Marine cadastre was originally created as a decision support system (DSS) to comply with Section 388 of the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Act directs the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the Secretary of Commerce, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and the Secretary of Defense, to establish an Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Mapping Initiative to assist in decision making related to alternative energy uses on the OCS. Similar to the nation’s land-based parcel system, a marine cadastre describes the spatial extent, rights, restrictions, and responsibilities of U.S. waters. All data come from the appropriate authoritative sources, and those organizations are responsible for maintaining the data.
Identifying the Need
Prior to development of the marine cadastre, government agencies and offshore energy developers lacked an efficient way to identify and gather the necessary information for decision-making about energy projects, and they ran the risk of using incomplete or inaccurate data. The same need is emerging as marine planning begins to be implemented on state, regional, and national levels.
Alternative Energy: The U.S. federal government is receiving a rapidly increasing number of permits, notifications of interest, and enquiries from entities seeking to develop wind, wave, and tidal energy facilities in the ocean. Government staff need a range of authoritative information to determine whether a proposed project area can be considered for future renewable energy development. Prior to marine cadastre, the information required to make these determinations was housed in many different places with varying degrees of accessibility and ease of use. Developers, too, need to know what potential conflicts they may face or where the best general areas may be for their type of energy project. Many of the data sets they need to start this type of planning can be found in marine cadastre.
Marine Planning: The President in 2010 enacted the National Policy for Our Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes, which calls for a nationwide Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (marine planning) initiative. Marine planning is a process to develop an integrated blueprint for human activities in an area of the ocean, accounting for multiple management objectives among different ocean uses and sectors. Participants in marine planning must have a wide range of data on ocean uses and the ecosystem to make informed decisions regarding multiple management objectives.
Role of the MarineCadastre.gov
Alternative Energy: MarineCadastre.gov was developed originally to serve as a centralized source of authoritative information for decision-making about alternative energy projects in federal waters. Government agency staff members, NGOs, and industry consultants are using the data and information on the site along with other regionally specific data to evaluate the potential for ocean energy projects in specific areas of federal waters. For example, would the project impair federally designated essential fish habitat? Would it interfere with shipping lanes? Is the project site within the appropriate jurisdictional area?
Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning: To obtain and analyze the complex information needed for marine planning, practitioners at national, regional, and state scales are relying increasingly on interactive decision support tools such as web mapping applications. The federal ocean policy calls for a national data management system along with regional portals that connect to data. MarineCadaste.gov plays a role in the process by integrating some regional data into its map viewers and conversely by providing core data to regional map viewers and desktop applications. The MarineCadastre.gov team coordinates closely with regional ocean partnership data portals and also the national Ocean.Data.gov portal.