What is GIS?
A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer tool that describes features that can be tied to the earth’s surface. This tool produces data that can be used to answer questions about the location, condition, trends and patterns of a number of features, including wetlands.
The Division of Coastal Management has been building its geographic information program since the early 1990s. Today, DCM is incorporating this technology into a number of its programs, using GIS to help support land-use planning and regulatory decisions.
Here are examples of what we're doing with GIS:
Using the best data available, DCM has identified the type, location and area of wetlands in 37 coastal plain counties.
GIS allows us to view the wetland data in relation to other land features. This type of detailed information can help government, business and the public make better resource management decisions.
DCM used GIS to develop a procedure for evaluating a specific wetland's function, such as wildlife habitat, water storage and shoreline stabilization. We use the procedure, called a functional assessment, to measure the ecological significance of wetlands in small watersheds (14-digit hydrologic units). DCM has used this assessment to develop a dataset called NC-CREWS.
Using techniques similar to those used in identifying wetlands, DCM uses GIS to locate potential wetland restoration and enhancement sites. A restoration site is a former wetland that has the potential to be brought back to wetland status. An enhancement site is a degraded or altered wetland. This procedure may be used to locate potential compensatory mitigation sites as regulatory programs require the replacement of wetlands destroyed by development.
Coastal Management can view many different layers of information to learn where troubled areas exist and to identify activities that may be damaging the environment. We plan to identify watersheds in the coastal area that are degraded and propose management measures to maintain good, or improve damaged, water quality.
Coastal Management will be using GIS to better manage development in coastal high-hazard areas by analyzing data such as flood zones and erosion patterns. The results will help us determine whether setback requirements for oceanfront construction are sufficient.