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Short Citation:
Office of Response and Restoration, 2022: ESI GIS Data and PDF Maps: Environmental Sensitivity Index including GIS Data and Maps (for the U.S. Shorelines, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico),

Item Identification

Title: ESI GIS Data and PDF Maps: Environmental Sensitivity Index including GIS Data and Maps (for the U.S. Shorelines, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico)
Short Name: esi_data
Status: Completed
Publication Date: 1984

Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps are an integral component in oil-spill contingency planning and assessment. They serve as a source of information in the event of an oil spill incident. ESI maps are a product of the Hazardous Materials Response Division of the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R).ESI maps contain three types of information: shoreline habitats (classified according to their sensitivity to oiling), human-use resources, and sensitive biological resources. Most often, this information is plotted on 7.5 minute USGS quadrangles, although in Alaska, USGS topographic maps at scales of 1:63,360 and 1:250,000 are used, and in other atlases, NOAA charts have been used as the base map. Collections of these maps, grouped by state or a logical geographic area, are published as ESI atlases. Digital data have been published for most of the U.S. shoreline, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.


The ESI data were collected, mapped, and digitized to provide environmental data for oil spill planning and response. The Clean Water Act with amendments by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires response plans for immediate and effective protection of sensitive resources.Oil spill planning and response remains the primary use of these maps, however they are finding ever-widening use in such areas as coastal resource inventories and assessments, coastal planning, and recreational planning.



Other Citation Details:

Prepared by Research Planning, Inc., Columbia, South Carolina for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Ocean Service (NOS), Office of Response and Restoration, Hazardous Materials Response Division, Seattle, Washington and other concerned agencies, varying by individual atlas.Publication Date Range is 1984 through present

Supplemental Information:

Your ESI data zip file may contain the following files and directories:READ1.PDFThis is an electronic version of a hard-copy document provided when ESI CD/DVDs are ordered through the Office of Response and Restoration. Each READ1.PDF file displays the regional project coverage and provides a complete list of the files and directories that are available with the specific ESI CD/DVD.AVPROJ This directory contains an ArcView 3.x project and the supporting shape and dbf files. The subdirectory AVPROJ contains the project file, RegionName.APR with documentation and software for installation.The project itself is a single view containing a theme for each ESI data layer. Themes have been symbolized using the standard ESI colors and patterns. It includes links from the biology and socioeconomic themes to a flat file version of the ESI tables. An ESI menu enables links to searchable breeding and source tables for more complex queries. These links can also be turned off to maximize the performance of simpler queries.DBFILES This directory is broken down into two subdirectories, DESKTOP and RELFILES. The DESKTOP directory contains a simplified flat file format that permits data queries without establishing the complex links needed for the relational files. Supporting data tables allow more complex queries of the breeding and source items. These are the tables that are used in the ArcView project and with the ESI viewer.The RELFILES directory contains the relational data tables that were used during the ESI data collection. These are a set of normalized, relational tables that will maintain the integrity of the data during updates. Though they are considerably more complex, these tables should be used for maintenance and updating of the ESI data set.DOCUMENT This directory contains atlas-specific metadata that should be referenced for entity and attribute information as well as data lineage. The metadata are provided in four different formats: html, sgml, text, and as a pdf. GUIDE.PDF is also in the document directory. This gives general information about how ESI data are collected and general GIS/database considerations.ESI_VIEW This directory contains Macintosh and Windows installers for a standalone ESI data viewer. The Macintosh installer and application currently run only in Classic mode The document TOUR describes the installation procedure and will help you to understand the ESI data. It shows how to formulate simple, yet useful queries. MARPLOT documentation is provided for more general questions on the mapping software.GEODATABASE This directory contains the ESI data in a geodatabase format for use in ArcGIS 9.x. To use, copy the entire subdirectory, "RegionName", to your hard drive. RegionaName.mxd, can be launched by doubleclicking or opening within ArcGIS. Relates to supporting tables and the standard ESI symbolization have been saved to the mxd. A number of ESI tools have been developed to ease the use of the data. They can be downloaded from: This directory contains the ESI symbology and lookup tables for use with ARCEDIT and ARCPLOT software A readme.txt file tells where these files should be installed and how they work.PDFS or ESI DataThis directory contains electronic versions of the Regional ESI atlas in portable document format. The document GUIDE.PDF describes how to use the navigable pdf software, for example, to link from the index to the appropriate atlas page then to the back of the map. The pdfs may be used on-line or are excellent for printing out individual atlas pages.Note: The ESI data file available through the NOS Data Explorer site contains a subset of the ESI file formats available via CD/DVD. Visit NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration website for more information on ordering ESI CD/DVDs: http://response.restoration.noaa.govNOTE: Maine Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI)The Maine Environmental Vulnerability Index was produced by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and is being redistributed by NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration.The Environmental Vulnerability Index maps draw heavily upon standards published in NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OR&R 11, "Environmental Sensitivity Index Guidelines" in an effort to conform more closely with NOAA's Environmental Sensitivity Index mapping program. In particular, the map and data format, color scheme and symbology of the EVI maps mirror those of the national ESI program. The major difference with the EVI maps is that each data set is shown separately rather than in combination, and several data sets unique to Maine (such as essential habitat areas) are utilized. Each map has an accompanying data sheet that gives specific information on species occurrence and life history. Please refer to the CD for additional information.


Theme Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
ISO 19115 Topic Category biota
ISO 19115 Topic Category environment
ISO 19115 Topic Category oceans
NOS Data Explorer Topic Category envionmental monitoring
None Alabama ESI
None Aleutian Islands Alaska ESI
None American Samoa ESI
None Bristol Bay Alaska ESI
None Central California ESI
None Coastal Resources
None Coastal Zone Management
None Columbia River ESI
None Cook Inlet Alaska ESI
None Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania ESI
None Environmental Sensitivity Index
None ESI
None ESI Atlas
None ESI Maps
None Florida ESI
None Georgia ESI
None Great Lakes ESI
None Guam and Northern Mariana Islands ESI
None Hawaii ESI
None Hudson River ESI
None Hydrography
None Kodiak Alaska ESI
None Louisiana ESI
None Maine EVI
None Maryland ESI
None Massachusetts ESI
None Mississippi ESI
None New Hampshire ESI
None North Carolina ESI
None North Slope Alaska ESI
None North Slope Alaska Summary Maps ESI
None Northern California ESI
None Northwest Arctic Alaska ESI
None Oil spill planning
None Prince William Sound Alaska ESI
None Puerto Rico ESI
None Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey ESI
None San Francisco Bay California ESI
None Sensitivity maps
None South Carolina ESI
None Southeast Alaska ESI
None Southern California ESI
None Texas Upper Coast ESI
None Virgin Islands ESI
None Virginia ESI
None Washington Puget Sound ESI
None Western Alaska ESI
None Wildlife

Spatial Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
None American Samoa
None Golfo de Fonseca (Honduras and Nicaragua)
None Puerto Rican shoreline
None U.S. shorelines

Physical Location

Organization: Office of Response and Restoration
City: Silver Spring
State/Province: MD

Data Set Information

Data Set Scope Code: Data Set
Maintenance Note:


Data Presentation Form: atlas
Entity Attribute Overview:

The shoreline is categorized on the basis of type and ESI Ranking, where the definition of a specific category can vary between estuarine, lacustrine, riverine, and palustrine environments. ESI Rankings are divided into ten categories controlled by relative exposure to wave and tidal energy, shoreline slope, substrate type, and biological productivity and sensitivity. An ESI Ranking of 1 represents shorelines least susceptible to damage by oiling, and 10 represents the locations most likely to be damaged.Animals, plants, and habitats potentially at risk from oil spills are segmented into seven elements based on major taxonomic and functional groupings. Each element is further divided into groups of species or sub-elements with similar taxonomy, morphology, life history, and/or behavior relative to oil spill vulnerability and sensitivity. Attribute data include: species names (common and scientific), the legal status of each species (state and/or federal threatened, endangered, and special concern listings), concentration/abundance, seasonal presence by month, and special life-history time-periods (e.g. spawning, nesting).Human-use resources can be subdivided into four major components: high-use recreational and shoreline access locations, management areas, resource extraction locations, and archaeological and historical cultural resource locations. Each of these elements is further subdivided based upon types of use.

Entity Attribute Detail Citation:

Complete descriptions of entity types, attributes, and attribute values can be found in the metadata record for each resource in the ESI atlas of interest.

Distribution Liability:

NOAA makes no warranty regarding these data, expressed or implied, nor does the fact of distribution constitute such a warranty. NOAA cannot assume liability for any damages caused by any errors or omissions in these data, nor as a result of the failure of these data to function on a particular system. Although these data have been processed successfully on a computer system at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, no warranty, expressed or implied, is made by NOAA regarding the utility of the data on any other system, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty. NOAA warrants the delivery of this product in computer-readable format, and will offer a replacement copy of the product when the product is determined unreadable by computer-input peripherals, or when the physical medium is delivered in damaged condition.

Data Set Credit: This project was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Ocean Service (NOS), Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R), Hazardous Materials Response Division (HAZMAT), Seattle, Washington, and other federal, regional, state, and local agencies, varying by atlas.

Support Roles

Data Steward

CC ID: 519942
Date Effective From: 1984
Date Effective To:
Contact (Position): ESI Program Manager
Address: 7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Email Address:


CC ID: 519944
Date Effective From: 1984
Date Effective To:
Contact (Position): ESI Program Manager
Address: 7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Email Address:

Metadata Contact

CC ID: 519945
Date Effective From: 1984
Date Effective To:
Contact (Position): ESI Program Manager
Address: 7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Email Address:

Point of Contact

CC ID: 519943
Date Effective From: 1984
Date Effective To:
Contact (Position): ESI Program Manager
Address: 7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Email Address:


Currentness Reference: Publication Date

Extent Group 1

Extent Group 1 / Geographic Area 1

CC ID: 519948
W° Bound: -180
E° Bound: 180
N° Bound: 72
S° Bound: -14.72

Extent Group 1 / Time Frame 1

CC ID: 519947
Time Frame Type: Range
Start: 1984
End: 2007

Access Information

Security Class: Unclassified
Data Access Procedure:

Contact NOAA for distribution options (see Distributor). ESI maps and data are available on CD/DVD through the Office of Response and Restoration. ESI data are processed into multiple formats to make them useful to a wider community of GIS/mapping users. Distribution formats include ARC export, MOSS and Shape files, and MARPLOT map folders. An ArcView 3.X ESI project and an ESI_Viewer product are also included on the distribution CDs for ease of use of the data. The database files are distributed both in the NOAA standard relational database format (see NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS ORCA 115) and in a simplified desktop flat file format.;

Data Access Constraints:


Data Use Constraints:

DO NOT USE ESI MAPS FOR NAVIGATIONAL PURPOSES.Besides the above warning, there are no use constraints on these data. Note that the ESI maps should not be used to the exclusion of other pertinent data or information held by state or federal agencies or other organizations. Likewise, information contained in the database cannot be used in place of consultations with environmental, natural resource, and cultural resource agencies, or in place of field surveys. Recognize that the information contained in the ESI database represents known concentration areas or occurrences of natural, cultural, and human-use resources, but does not necessarily represent the full distribution or range of each species or resource. This is particularly important to recognize when considering potential impacts to protected resources, such as endangered species, wetlands, etc. Acknowledgment of the originators, publishers, contributors, and sources listed would be appreciated in products derived from these data.

Distribution Information

Distribution 1

CC ID: 519949
Download URL:
Distributor: ESI Program Manager (1984 - Present)

Downloadable Data

File Type: PDF

Distribution 2

CC ID: 519951
Download URL:
Distributor: ESI Program Manager (1984 - Present)

Downloadable Data

File Type: ESI-Viewer

Distribution 3

CC ID: 519950
Download URL:
Distributor: ESI Program Manager (1984 - Present)

Downloadable Data

File Type: ESRI shape files with a predefined ArcView project file.



CC ID: 519940
URL Type:
Online Resource

Activity Log

Activity Log 1

CC ID: 520009
Activity Date/Time: 2011-11-23

Date that the source FGDC record was last modified.

Activity Log 2

CC ID: 520008
Activity Date/Time: 2017-04-05

Converted from FGDC Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata (version FGDC-STD-001-1998) using '' script. Contact Tyler Christensen (NOS) for details.

Activity Log 3

CC ID: 582996
Activity Date/Time: 2017-09-11

Partial upload of Maintenance Note field only.

Activity Log 4

CC ID: 719505
Activity Date/Time: 2018-02-08

Partial upload of Positional Accuracy fields only.

Technical Environment


The software packages used to develop the atlas are Environmental Systems Research Institute's ARC/INFO(r) (version 8.0.2) and ORACLE(r) RDBMS (version The hardware configuration is Hewlett Packard workstations (models 715/50 and 712/80i with 4 X-terminals) with UNIX operating system (HP-UX Release A.10.20), and PC's with Windows Operating System (NT4.0/2000).

Data Quality


A multi-stage error checking process is used to verify both attribute accuracy and logical consistency throughout data production. The process includes a standardized data entry methodology, hardcopy data review by in-house and external resource experts, a final Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) process, and multiple automated logical consistency checks. Quantitative data (such as densities, counts, abundances, or concentrations) provided by resource experts for inclusion in the data set may vary widely in attribute accuracy, depending upon the methodology used to collect and compile such data. For a more detailed evaluation of source data attribute accuracy, contact the sources listed in the Lineage section of the metadata record for the desired resource (e.g., BIRDS) in the ESI atlas of interest.

Horizontal Positional Accuracy:

As a rule, the positional accuracy is based on the source data, which for the lower contiguous states, is generally the 1:24,000 USGS quads. In Alaska, it is a combination of the 1:63,360 and 1:250,000 USGS quads, and may vary elsewhere. For more information about the original source data and how these data were integrated or manipulated to create the final data set, see the Lineage and Process_Description sections of the metadata record for the appropriate resource (e.g., BIRDS) in the atlas of interest.

Completeness Report:

These data represent coastal shorelines and habitats classified according to the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) classification system; sensitive biological resources; and human-use resources.

Conceptual Consistency:

A multi-stage error checking process, described in the above Attribute_Accuracy_Report, is used to verify both attribute accuracy and logical consistency throughout data production. This process includes multiple automated logical consistency checks that test the files for missing or duplicate data, rules for proper coding, GIS topological consistencies (such as dangles, unnecessary nodes, etc.), and ORACLE(r) to ARC/INFO(r) consistencies. A final review is made by the GIS Manager, where the data are written to CD-ROM and the metadata are written. After the data are delivered to NOAA, they are again subjected to a number of quality and consistency checks.


Process Steps

Process Step 1

CC ID: 519936

ESI maps are comprised of three general types of information: SHORELINE CLASSIFICATION - ESI maps include a shoreline ranking, based on a scale relating sensitivity, natural persistence of oil, and ease of cleanup. The shoreline classification scheme combines an understanding of the physical and biological character of the shoreline environment, as well as the substrate type and grain size. Relationships among physical processes, substrate type, and associated biota produce specific geomorphic/ecological shoreline types, sediment transport patterns and predictable oil behaviors and biological impacts. The sensitivity ranking (Rank 1 - Rank 10) is dictated by the following factors: relative exposure to wave and tidal energy, shoreline slope, substrate type (grain size, mobility, penetration and/or burial, and trafficability), and biological productivity and sensitivity. Methods for classifying shorelines include review of existing maps, literature, and remote imagery, incorporated with observations from low-altitude aerial surveys and ground observations. Base maps, shoreline, wetland boundaries, and aerial photographs are gathered prior to a survey. Using this information, along with any previous studies of the area, the geologist completes a preliminary shoreline classification. This classification is modified during the fieldwork process. Fieldwork consists of two parts: aerial surveys and ground verifications. During the overflight phase, the geologist annotates the shoreline base map with ESI Rankings, carefully noting transitions in habitats. Shorelines with more than one ESI type in the intertidal zone are annotated on the map in order from landward to seaward ESI classification. A segment of coastline may be assigned up to three ESI shoreline types. In areas where the coastline has changed significantly from the base map (either through natural or artificial processes), the geologist modifies the base map by hand. In addition to classifying the shoreline, the observer takes representative low-altitude, oblique photographs for each ESI habitat. Ground verification consists of spot-checking to confirm aerial observations. Ideally, an example of each habitat is visited and photographed from the ground. At a minimum, ground verification concentrates on confirming grain-size classification for sedimentary substrates, since this can be difficult to recognize from the air. If a portion of the coast is identified during the overflights as problematic or difficult to classify, that segment is ground checked and maps are updated according to the ground observations. Once the field component of the project is complete, the maps are scanned and the digital shoreline arcs are updated with the ESI attributes noted in the field. The shape and position of the digital shoreline may also be modified at this time to reflect field observations. After the information from the field map has been incorporated into the digital database, the ESI shoreline is color-coded and replotted at the same scale as the original base maps. The geologist then compares the classified shoreline plots to the original field-annotated base maps and any errors in shoreline attributes, as recorded in the GIS database, are corrected.

Process Step 2

CC ID: 519937

SENSITIVE BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES - ESI maps depict oil-sensitive animals and rare plants, as well as habitats that are used by oil-sensitive species. Some habitats, such as submersed aquatic vegetation and coral reefs, that are themselves sensitive to oil spills may also be depicted. Biological resource information is gathered from local officials who provide expert knowledge and suggest relevant source materials for biological resources in the study area. When the data have been collected and reviewed, the biologist plans how each resource will be mapped throughout the entire study area. During this process, it may be necessary to prioritize the species to be mapped in order to avoid excess clutter, which makes the final product difficult to read or interpret. Considerations may include species that are rare or listed as protected or endangered, or those species that have a particular commercial, recreational, or cultural value in the area. It may also be appropriate to limit some species-mapping to particularly critical life stages, such as nesting or spawning. Biological features are mapped as points, polygons, and lines, and are given unique numbers corresponding to associated data tables, for easy identification and editing.

Process Step 3

CC ID: 519938

HUMAN-USE RESOURCES - ESI maps also include human-use areas that could be impacted by an oil spill or that could provide access for spill response operations. They include areas that have added sensitivity and value because of their use, such as beaches, parks and marine sanctuaries, water intakes, and archaeological sites. Human-use resources are divided into four major components: high-use recreational and shoreline access locations, management areas, resource extraction locations, and archaeological and historical cultural resource locations. Each human-use resource is assigned a feature type and feature code. Management areas are typically mapped as polygons, while the remaining socio-economic resources are depicted as points. For more information about the data resources and process for a particular resource refer to the metadata record for the desired resource in the ESI atlas of interest. Process Date Range is 1984 - present. Spatial Reference Information - Varies (For more information please refer to the metadata for the atlas of interest).

Catalog Details

Catalog Item ID: 40691
GUID: gov.noaa.nmfs.inport:40691
Metadata Record Created By: Tyler Christensen
Metadata Record Created: 2017-04-05 14:53+0000
Metadata Record Last Modified By: SysAdmin InPortAdmin
Metadata Record Last Modified: 2022-08-09 17:11+0000
Metadata Record Published: 2018-02-08
Owner Org: ORR
Metadata Publication Status: Published Externally
Do Not Publish?: N
Metadata Last Review Date: 2018-02-08
Metadata Review Frequency: 1 Year
Metadata Next Review Date: 2019-02-08