Revised Proposal for a National Shoreline Data Standard

Title of Standard

Metadata Profile for Shoreline Data


March 3, 1998

Submitting Organization

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA) National Ocean Service, National Geodetic Survey, Division of Remote Sensing


This Standard is intended to serve the community of users who are involved with geospatial data activities that intersect the U.S. Shoreline. The purpose is to clarify (standardize) the complexities of shoreline data by developing a bibliography, a glossary, and a metadata standard, which will be an extension or profile of the FGDC metadata standard.

The bibliography will be compilation of the references, standard shoreline products, shoreline application descriptions, and technical papers that refer to, describe, or use shoreline data. In related, but independent activities, core references will be updated as necessary to meet the demands of modern information processing (geographic information systems).

A glossary will be written. Every reference in the glossary will have at least one reference to the bibliography. Additional explanatory material about the use of the term, common or known mis-uses of the term, and any confounding or clarifying descriptions will be included in the glossary. The glossary may be structured in a manner that contributes to an understanding of the relationships of terms to one another. The glossary may be a hypertext document that allows for linkages and relationships internal to the glossary and to the bibliography.

The metadata extension or profile will have terms that are included in the glossary. No term will be added to the metadata extension or profile that is not in the glossary.

It is envisioned that the standard will consist of the shoreline metadata profile. the bibliography and glossary will be informative and/or explanatory annex. This will provide a foundation for additional, more detailed, standards, if they are needed. Additionally, this standards may become the building blocks for the shoreline layer of the NSDI framework.


The scope of this standard project is primarily oriented toward reaching a common understanding of the shoreline for national mapping purposes and other geospatial (GIS) applications. The definition of shoreline that will be used for the three standards is:

    The shoreline for the purposes of the standards being developed is the land water interface zone up to the tidal limits. ( Note: In literature, legislation, and case law this is alternatively referred to as navigable waters, tidewaters, or littoral zone.)


Users of shoreline data make up a much more diverse group than previously thought. Shoreline data are also important for coastal zone management, environmental monitoring, resource developments, legal land jurisdictional issues, ocean and meteorological modeling, engineering, construction, planning, and many other uses. The bibliography, glossary, and metadata standard will provide the affected community with a basis to assess the availability, quality and utility of shoreline data. Shoreline is an integral component of the FGDC NSDI geospatial framework.


The principal objective is to specify minimum standards for shoreline data in order that shoreline data terms and references are well known to shoreline data users. The metadata standard will assist those with existing shoreline data sets in notifying others of the data availability. The metadata standard will also assist those searching for shoreline data to use in various applications of existing shoreline data. The metadata will provide a standardized methodology for evaluating shoreline data (regardless of survey methodology or technology) and reporting resultant data quality through a standard quality reporting methods. This will permit much wider use and acceptability (sharing) of shoreline data between parties. This will also establish a means (rules) for beginning to establish national shoreline certification program.

Development Approach

The approach that is being used to develop this standard is to:

    A. Identify, review, document, and distribute existing standard reference documents (see section on existing standards)
    B. Conduct a needs and requirements survey of the potential user community (Federal, state, local government agencies, and private surveyors)
    C. Conduct public workshop to draft standard
    D. Test and evaluate standard
    E. Release draft standard for public review
    F. Conduct a public workshop based upon comments from the public review in order to refine the draft standard.

We intend to hold a number of open forum/workshop type meetings to explain the standard to the effected community. The first meeting was held on November 3-5, 1997, at the NOAA Coastal Services Center in Charleston, SC. A second meeting will be held in the spring of 1998 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing in Tampa, Florida, March 30-April 4, 1998.

Development and Completion Schedule

It is anticipated that an outline of the draft shoreline standard will be completed by February 1998. The draft standards (references, glossary, and metadata) will be completed by April 1998. At that time the standard will be available for preliminary review and will be the subject of the second workshop. Following this workshop there will be a 3-month period of formal public review. It is anticipated that the draft standard will receive a thorough review and comments will primarily be of a clarifying nature relating to the implementation of the standard or definitions. Information and status of the shoreline standard development can be found on the World Wide Web at:


Resources needed to complete this standard are available within the NOAA Office of the Coast Survey, the National Geodetic Survey, and the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Funding requests of state and local participants at the workshops has been requested from FGDC. Additional funding and resource support will be obtained from participating agencies.

Potential Participants

The primary organizations who will be involved in the development of this standard are the shoreline engineering, coastal zone management, flood insurance, and resource management community. These include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, Minerals Management Service, Bureau of Land Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of State, Department of Justice, U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. There is also interest in this standard from private surveying contractors, real estate, insurance industry, various agencies within state and local governments, and private landowners. Several associations such as the National States Geographic Information Council and the Urban and Regional Information Association have expressed an interest in participating.

Anticipated User Community and Impact of this standard

Agencies that conduct surveys of shorelines, including coastal and Estuarine, inland lakes and rivers are the most likely groups to use this standard. By and large this is embodied in the civil engineering, surveying, and photogrammetry community. This standard will greatly increase the potential for exchange of data between and among various federal, state, local governmental agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The standard will provide a common understanding of the terms used in shoreline data and the availability of shoreline data through FGDC Clearinghouse postings using the metadata standard. It will also provide a common understanding for independent evaluation and assessment of shoreline data for a range of applications, independent of technology.

Related Standards

A crosscutting standards review and data model conducted by FGDC in 1995 indicated that most of the FGDC thematic subcommittees and work groups have a relationship to shoreline data. Two data standards that have been published that include reference to the shoreline are the Cadastral Standard and the Wetlands Standard. The Tri Service Spatial Data Standard and feature reference model contain a relationship to shoreline. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency has recently published a geospatial systems data model for shoreline data.

There are several FGDC standards in either draft or proposal stage that relate to shoreline, these include: digital elevation, data accuracy, hydrographic, and facilities.

Reference Documents and Existing Standards

Existing standards that relate to shoreline are contained within the following publications and reports.

Swainson, O.W., 1928. Topographic Manual, Special Publication No. 144, DOC, U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Swanson, R.L., 1949. Topographic Manual, Part II, U.S. Coast and Geodetic

Survey Special Publication 249.DOC U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Shalowitz, A.L., 1964. Shore and Sea Boundaries -- with special reference to the interpretation and use of Coast and Geodetic Survey Data. U.S. Department of Commerce Publication 10-1, Two Volumes, U.S. GPO, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Commerce, 1976. Hydrographic Manual, Fourth Edition, NOAA/NOS Washington, D.C. Chapter 3.2, Shoreline Surveys.

Ellis, M.Y., 1978. Coastal Mapping Handbook, Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Commerce, National Ocean Service and Office of Coastal Zone Management, U.S. GPO, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of the Interior, 1979. Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States, FGDC Standard for Wetlands, Approved by FGDC December 1996.

Hicks, Stacey D., 1980. The National Tidal Datum Convention of 1980. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Ocean Survey.

Hicks, Stacy D., 1984. Tide and Current Glossary, NOAA/National Ocean Service. Rockville, MD

Hicks, Stacy D., 1988. Fantastic Tidal Datums NOAA/NOS Rockville, MD

NOAA/DMA, 1990. Chart No. 1, Nautical Chart Symbols Abbreviations and terms, 9th Edition January 1990. Joint NOAA/DMA publication20

Harrington, Charles, E., 1993. Maritime Boundaries on National Ocean Service Nautical Charts. Cartographic Perspectives, Bulletin of the North

American Cartographic Information Society. No. 14, Winter 1993

Fritz, L.W., 1994. Shoreline Layer of the Master Seafloor Digital Data Base. Concept and Tutorial. NIMA HYSAS Program Office, Bethesda, MD.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1994. Civil Works Engineering Manual EM-1110-2-1003 -- Hydrographic Surveying.

Tri-Service CADD/GIS, 1996. GIS Spatial Data Standards. Department of Defense Tri-Service Technology Center, Vicksburg, MS.20

FGDC, 1996. Cadastral Data Content Standard for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure FGDC, Washington, D.C.

International Hydrographic Office, 1996. International Transfer Standard for Digital Hydrographic Data. Edition 3.0, IHO Special Publication No. 57 International Hydrographic Bureau, Monaco.

National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 1997. The United States Imagery and Geospatial System Data Model, Volume 4 - Nautical-- NIMA: Standards and Interoperability Division Bethesda, MD.

Meeting Notes from the Shoreline Workshop, November 3-5, Charleston South Carolina, Coastal Services Center

Completion Date

Approximately December 1998

Target Authorization Body

The Federal Geographic Data Committee will be the authorization body for this standard.

Maintenance Agency

Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, National Geodetic Survey -- Under the leadership of the FGDC Bathymetric and Nautical Charting Data Subcommittee.