For Immediate Release - February 28, 2012

State Environmental Officials Launch New Online Coastal Mapping Tool

Tool available to homeowners, conservationists, builders, municipal officials and coastline developers

BOSTON – Tuesday, February 28, 2012 – Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. today announced the release of a new web-based coastal mapping tool that provides detailed geographic data for ocean planning, coastal development, public safety, tourism, transportation planning and marine environmental protection.

The new Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS) is used for searching data related to the coastal zone and creating maps displaying those data. Produced by EEA’s Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and the Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS) within the Office of Administration and Finance’s Information Technology Division (ITD), MORIS enables users to interactively combine sets of coastal data into new maps to analyze patterns, seek relationships in distances and monitor trends.

MORIS is designed for use by municipalities, businesses, researchers and state environmental officials for coastal planning and development. The service is available to the public free of charge at

“This digital tool makes it possible to view multiple layers of coastal data, which is critical to our work enforcing and developing policies that protect our precious coastlines and marine resources,” said Secretary Sullivan.

Development of the new MORIS was made possible through a partnership between CZM, MassGIS, SeaPlan (formerly called the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership) and Applied Science Associates. Together, these organizations have worked with EEA on this project to advance ocean planning and management in Massachusetts state waters.

“Thanks to these upgrades, the many  environmental users – from planners and emergency managers to local officials and the interested public – can access data more easily and build more intuitive and usable maps,” said CZM Director Bruce Carlisle. “The new federal and local data now available through this system is particularly helpful for all of us working to manage the coast, and I thank SeaPlan for their vision of an integrated ocean data system for Massachusetts and their funding of this project.”

While designed for coastal management professionals, MORIS can be used by anyone interested in these data and maps. Maps can be created to show recent storm activity for emergency planners, shellfish landings and aquaculture sites for the commercial fishing industry or fisheries researchers and the locations of invasive species and marine pollution for coastal managers. Planners can use the tool to map hot spots for erosion using available shoreline change data, which is information useful for coastal developers and potential shoreline homebuyers, as well as local officials. Data on existing ocean infrastructure, seafloor features and wildlife habitat are also available to support renewable energy project siting and permitting.

“The Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System is built using a new generation of tools that enable integration of a wealth of map information from both Commonwealth and external sources; it provides efficient access to resources that were previously only separately available,” said ITD’s Chief Information Officer John Letchford. “We are pleased that MassGIS services are being used to such great advantage by state agencies, municipalities and businesses.”

In addition, the interactive mapping tool features data on pipeline locations, seafloor topography and ferry routes. It also has information on dive sites for scuba-diving enthusiasts and nautical charts for boaters. The coastline maps can be used by recreational anglers to scout fishing access points, or by tourists to find out if a hotel sits on the beach. 

Building on the success of the previous versions of MORIS, MassGIS and CZM created a next-generation mapping tool with the upgrades listed below.

  • Increased speed on both the front-end (the web interface) and the back-end (the software that builds and renders the image displayed in the browser).
  • Basemaps, such as Google, Bing, and OpenStreetMaps, can now be displayed.
  • Searchable data layers.
  • Access to federal and other external data directly from the agency of origin.
  • The code is shared and easily modified because it is 100 percent open source.
  • The look and feel is modernized to conform to the current generation of online mapping tools.

CZM is charged with protecting Massachusetts’s approximately 1,500-mile coast. Through technical assistance, planning, policy and educational programs, CZM seeks to balance human uses of the coastal zone with the need to protect fragile marine resources. The agency’s work includes ocean planning and management to improve stewardship or our marine resources and uses, helping coastal communities anticipate and plan for sea level rise and other effects of climate change, working with cities and towns and the federal government to develop boat sewage no discharge areas, and partnering with communities and other organizations to protect and restore coastal and aquatic habitats.

MassGIS is the Commonwealth's Office of Geographic Information, part of the Office of Administration and Finance’s Information Technology Division. Through MassGIS, the Commonwealth has created a comprehensive, statewide database of geospatial information. The state legislature has established MassGIS as the official state agency assigned to the collection, storage and dissemination of geographic data. In addition, the legislative mandate includes coordinating GIS activity within the Commonwealth and setting standards for geographic data to ensure universal compatibility.


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