Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Report:
NOAA Coastal Services Center

The NOAA Coastal Services Center provides skills and information resources to state and local resource managers. Focus areas include hazards, habitats, sustainable communities, and data information access and usability.





Improving Coastal Management Through Training

screenshot of online mapping training

The Center offers a range of training opportunities to help users address coastal issues and make the most of the data and tools found on Digital Coast. Trainings are offered in a variety of formats, from traditional classroom-based trainings to self-guided, Web-based instruction.

Helping state coastal organizations stay on top of their games through various training courses is an effective and efficient way to improve the management of the nation’s coastal resources. The NOAA Coastal Services Center’s 20-course curriculum meets the needs of the states for new approaches to addressing coastal issues, technical needs, and process skills, such as “Negotiating for Coastal Resources” and “Project Design and Evaluation.”

This past year, the Center trained over 1,500 coastal professionals. In keeping with the growing e-learning trend, the Center added two new technical courses to the online portion of the organization’s training portfolio, one on LIDAR and the other on map projections, datums, and coordinate systems. Overall, 96 percent of participants reported that they would recommend training from the NOAA Coastal Services Center to their colleagues.

Cutting Down on Paperwork, Cutting Down on Bureaucracy

Because coastal states and communities cannot be expected to house all the data and expertise needed to keep their communities running smoothly, some of the work is provided by contracts with the private sector.

The NOAA Coastal Services Center has improved the process used to secure these resources for governmental organizations in need of geospatial- or social science-related data and services. An umbrella contracting agreement is in place with the industry leaders in these fields, and local, state, and federal governments can gain access to these companies by entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Center. The Center provides contract management and some technical consultation, including help with writing the statement of work, if needed. Last year, 22 organizations took advantage of this contract, purchasing $6 million worth of goods and services from the private sector.

Making Economic Data More Accessible

screenshot of coastal snapshot of Cuyahoga County, OH

Coastal County Snapshots turn complex data into easy-to-understand stories, complete with charts and graphs. Users select a coastal county of interest and the website does the rest, providing information that can help communities become more resilient to coastal hazards.

The NOAA Coastal Services Center has created a new data set that makes it easier to learn about businesses that depend on the ocean and Great Lakes. “Economics: National Ocean Watch” (ENOW) has time series economic data for 448 coastal counties, 30 states, and the nation from 2001 to 2009.

With standard economic statistics, oceans- and Great Lakes-dependent economic data are mixed in with a variety of data sets, such as data related to banks, schools, and grocery stores. ENOW focuses on economic activities that depend on ocean resources, such as fishing, marine transportation, and coastal recreation and tourism. ENOW and an expanding line of social science data can be downloaded through NOAA’s Digital Coast. Also available are economic data made easier to understand through graphics and charts via Coastal County Snapshots.

Using Science to Make Better Decisions

tsunami evacuation zone map

The Tsunami Hazard Information Service provides residents and visitors of the State of Hawai`i easy, online access to the state's tsunami evacuation zone maps as well as information about potential risks, how to prepare, and what to do in the event of a tsunami. 

Visualizations offer a creative and effective way to showcase data and information, which is why so much of the work from the NOAA Coastal Services Center is focused on visualizations.

Examples include the Hawaii Tsunami Hazard Information Service, which provides tsunami risk and preparedness information via a website or mobile phone. During one tsunami warning period, over 100,000 users accessed the evacuation maps in less than 12 hours. Also popular is the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer, which allows people to see, using an electronic map, how various levels of climate change are predicted to impact local flooding. These tools and others are available from NOAA’s Digital Coast.

Technical Assistance Effort Garners High Marks

To get the most out of the data and tools provided by the NOAA Coastal Services Center, hands-on technical assistance is provided to state and local coastal managers. This technical assistance comes in the form of phone calls, emails, and customer visits and partnership projects. In 2011, the Center conducted an external evaluation of that assistance to find out just how helpful it is to the customer.

Through telephone-based interviews with nearly 100 recent customers, the evaluation consultant received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Center technical assistance helped 99 percent of customers achieve their objective and 97 percent were satisfied with the quality of the assistance they received. The evaluation also found that what customers appreciate most is the experience, expertise, and professionalism evident when working with the NOAA Coastal Services Center.