NOAA begins multiyear project to update Hudson River charts

NOAA sets charting priorities by considering a range of factors. Some of the most important factors include requests by the maritime industry. So when the Hudson River Pilots asked a Coast Survey navigation manager to accompany them on a transit down the Hudson River for a first-hand look at the problems caused by out-of-date soundings, our Northeast navigation manager jumped at the opportunity. Coast Survey understood the pilots’ concerns, especially since the charts in areas outside the federal channel have not been surveyed since 1939, and in some areas the soundings are pre-1900.

MeghanMcGovern w CAPT Scott Ireland - Hudson River Pilot
Lt. Cmdr. Meghan McGovern, NOAA navigation manager for the Northeast, rode with Capt. Scott Ireland on a salt ship down the the Hudson River in October 2014, learning about the concerns of the Hudson River Pilots.

Late this last summer, Coast Survey started a multi-year effort to update the nautical charts of the Hudson River. The project, which involves collecting new hydrographic data and creating larger scale electronic navigational charts, began with an initial survey by one of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams, from August 14 to September 10.

The graphics below display the areas surveyed by NOAA’s Navigation Response Team 5 in August and September, 2015. The red color indicates where the team surveyed.

Hudson River_chart12347

Hudson River_chart12348

The age of the data on the Hudson River charts is, unfortunately, not a rare instance. If you examine any one of our 1000+ charts, you may find depths that originated from pre-1920 lead line and sextant surveys; some have been measured with single beam echo sounders, while others were measured by state-of-the-art multibeam echo sounders. You may find all of this information on a single chart, and it is a challenge that NOAA faces with many charts covering the 95,000 nautical miles of U.S. coastline.

Rear Adm. Gerd Glang, Coast Survey director, recently informed Capt. Ireland of our determination to fix the Hudson River charts. We hope to complete data collection by the end of 2017, and to produce larger scale electronic charts by 2019.

Ireland sent his appreciation to Coast Survey.

“I’m very grateful to Rear Admiral Glang and his staff at NOAA for recognizing the importance of accurate soundings on Hudson River,” Ireland wrote on Oct 28.

“The effort to update 75+ year old data began a year ago with a phone call to Lt. Cmdr. Meghan McGovern, NOAA’s Northeast Navigation Manager. Lt. Cmdr. McGovern recognized the problem and moved quickly to help, sending a survey team to ‘spot survey’ some vital areas that will make commercial traffic markedly safer. Her encouragement then led me to lobby NOAA for a full-scale resurvey of the river and a re-scheming of the charts.”

“I recognize that this will be an expensive multiyear effort and applaud NOAA for their decision. When completed, the new soundings and navigational charts will result in a safer river environment for boaters of all sizes.”

“Thanks to all who supported this effort. While long overdue, it seems that the Hudson River now has NOAA’s attention.”

On November 16, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) sent a letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, emphasizing the importance of the project and calling for an immediate update of the charts.

For more information, see the letters exchanged between Capt. Scott Ireland (sent on Sept. 1, 2015) and Rear Adm. Gerd Glang (sent on October 9, 2015).

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