000, highlights the benefits of updating Coastal Barrier Resources System maps with more accurate and precise digital maps to better protect people, coastal areas, and natural resources.

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act established the system in 1982 and prohibited most federal expenditures that promote development, including federal flood insurance. The location and dynamic nature of coastal barriers makes building on them risky because they are susceptible to storm surge and erosion—issues of increasing concern in the wake of global climate change and associated sea-level rise. By removing federal incentives to develop, the act seeks to minimize unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer dollars and decrease problematic coastal development that can put human life at risk, decrease the ability of coastal barriers to protect inland areas from flooding by acting as storm surge buffers, and threaten natural resources. The act does not restrict or regulate any non-federal activity.

The system is composed of 857 geographic units totaling 3.1 million acres of relatively undeveloped coastal barriers located along the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes coasts, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The report provides a background of the system, presents the challenges associated with the existing maps and the benefits of digital maps, explains digital mapping data needs, outlines the digital mapping protocols and methodology, presents the results of the pilot project including the draft digital maps, and identifies the next steps for comprehensive map modernization. The report includes draft revised maps for 70 units, or approximately 10 percent of the entire system, and a framework for modernizing the remainder of the maps. The 70 pilot project units are located in Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana.

Comments on the report and draft maps can be submitted until July 6, by mail to the Coastal Barriers Coordinator, Division of Habitat and Resource Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 860A, Arlington, VA 22203 or electronically to CBRAcomments@fws.gov.

For more information about the pilot project, including a downloadable version of the report and draft maps, visit www.fws.gov/habitatconservation/coastal_barrier.html.