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June 07. 2014 7:18PM

NH launches online resource, Coastal Atlas

Want to know whether there's a health advisory posted for your favorite beach?

Or whether your dog can join you on a romp through the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge?

Or where you can harvest shellfish safely without risking red tide contamination?

Just in time for summer, the state Department of Environmental Services has launched the Coastal Atlas, an online resource for information about the coastal region.

Sonya Carlson is the beach program coordinator at the DES; her office tests for bacteria levels in both coastal and freshwater swimming areas.

She said a lot of the information published on the Coastal Atlas has been available on the DES site previously, but might not have been easy to find. Now it's all in one place.

The Atlas features three main pull-down sections: coastal public access points, coastal public beaches and shellfish harvest areas. There are postings for areas closed because of red tide contamination, and you can sign up for email alerts.

The DES has compiled all sorts of user-friendly information on the site.

When you choose a boat launch site, for instance, there are phone numbers and helpful links to weather and tide information.

For each beach, there's information about parking, bathhouse facilities and amenities such as shops and restaurants.

There are also links to state agencies, conservation groups, the Marine Mammal Rescue Team and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map of real-time coastal conditions. It even tells you whom to call if you see a seal on the beach.

So who are the expected users of the site?

"Anybody who gets out of their house and goes to the coast," said Carlson. "It can be the people that like to do shellfish harvesting, making sure they're going to the right places," she said. "Or anyone who wants to know where to drop their boat off, where to go walking along the coast, or anyone who wants to go swimming at the beach and make sure the most recent sampling has been good.""That covers a lot of people," Carlson said. "Unless maybe you're a hermit and you don't like the ocean."

And actually, it's not just the ocean that's covered under the "N.H. Beach Advisories" section of the atlas (look under Related Programs). When you click on the map of the state, you can see the latest water testing results from swimming areas around the state.

The Coastal Atlas project was partially funded by a grant from NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and its Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

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To use the Coastal Atlas, go to: xml2.des.state.nh.us/CoastalAtlas.


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