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Coastal Atlas
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A Coastal Atlas for the North Shore of Lake Superior

Lake Superior's North Shore has become increasingly rich in data. There have been numerous concerted data compilation efforts over the past several years, with the ultimate objective of providing data to inform land management decisions. Most of these projects were designed to deliver spatial data as GIS shapefiles, the technical format used to incorporate spatial layers into a geographic information system. The CoastalGIS project, funded by Minnesota’s Lake Superior’s Coastal Program from 2001 to 2005, created a repository for hydrologic, administrative, natural resource, and other spatial data sources. The Minnesota DNR’s Data Deli ( is an ongoing provider of shapefiles, including layers on infrastructure (roads, railroads), land cover (aerial photo, interpreted satellite imagery) and numerous other datasets. Several federal and state agencies such as the MN Pollution Control Agency also serve as data repositories. In addition, many communities have undertaken studies to quantify the unique social and economic characteristics of this natural resource and tourism-based environment. The Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo), established in May 2009,  has played an additional role in developing and supporting use of geospatial technology.

While these data are extremely valuable to local and regional planning efforts, they are distributed across numerous repositories, and often available only in technical GIS formats. This makes the information less accessible to local units of government without GIS expertise. We have therefore created this Coastal Atlas, a compilation of key geospatial data layers for townships and municipalities within the MLSCP coastal boundary.  The atlas is a print-copy resource comprising map plates of fundamental data for each individual township or municipality. The objective this Atlas is to provide coastal decision-makers, land managers, interest groups, educators and the general public with township-specific information about resources along the coast.

The atlas includes information relevant to land use permitting, including the distribution of wetlands, bluffs or steep slopes, impervious surface, and streams and lakes. This volume includes several new data sets such as a high-resolution watershed delineation (mean size 320 ac; recently funded through the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office), and a summaries of environmental stressors (urban and agricultural land use, road density) by watershed. It will also note the TMDL (total maximum daily load) status of rivers and streams within the townships.

The Coastal Atlas was created using the ArcMaps Mapbook extension. Mapbook allows the user to create a number of maps from one ArcMap session. While there were many advantages to this approach, the extension has numerous inconsistencies related to the placement and alignment of legends, text, and graphic location, requiring signficant customization and review of individual maps.

In order to create a map, we selected an area of interest from a shapefile containing the boundaries of all communities that fall within the Lake Superior Coastal Program Boundary. If a community was only partly in the boundary, only the portion of the community that falls within the boundary was included and map or displayed.

A set of layers common across each map was added to the map for reference; these included roads, water bodies, county boundaries, and railroads. With this base layer prepared, we added the thematic layers describe above. Once a map session was complete, the Map Book Creation tool was used to generate a map containing the data at a scale dependent on the boundaries of communities. The resulting maps can be exported as a PDF, JPEG, or hard copy for each community..



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