NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey released a new electronic navigation chart (NOAA ENC®) of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and the Merrimack River (US5MA1AM). With this new chart, recreational boaters now can safely navigate the Merrimack River from the entrance at Newburyport all the way to Haverhill, just in time for boating season.
Haverhill is a historic New England town that has recently undergone an urban renewal with new federal, state, and private investment in the downtown and waterfront areas. Until now, this area of the river was not depicted at an appropriate scale on a nautical chart for recreational boaters to navigate safely. The community of Haverhill recognized the importance of recreational boaters to their local economy and led a grassroots effort to have a new chart created.
Recreational boaters rely on nautical charts for safe navigation. Natural features, man-made objects, and the positions and descriptions of buoys, beacons, and lights are critical pieces of the chart. Nautical chart coverage of the Merrimack River from the Atlantic Ocean to just beyond the I-95 bridge was historically depicted at a 1:20,000 scale, while coverage west of this area was historically depicted at a 1:80,000 scale. Boaters had been reluctant to navigate beyond the I-95 bridge and travel up river to Haverhill because the chart did not depict a dense selection of soundings and features to safely navigate.
Recognizing the need for a more detailed chart of the area, the Greater Haverhill Foundation (GHF), a group of local and state stakeholders concerned with the economic revitalization of the area, contacted NOAA to create a new, larger-scale chart.
In order to address immediate concerns regarding safe navigation, the foundation held stakeholder meetings that included representatives from the River Cities Initiative, a multi-city effort led by Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives. The GHF also privately funded a hydrographic survey of the river using single beam and side scan sonar to collect data for the new chart.
Coast Survey used the privately funded survey data to provide a buoy relocation proposal to the U.S. Coast Guard who re-aligned multiple buoys in the navigation channel of the river. The new, larger-scale ENC was compiled using U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data, NOAA lidar data, and the privately funded survey data. When shown in detail, the combined data provides mariners with a clearer picture of the overall conditions and dangers to navigation.
The final product, a robust NOAA ENC® at a scale of 1:12,000 made from both federal and community data sources, will serve the recreational boaters on the Merrimack River and the community of Haverhill for years to come. The new ENC can be viewed in NOAA ENC® online.
“The Merrimack River is an important asset to the region whose recreational potential has been relatively untapped. NOAA’s updated Electronic Navigation Chart (ENC) will allow recreational boaters to safely navigate the Merrimack River from Newburyport to Haverhill’s transforming downtown, fulfilling one of the important goals of the River Cities Initiative. This joint effort to update the chart, spearheaded by local stakeholders, will allow for greater connectivity between communities along the river, and encourage residents and tourists alike to explore the local businesses, eateries, and recreational attractions that dot the riverbanks between the two cities. Thank you to LCDR Meghan McGovern, NOAA’s Northeast Region Navigation Manager, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the Greater Haverhill Foundation, Mark Cutter, Assistant Branch Chief, Waterways Management Division of the United States Coast Guard, Mass Development’s Transformative Development Fellow Noah Koretz, and business and community members for all of your efforts in creating this powerful resource,” said State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives.
“It is a great feeling of accomplishment to finally have a new chart of the river after the many years of work that have gone into its creation. I would like to thank you for all your support, work and time you have put in on this project. I also want the thank James Miller for the work he has done in buoy positioning, Rear Admiral Shepard Smith for approving the new chart and having the staff at NOAA Office of Coast Survey finishing the task. Thousands of boaters on the Merrimack River and visiting yachtsmen will be confident cruising the twenty miles of the Merrimack River from the mouth to downtown Haverhill,” Said Dave Goodwin, Greater Haverhill Foundation’s River Committee.
The request to develop the Merrimack River electronic navigation chart was unique and was submitted with strong stakeholder support. Coast Survey receives multiple requests for new charts but is only able to produce an average of three new charts per year. Creating a new chart is a time intensive process and there is a backlog of dozens waiting to be created.
To address the backlog of new chart requests and prepare for future requests, Coast Survey developed the National Charting Plan. The plan explains the need to improve the way nautical charts are produced and distributed to keep up with modern methods of marine navigation. The plan also outlines Coast Survey’s approach to improve NOAA charts, including changes to chart formats, scales, data compilation, and symbology. Professional mariners, recreational boaters, data providers, navigational equipment manufacturers, and other users of NOAA charts are invited to review and comment plan.