Tool Helps Safeguard Coastal Habitat While Cutting Red Tape

The Takeaway: Oregonians can more easily spot vulnerable resources, thanks to tool from the state’s coastal management program.

The Coastal Habitat Screening Tool, created by the Oregon Coastal Management Program, enables users to “see” and more precisely evaluate coastal habitat vulnerability. It also simplifies the permit-evaluation process by displaying habitats that are potentially at risk from any given project. In the tool’s first season of use, partners on three federally permitted projects used it to inventory and relocate previously undocumented native oyster populations, protecting them from harmful impacts. NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management played an advisory role on tool development.

The tool was developed following 2017 changes to the Clean Water Act program that regulates discharge of dredge and fill material. In Oregon, the changes led to confusion about which permit projects could go ahead and which needed a lengthier “habitat impacts” review. Many permits now move through the system faster, and coastal agency staffers say the tool’s ability to quickly display sensitive habitats in their project area has heightened their own awareness.

Healthy habitats such as wetlands, eelgrass beds, native oyster habitat, rocky reefs, and rocky intertidal areas are critical to the Oregon coast’s ecosystem and robust economy. Consider the fish and shellfish industry. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the 2016 commercial onshore harvest tallied more than $144 million, with Dungeness crab and pink shrimp leading the list at more than $52 million and $25 million, respectively.

The Oregon Coastal Management Program is a state partner in the National Coastal Zone Management Program. (2018)

More Information: Oregon Coastal Management Program

Partners: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers