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Center for Spatial Information and Research

Development of a Marine Shoreline Assessment Decision Support System



The overall goal of this project was to develop guidance on how to prepare effective marine shoreline assessments for planners updating their local Shoreline Master Programs and Comprehensive Plans in Washington State, as regulated by the state's Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP). The project resulted in an innovative decision support system (DSS) via a web interface that:

  • describes the use and limitations of currently available and relevant data, information and assessment methods
  • provides direct links to necessary data and technical reports
  • explains how to interpret and use existing geospatial information effectively
  • offers illustrated case examples of marine shoreline assessments

The guidance explores various methods of how to overlay data at appropriate scales and describes how specific characteristics of physical, biological and land use modifications must be considered as well as the placement of these features in relation to one another and within the landscape. The guidance also details how necessary information can be extracted from reports and appropriately mapped. It describes how to format modeling output for useful integration into ecological assessments. Finally, the guidance also provides specific recommendations for how relevant information can be used to inform development of local shoreline management plans and regulations. These are illustrated with maps and images of representative marine shoreline sites in Washington gleaned from various case studies.

We developed a website that combines the data sources identified and guidance developed into an interactive data delivery system. The site demonstrates approaches to viewing and analyzing data for marine shoreline assessments that are illustrated with the examples from the case studies. This site builds on Ecology's internet mapping site, which displays and allows basic analysis of GIS data for Washington's coastal zone counties. This site helps managers develop shoreline inventories that identify baseline conditions, prioritize problems and target sensitive shorelines for monitoring and other management activities, including creation of shoreline buffers, habitat restoration, and assessment of biotic integrity/ecosystem health.

A web-based decision support system (DSS) was created through Macromedia Dreamweaver. Using the DSS, a process was developed and applied to conduct baseline inventories of abiotic, biological and cultural conditions in three contrasting jurisdictions, including state park and Indian reservation settings. The resulting examples consist of maps and text built around the ecological structure and functions of the marine shorelines, documenting the major concerns and issues facing the inhabitants and managers within a shoreline management unit (e.g. water quality and sedimentation concerns, erosion and flooding hazards, land use conflicts, and preservation of wetlands and shoreline buffers). The examples of shoreline assessments provide managers with spatial analogues that they can use to guide inventories of baseline conditions on their own shorelines, as well as indicate management opportunities for protection of ecological functions, restoration of degraded habitat, improving public access, and supporting water-dependent use. The DSS is available for use through the RGIS-PN website. Results of this research were also presented at two conferences, including the 2007 Georgia Basin Puget Sound Research Conference and Coastal Zone ‘07.