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August 13, 2007

Contacts: Glenda Powell
(301) 713-2989, ext. 129

David Hall
(301) 713-3066, ext. 191

NOAA Releases New Environmental Sensitivity Maps for Maryland and Virginia Coasts
Maps Indicate Vulnerable and Critical Environmental Areas  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and partners have developed special quick-reference maps that provide federal, state and local resource managers and incident responders with vital information about the vulnerability of coastal areas in Maryland and Virginia to hazardous spills.  The new environmental sensitivity index maps identify critical habitats, beach access points, and other areas that could be affected by a spill incident.  The maps also include data on the distribution of key animal species.

“NOAA Environmental Sensitivity Index maps are essential to identifying sensitive resources before a hazardous spill occurs so that protection priorities and cleanup strategies can be designed in advance,” said Bill Conner, Ph.D., chief of the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration’s Emergency Response Division.  “These new ESI maps will provide invaluable support in our efforts to reduce the environmental consequences of chemical and oil spills in Maryland and Virginia.”

The release of ESI maps for Maryland, coupled with the ESI data for Virginia published in 2005, now provide complete coverage for the Chesapeake Bay area.  NOAA works with other federal, state and private entities to identify and collect data for the maps.

“These new ESI maps are a significant improvement over the original ones completed for the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1980s,” said Peyton Robertson, acting director of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, which provided major support for the mapping project.  “Traditionally used for spill response, these products now have a much broader application for use in coastal habitat characterization, shoreline classification, and land-use applications.”

Some of the contributors to the maps include the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, National Park Service and Maryland Natural Heritage Program.

ESI maps are available in hard copy format for all of the coastal United States as well as for the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes and the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.  All ESI atlases published after 1994 are also available in Portable Document Format (PDF) and in a variety of Geographic Information System data formats.  Hard copies of ESI products may be ordered at  PDF and digital ESI data may be downloaded free of charge from NOAA’s NOS Data Explorer site,

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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On the Web:


National Ocean Service: 

NOAA Office of Response and Restoration:

NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office:

ESI data:





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