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Coastal Decision-making Tools and Technologies icon topics
Coastal Decision-making Tools

Major Service Providers | Tools and Techniques | Smart Growth

training cours in public issues and conflict managment

Competing demands for the same natural resources cause most of the natural resource issues in the coastal zone. "Public Issues and Conflict Management" is just one of the many training courses offered by NOAA for coastal officials.

Many NOS programs and other NOAA offices provide skills and information resources to state and local coastal resource managers. NOS personnel work directly with state and local partners to resolve site-specific issues by offering help with training needs, data and information needs, management strategies, and new and underutilized technology.

NOAA's National Ocean Service (NOS) helps local and state officials with this decision-making process by providing them with helpful tools and technologies. NOS expertise includes data management and analysis, satellite and aircraft technologies (e.g., remote sensing), shoreline mapping and topography, and other information technologies. Assistance with management approaches is a part of this service, which includes evaluation and assessment, policy and planning, training, and outreach and public involvement.

Major Service Providers

Many of these services are provided through the NOAA Coastal Services Center. The Center is a partner in projects geared toward resolving coastal issues in specific local, state, and regional locations. NOS's Office of Response and Restoration also provides coastal tools and technologies.

NOS's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management provides coastal decision guidance and information to states, territories, tribes, and local agencies. The Coastal Management News relays up-to-date information on a range of coastal zone issues, including climate change, sea-level rise, and hazards.

The Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET), a partnership between NOS and the University of New Hampshire, uses the collaborative process to develop decision making tools to help coastal communities cope with the impacts rapid land development and climate change.

Tools and Techniques

Nontechnical Tools

One of the challenges in coastal management is balancing the relationship between people and the environment. In an effort to meet this challenge, NOAA is continuing to invest in the scientific study of people, one of the social sciences.

A Web site,, created by the Center, is quickly becoming the preferred information resource for social science information. The site includes data sources, data analysis tools, on-line articles, user-submitted case studies, and an interactive forum.

Specific assistance is also available through two publications. “Introduction to Survey Design and Delivery” and “Introduction to Stakeholder Participation” are good guides for programs that want to use social science tools. These publications can be obtained from the publications page of the Center’s Web site.

Another nontechnical tool is Coastal Services, a bimonthly trade magazine for coastal managers. The publication is an information resource that showcases innovative ways in which state coastal programs address the many issues that confront them.

The Coastal Management Fellowship Program brings new people and expertise to help state programs. Under the Program, postgraduate students in the field of coastal resource management spend two years working for a state coastal management program. The students bring new expertise to the state efforts, and the fellows receive valuable work experience.

impervious surface

Do you know how much of your community is covered by roads, parking lots, and buildings? An impervious surface analysis tool was developed to help coastal managers uncover and predict the correlation between changes in the ratio of impervious surfaces to changes in water quality.


Technical Tools

NOS offers an entire suite of remote sensing products and services and a variety of geographic information system (GIS) services. Remote sensing involves the use of satellites, aircraft, and other sensing devices to gather information about land and water. NOS provides remote sensing data to state coastal programs, including land cover, topography, and benthic habitat data. Remote sensing also is used to measure water quality.

GIS is a mapping information tool used within the coastal management community. NOS provides a variety of GIS data products, including digital shoreline data, a database of hurricane information, watershed database and mapping projects, and a GIS for the southeastern Atlantic Ocean. Other GIS tools include environmental sensitivity index maps, which help to identify coastal areas vulnerable to contamination. GIS also is used to help people gain access to the data contained in the extensive habitat characterizations produced by NOS for many regions in the coastal zone. The Integration and Development Program highlights additional GIS-related projects and services. GIS training and remote sensing training courses also are available.

NOS provides information and tools to help coastal programs create, share, and obtain data through the national spatial data infrastructure network. Scientists are creating data standards and delivery systems that will encourage wider use of data sets by different parties. In addition, NOS provides query management tools that help users analyze data within individual watersheds.

CICEET has sponsored the development of many tools to support coastal decision making related to the restoration of coastal habitats such as salt marshes and underwater seagrass "meadows."  You can learn more about these and other decision-making tools on CICEET's Project Explorer, a searchable online database.

Different aesthetics.

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, most communities benefit from collectively defining and enforcing common aesthetic standards.


Smart Growth

"Smart Growth" is a term frequently used by coastal communities as they struggle to maintain the balance between growth and preservation. The Web site Alternatives for Coastal Development: One Site, Three Scenarios is a tremendous tool for this effort.

Using a real location in coastal Georgia, 3-D technology illustrates how various development scenarios (traditional, conservation, and new urbanism) might impact the site. The Web site contains a tremendous amount of social and economic data, which allows users to calculate the true costs of the various development components. Local communities use this information to guide them as they face similar situations in their communities.

Additionally, CICEET's Living Coasts Program provides coastal communities with more effective tools to grow in a way that preserves water quality, protects natural areas, and improves quality of life. Living Coasts teams work with committed community partners to demonstrate tools that could help with land-use decisions, such as comprehensive planning, natural resource protection, the need to balance economic and ecological health, and stormwater management.


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For More Information

NOAA Coastal Services Center

Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management

Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology

National Geodetic Survey: Remote Sensing, Aerial Photography, Shoreline Mapping

National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)

Office of Response and Restoration

Special Projects Office: Spatial Trends in Coastal Socioeconomics (STICS)

Educational Resources

Coastal Decision-Making Tools Lesson Plans

video cam icon Related multimedia presentations from Wavebreaking News

Managing Coastal Growth: Summer 2004


NOS expertise includes data management and analysis, satellite and aircraft technologies (e.g., remote sensing), shoreline mapping and topography, and other information technologies.

Coastal Services, a bimonthly magazine, is an information resource that showcases innovative ways in which state coastal programs address issues.

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