In the United States, almost 40 percent of the country's population lives in coastal shoreline counties. These counties contribute $6.6 trillion to the U.S. economy. The health of our coasts is inextricably connected to the health of our nation's economy.
The National Ocean Service (NOS) is the nation's ocean and coastal agency. NOS is the nation's leader in observing, measuring, assessing, protecting, and managing coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes areas. NOS provides science-based services to inform decision making, thereby positioning America's communities, economies and ecosystems for the future.
A future of higher intensity coastal storms. Storms like Sandy may be more of the norm. In the 1980s, there was an average of two extreme events – such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and drought and associated wildfires — each year that caused more than $1 billion in damage. In 2012, there were 11 extreme weather and climate events that each caused more than $1 billion in damage. Decision makers need to understand the risks to people and places so they can prepare for and recover from coastal hazards.
A future of increased demands on our marine transportation system. U.S. commercial ports directly support more than 13 million jobs. The demand for safe, effective marine transportation continues to grow. When the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2015, even larger ships will be coming to American ports. Ports are a key link in transporting goods from abroad to America's heartland and moving American products to international markets. Keeping maritime commerce flowing — while maintaining safety — requires accurate charts, positioning tools, and observations.
A future of changing sea levels and coastal flooding. Changing sea levels and coastal flooding are likely to increase the challenges that many coastal communities already face. The ability of our coastal communities to adapt to the impacts of these changes is critical to our nation's long-term security and economic sustainability. Communities need data, observations, tools and training to understand local impacts of sea level change and coastal flooding to make smart decisions about roads and other infrastructure. These are decisions that will save lives and protect property in the future.
A future of increased offshore development and coastal development. If current population trends continue, the already crowded U.S. coastal population will grow to nearly 134 million people by 2020. All of this growth places more stress on our coastal and marine natural resources. We need to ensure our nation's unique habitats are conserved and local planners need tools and services that inform good coastal decision making.
A future of increased marine transportation and development in the Arctic. The Arctic is undergoing extraordinary transformations early in the 21st century. Natural resource development, climate change, and marine infrastructure issues are influencing current and future marine uses of the Arctic. We need to develop accurate charts to support transportation and commerce, improve our observations, and enhance our science to better respond to spills and other hazards.
From oil spills and vessel groundings to hurricanes and marine debris, NOS provides world-class science and services in support of resilient and healthy coastal communities, economies, and ecosystems. In light of increasing threats to our coasts, coastal resiliency has become a national priority. NOS supports and informs improved decision making and end-to-end coastal preparedness, response, recovery, and resiliency.
Whether it is the nation's nautical charts, environmental monitoring and assessment, or socioeconomic tools, NOS and our partners are committed to integrating science and services to provide actionable information. The goal is to increase ocean and coastal "intelligence" and thereby improve the ability of public and private decision makers to make informed choices. Good decisions today protect lives and property tomorrow.
Conserving coastal places provides economic benefits to local communities. These communities rely on dollars spent on activities such as recreation and tourism. NOS works to conserve marine areas — and preserve the economic benefits of these special places to local communities — through its coastal management and place-based conservation programs. These include Coastal Zone Management, the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Coral Reef Conservation Program. NOS will continue to express the inherent value and national interest in conserving these special places for the American public.