Marine Planning
Practical Approaches to Ocean and Coastal Decision-Making

Multipurpose Marine Cadastre Issue

data on seafloor habitats

Home page of the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre.


The Multipurpose 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. At its core, the DSS contains the official U.S. marine cadastre and is the only place to obtain all authoritative U.S. boundaries from a single source. 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 DSS Need

Prior to development of the Cadastre, government agencies and alternative 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 spatial 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 members need a range of authoritative information to determine whether a proposed project area can be considered for future renewable energy development. Prior to the 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 the Cadastre.

Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP): The President in 2010 enacted the National Policy for Our Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes, which calls for a nationwide CMSP initiative. CMSP 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 CMSP must have a wide range of data on ocean uses and the ecosystem to make informed decisions regarding multiple management objectives.

Role of the DSS

Alternative Energy: The Multipurpose Marine Cadastre 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 Cadastre and 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 CMSP, practitioners at national, regional, and state scales are relying increasingly on interactive decision support tools such as web mapping applications. The federal policy on CMSP calls for a national data management system along with regional portals that connect to CMSP data. The Cadastre plays a role in the CMSP process by integrating some regional data into its map viewers and conversely by providing core data to regional map viewers and desktop applications.

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