For Immediate Release - February 15, 2011

Environmental officials launch online coastal mapping tools

BOSTON - February 14, 2011 - Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. today announced the release of a new web-based coastal mapping tool, which provides detailed geographic data used for ocean planning, coastal development, public safety, tourism, transportation planning and marine environmental protection.

Upgraded from an existing tool known as the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS), this new integrated system of coastal infrastructure and ecological data is targeted for use by municipalities, businesses, researchers and state environmental officials charged with coastal planning and development.

"I hope coastal communities and environmental planners will use this tool to help support their work to protect our coastline and marine resources," said Secretary Sullivan. "I applaud the hard work of our Coastal Zone Management Office and MassGIS in making these new tools available to the public, and I thank the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership for its generous investment in this effort."

Produced by EEA's Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and Commonwealth's Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS), the web-based tool enables users to interactively combine sets of coastal data into new maps to analyze patterns, seek relationships and monitor trends. The service is free and available to the public.

"The new and improved components of these online mapping tools will help users - from planners and emergency manager to local officials and the interested public - access data more easily and build more intuitive and usable maps," said CZM Acting Director Bruce Carlisle. "All of us at CZM look forward to using these tools and keeping them current to better manage our coast."

While designed for coastal management professionals, the new MORIS can be used by anyone interested in these data and maps. Maps can be drawn 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. Hot spots for erosion can also be mapped by using available shoreline change data, 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.

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.

The project was made possible by funding from the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership, a non-profit organization that has worked with EEA to advance coastal and marine spatial planning in Massachusetts state waters.

Building on the success of the previous version 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).
  • Capability to display basemaps, such as Google and OpenStreetMaps.
  • New search functions.
  • Modern look and feel.

MORIS can be used to search, display and query spatial data pertaining to the Massachusetts coastal zone. Users can interactively view various data layers (e.g., tide gauge stations, marine protected areas, public access points, eelgrass beds, etc.) over a backdrop of aerial photographs, political boundaries, natural resources, human uses, bathymetry or other data including Google base maps. Users can quickly create and share maps and download the actual data for use in a Geographic Information System (GIS).

MORIS system

Developed using open source software, the underlying code will be made available for download by groups wishing to use these mapping tools on their own web sites or create their own versions. In addition, improvements made by external developers will be made available to the Commonwealth.

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 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.

Upgrades were also made to MassGIS's Online Data Viewer (OLIVER) system, a land-based mapping system used to search, query, display and download statewide spatial data and parts of surrounding states. Sample data layers include parcels, land use, open space, roads, zoning, wetlands and schools.

OLIVER system

MassGIS is the Commonwealth's Office of Geographic Information. 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. MassGIS staff is advised by the Massachusetts Geographic Information Council (MGIC), which includes representatives from federal, state, regional and local government agencies, GIS consultants, utilities, non-profit organizations and academia.