Valuable Coastal Observation Programs Threatened by Federal Budget Cuts


U.S. Senate 2004 funding bill for U.S Army Corps of Engineers may result in 50\% cut
for Southern California Beach Processes Study and more than 80\% cut for Coastal Data Information Program

The Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP), operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has been collecting, analyzing, archiving, and disseminating wave data since 1976. CDIP operates a network of wave measuring sites along the entire West Coast of the U.S., in Hawaii, and at a station at Kings Bay, Georgia. Wave information is updated every hour and supplied in real time to National Weather Service computers and to the public over the Internet. In addition to 'nowcasts' of the swell height at the shoreline along the entire California coast, obtained through the application of sophisti- cated modeling techniques, forecasts of the waves are now being provided up to three days in advance. As many as 60,000 visitors access the CDIP web site daily. CDIP is funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Dept. of Boating and Waterways. Web:

Since 2001, CDIP has been expanding its work to include the response of beach sand to wave conditions through the Southern California Beach Processes Study (SCBPS). As an expanded CDIP, SCBPS uses state-of-the-art techniques, including airborne lasers and video, for seasonal mapping of beaches and cliffs in Southern California. These observations are used to develop and test regional sand management models. Monitoring local areas to evaluate sand transport models for nourished beaches will lead to the development of models that are of practical use at regional space and time scales. SCBPS seeks to improve the cost, efficiency, and efficacy of future coastal engineering, beach nourishment, and management. SCBPS characterizes waves for regional coastlines (50 to 150 miles), and seeks to understand and predict the response of the beach to waves, and to predict the success of alternatives for protecting and preserving areas of erosion.

The FY 2004 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and, in turn, these two programs, contains major cuts to CDIP and SCBPS.

CDIP is a vital resource for a wide range of ocean users, including coastal engineers and planners, search and rescue units, ship operators, harbor masters, the military, fishing boats, as well as surfers, scientists, and recreational boaters.

Numerous federal, state, and local agencies and organizations use CDIP data as a valuable research tool. Using CDIP information, the National Weather Service issues sea state and surf warnings for the protection of life and property; the U.S. Navy frequently determines safe times for ships to enter ports; and CDIP data also are accessed on a regular basis by lifeguards, coastal engineers, boaters, fishermen, harbor masters, divers, and thousands of surfers. In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey uses CDIP information for its research on coastal erosion issues, and local governments in Santa Barbara use the data for planning, protecting, and enhancing local beaches. Loss of this vital information could have devastating consequences for these current users.

CDIP services had been expanded in the past year to provide regional scale, highly accurate, three-dimensional mapping of the beaches in California's San Diego County using airborne laser surveying and sophisticated interpretation software. Operators had intended to extend these surveys next year to include Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, all with significant beach erosion problems. The levels of proposed cuts in this program will preclude this expansion. Eventually, CDIP planned to couple its detailed wave observations with changes to the beach width and volume obtained from the aerial surveys to provide predictive tools for managing large regions of sandy coastline. These techniques would be useful on any coastline with beaches.

In addition, CDIP sponsors have developed extensive plans to extend the wave modeling up the coast to Oregon and Washington, providing the same service that California has received. These plans are now on hold and alternate planning is under way to decide which of the existing instruments and models can be eliminated, critically limiting the value and effectiveness of this valuable resource system.


  • Robert Guza, Ph.D.

    Richard Seymour, Ph.D.

    Julie Thomas

  • Integrative Oceanography Division

    Scripps Institution of Oceanography

    Media contact: Scripps Communications Office
    phone: 858-534-3624


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