NOAA Seeks Boaters’ Comments Regarding Future of Magenta Line

As the nation’s nautical chart maker, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Coast Survey is seeking comments from members of the maritime community about the future of the legendary “magenta line.” Since first defined and published in 1912 as the Inside Route Pilot, the magenta line on navigation charts has guided boaters as they make their way up or down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) that extends from New England to the Florida Keys and across to Brownsville, Texas.

The ICW links natural inlets, rivers, bays, and sounds, resulting in “a mostly protected alternative to venturing offshore when conditions turn ugly,” writes Bill Parlatore in the November/December 2013 issue of BoatU.S. magazine. In particular, it is especially useful as boaters transition from one body of water to another, which can present unique navigational challenges. According to a NOAA release, among those boaters navigating the ICW “are thousands of ‘snowbirds’ who regularly pilot their recreational vessels south in winter and north in summer.”

Interestingly, the magenta line has not been significantly updated since 1935 when the post-Depression-era federal government increased the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (NOAA’s predecessor) budget, enabling a more thorough charting of the waterways. According to BoatU.S.’s Parlatore, defining the ICW was imperative to find continuous water routes for defense and commercial needs. Since that time, the magenta line “seems to have gotten lost among the other realities that define the national maritime landscape,” writes Parlatore. In addition, rather than update inaccurate portions of the route, chart makers simply deleted those portions. Now, it is being removed from new editions of nautical charts. According to NOAA, “federal funding does not allow for consistent maintenance of the 3,000-mile (4,800 km) Intracoastal Waterway Route.”

With those factors in mind, the U.S. Coast Survey is interested in comments from recreational boaters, fishermen, and other members of the maritime community regarding:

  • Do recreational boaters and/or commercial mariners need a magenta line to depict the specified Intracoastal Waterway Route?
If so, should that be a federal government charting responsibility?

To encourage widespread participation, NOAA has established a long comment period — participants have until December 26, 2013 to submit their comments. Those wishing to comment may do so one of three ways:

  • Email:
  • Fax: 301-713-4019
  • Mail: Send a letter to LTJG Leslie Flowers, NOAA Office of Coast Survey, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20906

For more information about the magenta line, read Bill Parlatore’s story in BoatU.S. magazine at:


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