Massachusetts releases improved web based mapping tool

A view of the new and improved MORIS website, a state informational site available to the public, focusing on coastal information. This overlay shows commercial fisheries activity around the Vineyard.

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. announced the release of a new and improved web-based coastal mapping website that is expected to be of interest to a variety of users. The site provides detailed data for ocean planning, coastal development, public safety, tourism, transportation planning and marine environmental protection.

The new tool, called Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS), is used for searching data related to the coastal zone and creating maps displaying those data. Produced by Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and the Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS), MORIS enables users to interactively combine sets of coastal data into new maps to analyze patterns, seek relationships in distances and monitor trends.

Christine Seidel, GIS Coordinator for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Island’s regional planning and permitting agency, has found the site useful. “I used it quite a bit when we were working on the data for wind analysis,” she told The Times. “The site had a lot of data from the state’s initial analysis. It was quite handy for that.”

While designed for coastal management professionals, the site can be used by municipalities, businesses, researchers and by anyone interested in these data and maps. “This digital tool makes it possible to view multiple layers of coastal data, which is critical to our work enforcing and developing policies that protect our precious coastlines and marine resources,” said Mr. Sullivan in a press release.

The site contains several maps that many people may find useful. For example, there are NOAA nautical charts, and the US Geological Service topographic maps. There is also an overlay showing the location of the proposed Cape Wind Project in Nantucket Sound.

MORIS is one of a family of applications, all built on the same template. Some of the other tools include OLIVER (the MassGIS Online Data Viewer) and SPOLIVER (the State Police Online Data Viewer). OLIVER makes a wide range of geographical, geological, census and political data available. OLIVER also has assessor’s map overlays covering the entire state that show individual lot maps. SPOLIVER has overlays related to crime statistics and police employment statewide.

These mapping sites all use the same range of base maps. The user may choose from Google Maps, or Bing Maps and may use either the satellite, road or hybrid views of each map.

On the MORIS site, maps can be created to show recent storm activity for emergency planners, shellfish landings and aquaculture sites for the commercial fishing industry or fisheries researchers and the locations of invasive species and marine pollution for coastal managers. Planners can use the tool to map hot spots for erosion using available shoreline change data, which is information useful for coastal developers and potential shoreline homebuyers, as well as local officials. Data on existing ocean infrastructure, seafloor features and wildlife habitat are also available to support renewable energy project siting and permitting.

In addition, the interactive mapping tool features data on pipeline locations, seafloor topography and ferry routes. It also has information on dive sites for scuba-diving enthusiasts and nautical charts for boaters. The coastline maps can be used by recreational anglers to scout fishing access points, or by tourists to find out if a hotel sits on the beach.

The state mapping sites are all available to the public free of charge. The MORIS site is at

The OLIVER and SPOLIVER maps may be accessed at