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Virginia CZM Program 2010 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



The Nature Conservancy 

Project Title:

CSI: Intergovernmental Decision-making: Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) GIS Portal 

Project Description as Proposed:

Ocean ecosystems are threatened by the cumulative impacts of habitat damage, overfishing, pollution, invasive species, and global climate change.  Two recent developments offer hope in addressing these issues.  First, the governors of the five Mid-Atlantic States have initiated a new effort to work together on regional scale ocean management challenges and solutions. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) was formed in Spring 2009 to address four regional ocean issues: 1) habitat protection, 2) renewable offshore energy development; 3) climate change; and 4) water quality. MARCO members and staff laid out a work plan at their June 4, 2009 Summit meeting in New York. One of the “shared actions” the five states committed to undertake that cuts across the four regional issues was the need to develop a regional GIS portal through which Mid-Atlantic Ocean data layers could be publicly viewed. In FY 2009 Virginia CZM began funding The Nature Conservancy (Task 11) to develop a regional GIS Portal for MARCO.

Further, The Nature Conservancy and partners recently completed a comprehensive compilation and analysis of marine spatial data, extending from North Carolina to Maine and Canada. This data compilation (funded in part through Virginia CZM’s FY 2005 Task 92.08 grant to TNC) was “step 1” in creating a new tool for marine resource managers and stakeholders for resolving the complex conflicts inherent in trying to meet diverse ecological and economic goals.  A transition from traditional single sector management to ecosystem based approaches is underway. 

One promising approach and necessary precursor for ecosystem based management is marine spatial planning, the ocean analogue to land use planning.  On land, conflicts between different kinds of human uses, and between human uses and sensitive areas such as wetlands are identified and resolved through spatially explicit land use planning.  Marine spatial planning can provide a context and a framework for ecosystem based management approaches that consider all human uses and ecosystem elements, including sensitive habitats and species.  In fact, the White House Council on Environmental Policy’s Ocean Task Force is recommending that  marine spatial plans be required to be developed by regional ocean partnerships such as MARCO.

This proposal will, on behalf of MARCO, continue development of the internet GIS portal through which we all can view regional data layers. It is not yet clear which entity will ultimately “host” the portal and provide server space and maintenance.  However this project will continue FY 2009 Task 11 efforts by further enhancing the structure and functionality of the portal which can be moved to an appropriate server once one is identified.

TNC will work with MARCO partners to assess what additional data layers are needed and what type of decision support tools can be created to increase the utility of the MARCO GIS Portal. 

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Jay Odell, 804.644.5800, ext. 124;

Project Status:

10/1/2010 - 9/30/2011; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

MARCO GIS Portal Final Report (pdf) 

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

This project continued previous work funded through Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program to further develop an online ocean data portal for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO).  Project staff worked closely with MARCO state and federal agency partners to select, collect, interpret, analyze and format new map layers for display on the portal.  Additionally, new features and functions to improve portal utility and usability were identified and implemented.

This work is presented as MARCO’s Mapping and Planning Portal, accessible to the public at, and now being leveraged through transfer to an enhanced portal being developed under a separate NOAA grant. 

Specific grant deliverables produced under this grant included 1) Collection and formatting of additional layers; 2) Overlay analyses and new functions; and 3) Final report on MARCO Portal updates. Please refer to the final report for a detailed and illustrated description of the work completed under this grant.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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

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