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Virginia Coastal Geospatial and Educational Mapping System (GEMS)

Virginia CZM Program LogoWhat Is "Coastal GEMS"?

A gateway to Virginia’s coastal resource data and maps; coastal laws and policies; facts on coastal resource values; and direct links to collaborating agencies responsible for current data.

A growing inventory of water and land based natural resources, conservation planning tools, and planning examples that can help us to protect Virginia’s coastal ecosystems.

A tool to promote community involvement and environmental education.

Download Coastal GEMS Brochure (pdf) 

How Coastal GEMS came to be…

During a Virginia CZM Program workshop in 2001, state and local partners expressed the need for a “vision” of Virginia’s Coastal Zone or a comprehensive inventory of Virginia’s coastal resources.  Many questions were raised.  What is the current status of Virginia’s coastal resources?  How can these coastal resources be managed in a sustainable fashion in light of increasing development pressures?

As a first step in achieving this “vision,” our partners agreed it was important to identify and map the best remaining blue (water-based) and green (land-based) natural resources within Virginia’s coastal zone.  We began collecting spatial data and creating management tools to be included in Coastal GEMS.

The idea grew into the concept of providing a gateway, or starting point, for accessing more comprehensive coastal resource information from all of our natural resource agencies and coastal partners for consideration in planning efforts and management decisions.

In addition to funding data layer development by CZM partners, we contracted with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Environmental Studies and WorldView Solutions, Inc. to create the Coastal GEMS application.  Additional data layers will be incorporated into Coastal GEMS as agencies continue to develop data and make it available for inclusion.

Who Is Using Coastal GEMS?

Virginia Coastal GEMS fosters stronger understanding of how activities on the land and in the water affect each other.  Virginia Coastal GEMS is helping create a stronger link between local land use plans and state and federal water use policies.

Coastal GEMS is being used by:

Local and regional planning agencies to better manage growth by determining the most suitable areas for conservation and development.

State and federal agencies to better manage projects such as roads and major facilities, habitat restoration, and public access plans. They also use Coastal GEMS as a starting point for the environmental review process in order to quickly access agency data.

Academic institutions to educate students about coastal resource use and values and to provide a basis of information for classroom projects and/or research.

Private citizens, advocacy groups, and businesses to formulate their positions on the potential impacts of projects on coastal resources.

General public to learn more about Virginia’s coastal resources.

What kind of information does Coastal GEMS provide?

Coastal GEMS provides extensive information on coastal resources in Virginia in the form of detailed descriptions and interactive spatial (mappable) data. 

Coastal GEMS currently includes the following data layers: 

Coastal Water
o   Healthy Waters
§  Healthy Streams (Locations)
§  Healthy Streams (Reach)
§  Healthy Watersheds
o   Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity
o   Threatened and Endangered Species Waters
o   Seaside SAV Planting Sites
o   303D Waters (DEQ Impaired)
§  303d Rivers
§  303d Lakes
§  303d Estuaries
o   Scenic Rivers
o   Submerged Aquatic Vegetation
o   Tidal Flushing Rates

Coastal Wildlife
o   Fish
§  Impediments to Fish Movement
§  Anadromous Fish Use Areas
§  Fisheries Management Areas
o   Birds
§  Important Bird Areas
§  Migratory Songbird Stopover Habitat
§  Coastal Avian Protection Zones

Coastal Land
o   Eastern Shore Coastal Change Archive
§  Consistent Inundation of Low-Lying Areas
§  Permanent Inundation of Low-Lying Areas
§  Changes to Animal Species
§  Changes to Plant Species
o   Chesapeake Bay Dunes
o   Restored Riparian Buffer Sites
o   Beaches Above High Water
o   Forest Cover
o   Wetlands
o   Accomack County Buffer Classification
o   Conservation Lands

Conservation Planning
o   Comprehensive Conservation Priorities
§  Potential Wetland Restoration Sites
§  Ecological Cores
§  Landscape Corridors
§  Virginia Ecological Value Assessment
§  Essential Wildlife Habitat
§  Hampton Roads Conservation Corridors
o   Virginia's ConservationVision
§  Predicted Growth Model
§  Historic & Cultural Value Model
§  Recreation Value Model
§  Forest Economics Model
§  Agricultural Value Model
§  Watershed Integrity Model

Shellfish Management
o   Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture Sites
o   Oyster Gardening Sites
o   State Constructed Oyster Reefs
o   Private Oyster Leases
o   Oyster Aquaculture Vulnerability Model
o   Clam Aquaculture Vulnerability Model
o   Oyster Aquaculture Suitability Model
o   Clam Aquaculture Suitability Model
o   Seaside Oyster Density
o   Condemned Shellfish Areas
o   Baylor Grounds (Public Oyster Grounds)

Coastal Access
o   VDGIF Boat Ramps
o   Public Access Sites
o   Birding and Wildlife Sites
o   Birding and Wildlife Trails
o   Seaside Eastern Shore Water Trail
o   Public Access Lands
o   Marina Siting Suitability

Atlantic Coast Recreational Use
o   Scenic/Natural Views
o   Historic/Cultural
o   Swimming
o   Surface Water Sports
o   Shore Use
o   Sailing
o   Paddling
o   Motorized Boating
o   Recreational Waterfowl Hunting
o   Recreational Shellfish Harvesting
o   Recreational Shore Fishing
o   Recreational Kayak/Non-Motorized Vessel Fishing
o   Charter Transport
o   Charter Scenic Viewing
o   Charter Wildlife Viewing
o   Charter Party Cruises
o   Charter Diving/Snorkeling
o   Charter Fishing (Large Vessel)
o   Charter Fishing (Small Vessel)
o   Recreational Dive Fishing
o   SCUBA/Snorkeling/Diving
o   Recreational Fishing from Motorized Vessels
o   Sea Level Rise
         §  Current Mean High Water
         §  1 Foot Sea Level Rise
         §  2 Foot Sea Level Rise
         §  3 Foot Sea Level Rise
         §  4 Foot Sea Level Rise
         §  5 Foot Sea Level Rise
         §  6 Foot Sea Level Rise

Reference Layers
o   Ship Wrecks
o   Streams and Rivers
o   12 Nautical Mile Reference
o   3 Nautical Mile Reference
o   Coastal PDC Boundaries
o   VA Wind Energy Area
o   Seaside Heritage Program Boundary
o   Barrier Island Ownership
o   Coastal Localities
o   Hydrologic Unit Boundaries (HUC)
o   Dragon Run Program Boundary
o   Southern Watersheds Program Boundary

NOAA Logo 

For comments or questions concerning this program's web pages, contact Virginia Witmer.

This website is provided by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program through a federal Coastal Zone Management Act grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce.

Launch Coastal GEMS v.3 

If this is your first visit to Coastal GEMS, please read our disclaimer before entering the GEMS application.

Coastal GEMS Version 3 Now Available!

Upgrade from ESRI ArcIMS service to ArcGIS 10 Server system

New features include:

* Additional basemaps

* Improved cartography

* User markup functionalities

* Search attributes function

And More!

Need help navigating Coastal GEMS?

Customized group training sessions are available with Virginia CZM staff!

Contact Nick Meade - (804) 698-4297 - to schedule your training session today!

MARCO Regional Mapping and Planning Portal is on-Line!

MARCO Portal screenshot

Looking for more information on ocean planning?  Check out the MARCO Portal, developed by MARCO (Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean) in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and funded by the Virginia CZM Program.  The MARCO Portal is an online toolkit and resource center that consolidates available data and enables state, federal and local users to visualize and analyze ocean resources and human use information such as fishing grounds, recreational areas, shipping lanes, habitat areas, and energy sites, among others.

Go to the MARCO Portal

Have a GEM of a story?!

We would like to share it!  Let us know how your use of Coastal GEMS has aided and positively impacted your work, project or efforts. 

By sharing your experiences with GEMS, you not only help us make the application the best possible tool it can be, you help encourage others to take advantage of what GEMS has to offer!

Contact Virginia Witmer at or (804) 698-4320. 

Virginia CZM Partners contributing layers to Coastal GEMS:

Virginia CZM Logo

Dept. of Conservation and Recreation Logo

Virginia Institute of Marine Science Logo

Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries Logo

Virginia Marine Resources Commission Logo

Dept. of Environmental Quality Logo 

Dept. of Historic Resources Logo

Dept. of Forestry Logo

Virginia Department of Health Logo

Hampton Roads Planning District Commission Logo

Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission Logo

US Fish and Wildlife Service Logo

The Nature Conservancy Logo

W & M Center for Conservation Biology Logo

Audubon Logo

Worldview Solutions Logo

Virginia Commonwealth University Logo

Virginia Commonwealth University - Center for Environmental Studies

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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