US: As the year 2011 approaches, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ships and independent contractors are preparing for the nation’s 177th hydrographic surveying season, aiming to collect critically needed ocean and coastal mapping data for 2,525 square nautical miles in high-traffic coastal waters of the continental United States and Alaska.
“The science of these surveys underpins the steady flow of commerce and the safety of mariners and coastal communities,” said NOAA Corps Capt. John E. Lowell, director of the Office of Coast Survey and US national hydrographer. More than 13 million jobs are tied to maritime commerce which contributes more than USD 742 billion to the American economy.
US waters cover 3.4 million square nautical miles including a constantly changing coastal environment due to storms, erosion and other coastal processes. To ensure the continued flow of commerce, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey maintains the nation’s suite of more than 1,000 nautical charts. To ensure the accuracy of charts, the Office of Coast Survey annually plans hydrographic survey projects to update depths and identify new navigational hazards on the seafloor.
The 2011 surveys will acquire data to update the country’s nautical charts, especially where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. For instance, NOAA Ships Fairweather and Rainier will survey the coasts of Alaska in areas increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, ferries, military craft, tugs and barges, fishing vessels and factory trawlers.
Safety concerns also play a large role in project selections. One such project covers an area in the Strait of Georgia, Wash., where the largest oil tanker terminal in the state has recently doubled its capacity. In the Chesapeake Bay, data collected by NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson will help address concerns about impacts of a planned pipeline. In addition, this project will provide broader benefit to the region.