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Science for Decisionmaking: Coastal and Marine Geology at the U.S. Geological Survey
agency for fundamental geologic information about U.S. continental margins. The committee feels that progress toward these goals can be made in the shorter term by refocusing the scientific efforts at all three CMGP centers to address a few pressing issues that could serve as the initial steps needed for the grand challenges. Such a refocusing should foster closer interaction of scientific personnel, allow more efficient use of equipment and computer resources, and begin expanding the scale of CMGP research to a national perspective.
Although many pressing issues have been identified, the committee recommends that CMGP concentrate its efforts on understanding the fundamental role of geologic processes in:
sediment dynamics (erosion, transport, and deposition),
coastal aquifers and water quality, and
continental margin habitat mapping and changes.
Shoreline Change and Sediment Dynamics
In 1973, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed an initial assessment of U.S. shorelines. This study is now 26 years old, and more recent studies conducted by coastal states and regional studies compiled by CMGP could form the basis for an updated national shoreline assessment. Many of the ongoing studies at the three centers could be continued and expanded to a more regional scale. These could then be combined with the offshore characterization of the nearshore bottom configurations obtained by high-resolution mapping to more thoroughly tie offshore processes to shoreline change (Figs. 4-1a and 4-1b) and to develop regional sediment budgets. The expansion of this effort at each center would then set the stage for compiling atlases on the health of shorelines and provide a much-needed national database. Eventually, continued study of shoreline change, combined with ongoing fundamental studies of sediment transport, should lead to an assessment of the coastal sediment budget, which is critically important to emplacement of nearshore structures.
One of the more visible and life-threatening aspects facing the high concentration of population along the coastal zones is the wide variety of natural hazards (Plate 6). Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, coastal landslides, and tsunamis along the western margin and Alaska; subsidence-induced wetland loss, hurricanes, and subaqueous landslides (affecting offshore oil and gas structures and pipelines) along the Gulf Coast; and hurricanes and winter storms along the eastern margin annually cause millions of dollars in damage and tragic levels of injury and death