Archive for the ‘Federal – State Cooperation’ Category

Olympic Coast survey provides data for multiple uses   1 comment

Coastal planners, fishery managers, and oceanographic researchers will soon reap important seafloor and water column data from the coast of Washington, when NOAA Ship Rainier undertakes a special project in the waters within and near the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in May.

Map of IOCM projects Olympic Coast NMS

The blue lines indicate NOAA Ship Rainier’s survey project areas. From north to south, the project encompasses Juan De Fuca Canyon (65 square nautical miles), Quinault Canyon (378 square nautical miles), and Willapa Canyon (189 square nautical miles). The teal dots in Quinault and Willapa canyons are the locations of deep underwater natural methane gas seeps being investigated in a University of Washington research project. The green shaded area is the extent of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

The project, which is being managed by NOAA’s Integrated Ocean and Coast Mapping program, grew from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science seafloor mapping prioritization exercise among coastal stakeholders from federal and state (Oregon and Washington) agencies, tribes, and academia. The group determined that one of the biggest needs by most of the organizations was a better understanding of canyon depths, seafloor, and habitat.

A scientific team of experts from the College of Charleston, University of Washington, and Oregon State University will contribute to the NOAA-led multi-disciplinary survey project, gathering data for a host of research projects and ocean management activities. In general, the data will collect swath bathymetry, acoustic backscatter, and water column data to:

  • inform regulatory decisions on coastal development;
  • provide benthic habitat mapping and seafloor characterization for sustainable fisheries initiatives, and to help assess fishery stocks and critical spawning aggregation locations;
  • better understand and manage shelf and canyon resources;
  • aid in resolving multiple-use conflicts;
  • advance research in determining chemical and biological contamination levels; and
  • provide a data repository for the development of ocean tourism and recreational fishing.

Some specific research projects are also planned.

  • A University of Washington scientist will analyze the water column plumes over natural methane gas seeps in the planned survey areas. The university is a leader in the study of methane hydrates.
  • Because Rainier heads to Alaska after the survey in the sanctuary, the ship will also conduct an exploratory survey to obtain seafloor imagery and data over a newly discovered mud volcano in the upper continental slope offshore of Dixon Entrance, just off the Inside Passage near Ketchikan, Alaska. California State researchers will use the data from this 40 square nautical mile survey to analyze the seafloor shape, assess the area for effects on potential tsunamis, and identify unique biological communities.

As part of her regular mission, Rainier will acquire depth measurements and other hydrographic data throughout the entire project to update NOAA nautical charts 18480 and 18500 off the coast of Washington, and chart 17400 in Alaskan waters. The corresponding electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) are US3WA03M, US3AK40M, and US3AK40M.

Chris Stubbs, from the College of Charleston, will serve as the project’s chief scientist. Cmdr. Edward J. Van Den Ameele is Rainier’s commanding officer.

NOAA ship Rainier, a 48-year-old survey vessel, is part of the NOAA fleet of ships operated, managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and civilian wage mariners.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson mapping Long Island Sound seafloor: contributing to multi-level collaboration   Leave a comment

How many geospatial products can be developed by one seafloor mapping project? As a phased-in project for Long Island Sound shows, a strong collaboration among diverse groups of researchers and technology developers can integrate temporal and geospatial data sources to produce dozens of products. In addition to updating NOAA’s nautical charts, ongoing collaborations in Long Island Sound will create products that depict physical, geological, ecological, geomorphological, and biological conditions and processes – all to balance the development of new ocean uses while protecting and restoring essential habitats.

In 2011, the Long Island Sound Program (representing a partnership between the State of Connecticut, State of New York, Connecticut and New York Sea Grant, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) requested assistance from NOAA. They asked for help in providing management and technical expertise; acquiring data; and developing products. They required key temporal and spatial information about seafloor conditions in the Sound. They needed bathymetry and backscatter, and biological and physical observational and sampling data, to produce all the products needed by governments, industry, academia, and the public.

Coast Survey already had plans for NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson to survey in Long Island Sound, to acquire new bathymetry for chart updates. With some adjustments to survey areas and project parameters, a mutually beneficial partnership was formed for long-term seafloor mapping of Long Island Sound habitats over the next several years, as an integrated ocean and coastal mapping project.

This summer, Thomas Jefferson conducted hydrographic surveys in the mid-Sound area of Stratford Shoal and vicinity, extending from New York on the north shore of Long Island to the Connecticut shoreline.

“Ocean floors are amazingly dynamic, and we have to chart those changes to provide precise and accurate navigational data for today’s maritime economy,” explained Cmdr. Lawrence Krepp, commanding officer of the Thomas Jefferson and the ship’s chief scientist. “Our data is used to update NOAA’s nautical charts, but the hydrographic information can also be used to support a number of non-navigation uses, ranging from benefits to fisheries management to support of regional ocean planning efforts like this.”

Thomas Jefferson DTM for LIS

This digital terrain model, showing bathymetry in Long Island Sound, was created from Thomas Jefferson depth soundings.

This image is a digital terrain model that indicates the water depths in surveyed areas. In its final form, it will be geo-referenced to latitude and longitude. To produce this DTM, a NOAA Corps hydrographer, Lt.j.g. (sel) Anthony Klemm loaded Thomas Jefferson’s billions of depth soundings into an algorithum, powered by CARIS’s CSAR technology. By laying out a grid, and then using CUBE – combined uncertainty bathymetry estimator – Klemm is able to visually depict higher resolution depth measurements in shallow water, where the shapes on the seafloor may be navigationally significant, with resolution gradually decreasing as the depth increases.

Digital terrain models are useful for many environmental management activities. In this collaboration, seafloor topography products, like this DTM, will be the foundation for building products that address benthic habitats and other environmental conditions.

NOAA survey teams wrap up response to Hurricane Isaac, return to normal duties to protect ships and people   Leave a comment

As Gulf ports in the path of Hurricane Isaac bring operations back up to normal, Coast Survey’s navigation response team has finished its hydrographic surveys at Port Fourchon and is heading back to its regularly scheduled 2012 survey of the sea floor in the Port of Houston and Galveston Bay navigational areas.

Port Fourchon started allowing ships to enter the port yesterday, after NRT4 found only minor shoaling and no underwater debris that would pose a danger to navigation.

NOAA surveys ports to keep navigation safe and efficient. As Coast Survey’s navigation response team was wrapping up its surveys of Port Fourchon and Belle Pass on August 31, the pilot of the multi-purpose supply vessel HOS Achiever, inbound, asked if they found any dangers to navigation. The team found minor shoaling but no hazards.

Upon receiving Coast Survey’s initial survey report yesterday, Port Fourchon executive director Chett Chiasson thanked the navigation response team and managers for support in this recovery. “Your immediate availability following the hurricane, being some of the “first” people in, goes above and beyond the call of duty,” he wrote. (See full text of Chiasson’s letter to NOAA Administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, below.)

The navigation response teams and managers responded quickly, and under difficult circumstances, but we need to emphasize that they responded safely. Ensuring safety for NOAA response personnel is as high a priority as establishing safe conditions for the maritime transportation system.

The National Geodetic Survey’s Remote Sensing Division used the NOAA King Air and the NOAA Twin Otter to gather imagery for the response to Isaac. The crews of NOAA remote sensing planes consist of two NOAA Corps pilots from the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, with NGS experts operating the sensors. (Images from the remote sensing survey are being posted to Hurricane ISAAC Response Imagery Viewer.)

Coast Survey’s navigation managers are returning to their stations in port areas across the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. They remain available, as always, to provide NOAA asset coordination and assistance to government officials, port representatives, pilots, and the maritime industry.

***

Sent to Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator, August 31, 2012

Subject: Thank You to NOAA for the Service to the Nation and to the Gulf’s Energy Connection, Port Fourchon, Louisiana from Hurricane Isaac

Dr. Lubchenco:

I would like to recognize the huge effort of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey to respond in such a timely and critical way to our needs at Port Fourchon to respond to Hurricane Isaac and to recover our Port Operations as quickly as possible.

Every day, almost 30% of America’s supply and consumption of energy comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Port Fourchon is the single most important supply Port in the Gulf.  The preparations for a hurricane and recovery of the Port is critical to this Nation in re-establishing the supply of domestic energy from the Gulf.  Delays and loss of operations by the Port can have dramatic impacts to energy supply of this country and create large economic impacts throughout the United States.

The eye of Hurricane Isaac came directly over the Port and we saw widespread flooding throughout the area and of our only access road to the Port, Louisiana Highway LA-1.

The day the hurricane started to move from the area, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey Navigational Response Team arrived in our offices, discussed the needs of our Port and headed to the Port that morning.

NOAA’s Coast Survey Navigation Response Team was the first responders to arrive and reach Port Fourchon. They and our Harbor Police made it through flooded highways and arrived to start work before anyone else. They worked through yesterday and today surveying the entire Port and it’s Pass, Belle Pass and are now in our Operations Center processing the work and have been constantly updating me and our Port staff throughout.

With a very large hurricane and coastal impacts we saw, you quickly find out who are the real responders and partners with the Port and the Gulf. For us, it is NOAA and the Office of Coast Survey.

Our commendations and thanks to you and to the Office of Coast Survey. Their service to us and the Nation is truly exemplary.

Respectfully,

Chett

Chett C. Chiasson, MPA

Executive Director

Greater Lafourche Port Commission

NOAA navigation response team has a harrowing start to a successful afternoon of surveying at Port Fourchon   1 comment

Coast Survey navigation response teams know the meaning of “rapid” in Rapid Maritime Response, as their ongoing response following Hurricane Isaac demonstrates.

As we explained in yesterday’s post (NOAA looks for dangers to navigation at Port Fourchon), getting a navigation response team (NRT) into the water at the port, to search for underwater debris and shoaling ‒ ASAP ‒ was Coast Survey’s highest priority. It was also a priority for port authorities, who know more than anyone how important it is to resume maritime operations quickly at “The Gulf’s Energy Connection.”

The 3-person survey team (team lead Nick Forfinski, with Luke Pavilonis and David McIntire), with navigation managers Tim Osborn and Alan Bunn, first had to move the boat (complete with state-of-the-art multibeam sonar and side scan sonar equipment) 163 miles from Lafayette to Port Fourchon. The team was the first group to drive down closed Highway 1, only preceded by a harbor police officer who wanted to make sure roads weren’t washed out. To travel the last segment of the storm-savaged highway, which was covered in places by nearly two feet of sideways-moving water, averting downed utility poles with hanging wires, the small Coast Survey caravan received a police escort by Port Fourchon Harbor Police.

The Coast Survey caravan, taking NRT4 to Port Fourchon on Thursday morning, had to drive through sections of Hwy 1 that were covered with up to two feet of moving water.  The caravan was escorted by the Port Fourchon Harbor Police.

The  caravan had to skirt downed utility lines and hanging wires on closed Highway 1, north of Galliano, as they traveled from Lafayette to Port Fourchon on Thursday morning.

As anyone who has ever driven through bad conditions can imagine, the team arrived at Port Fourchon tensed and tired. But that didn’t stop them. After consulting with port authorities, NRT4 launched their 28′ Sea Ark, put the side scan sonar in the water, switched on the multibeam, calibrated equipment, and started searching for dangers to navigation in the deserted waters around the docks. They also did a quick reconnaissance of Belle Pass (see NOAA chart 11346), where conditions were such that they weren’t able to continue operations. (They are returning to Belle Pass today.)

NRT4 used the multibeam echo sounder and the side scan sonar (pictured here) as they searched for underwater hazards at Port Fourchon on Aug 30.

Port officials need the data ‒ quickly ‒ from the hydrographic surveys, so NRT4 survey technicians worked until the early morning hours, processing the depth measurements and images they acquired yesterday afternoon.

Today, NRT4 will intensify their search for underwater debris and shoaling, to make sure that ships and mariners can navigate safely ‒ without damage to lives, equipment, or the environment ‒ when ships start returning after the Coast Guard Captain of the Port lifts port restrictions.

NOAA looks for danger to navigation at Port Fourchon, the “Gulf’s Energy Connection,” helps port resume operations   2 comments

A rapid maritime response by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey will likely pay dividends to the U.S. economy, as a high-tech survey team today began surveying the channels of Port Fourchon, the “Gulf’s Energy Connection,” to search for dangers to navigation caused by Hurricane Isaac.

Coast Survey’s navigation response team, in the water at Port Fourchon, started searching for underwater dangers to navigation today, speeding the resumption of shipping.

“Time literally means money for U.S. consumers when it comes to navigation through many of the Gulf of Mexico ports,” said Rear Adm. Gerd Glang, Office of Coast Survey director. “In this case, when a port can’t service offshore oil rigs, everyone — and most especially consumers — gets hit in the wallet.”

To help speed the resumption of maritime commerce following hurricanes and other disasters, Coast Survey deploys hydrographic survey assets for high priority port areas that need emergency assistance. Port Fourchon services about 90 percent of all deepwater oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. It is also the host for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), which is the only port in the United States capable of handling Ultra Large Crude Carriers and Very Large Crude Carriers.

The Morgan City Captain of the Port, who has jurisdiction over Port Fourchon, anticipated they would need NOAA’s rapid maritime response as soon as conditions allowed boats in the water.

Hydrographic survey response priorities are set by U.S. Coast Guard Captains of the Port, coordinating with NOAA navigation managers who are working post-storm at Port Fourchon and NOAA’s new Disaster Response Center in Mobile. While NOAA hydrographers measure depths and look for underwater debris and other dangers to navigation, survey technicians process the data and send the information to the U.S. Coast Guard, who uses the information to make critical decisions on resuming port operations. After the Coast Survey navigation response team informs the Captain that no hidden dangers exist, the port can safely begin to resume shipping operations.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Port Fourchon surveys should take about two days.

Days before Hurricane Isaac hit the U.S., Coast Survey mobilized assets and personnel, getting ready to respond to navigational needs of the ports slammed by the slow-moving, and drenching, hurricane. Navigation response teams, who normally survey ports and coastal areas to acquire modern data for updating nautical charts, were moved to Louisiana and Florida’s panhandle, so they could hit the water as soon as sea conditions allowed.

NOAA survey ship uses multibeam echo sounder

This image depicts a NOAA survey ship using its multibeam echo sounder to measure ocean depths.

The experienced 3-person navigation response team (team lead Nick Forfinski, with Luke Pavilonis and David McIntire) is using specially designed sonar equipment to conduct the surveys: the side scan sonar uses sound to “see” debris in the waterways, and the multibeam echo sounder uses high-resolution depth information to detect shoaling.

Ports are critical arteries for American commerce, with the maritime transportation system contributing more than $1 trillion to the national economy and providing employment for more than 13 million people. Just as a car accident can snarl traffic for miles, shipping delays can snarl both the maritime system and land-based shipping that feeds into the ports.

Ready, set…   2 comments

Coast Survey’s Rapid Maritime Response assets for Hurricane Isaac are now in place, and are ready to move in when the storm moves on.

The teams will search for underwater debris and other dangers to navigation in port areas, to speed the resumption of shipping in areas impacted by the storm. A rapid response — that gives Coast Guard officials vital information on the condition of ship channels — reduces economic losses in maritime trade, reduces potential disruptions in energy supplies when ports are serving energy providers and oil rigs, and keeps mariners safe. (For more, see Coast Survey Prepares Rapid Maritime Response for Tropical Storm Isaac.)

Navigation response team 4 (NRT4), a 3-person team who had been conducting surveys in Galveston, arrived in Lafayette, Louisiana, yesterday. They brought their 28’ foot Sea Ark and state-of-the-art survey equipment with them, and are already working with survey specialists at Coast Survey headquarters, laying out potential survey tracks based on initial indications of priorities from Coast Guard officials.

NRT2 trailered their boat from where they had been surveying on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and are now with NRT1 in Panama City (in Florida’s panhandle), ready to respond to requests for assistance from Captains of the Port in Alabama or Mississippi. They can also deploy to Louisiana, if needed.

The NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations / National Geodetic Survey remote sensing planes are “response ready” with pre-planned flight lines for aerial surveying of coastal areas hit with storm surge. The King Air is in Austin, Texas, and the Twin Otter is relocating to Mobile, Alabama.

NRT4 brought their boat and state-of-the-art survey equipment to Lafayette, Louisiana, yesterday.

NOAA navigation manager Michael Henderson (right) works with Billy Sasser, Dept. of Homeland Security’s maritime security liaison to the Florida emergency operations center. Henderson has spent the last four days working with state and federal officials as part of Florida’s State Emergency Response Team.

Chett Chaisson, of Port Fourchon, took this photo this morning at the Golden Meadow Flood Lock.

Update on Coast Survey pre-positioning for Rapid Maritime Response to Tropical Storm Isaac   Leave a comment

As NOAA’s National Weather Service adjusts the track of Tropical Storm Isaac, so Coast Survey adjusts pre-response planning and deployment. (BTW, the New Orleans/Baton Rouge NWS Tropical Weather Briefing is a great resource for maritime observations, as is nowCOAST.) Based on updates in the hurricane models, and after multiple briefings with Coast Guard officials, Coast Survey is moving to pre-position two of the navigation response teams closer to the expected impact areas. (See response asset graphic, below.)

Major ports along in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana will likely be closed later today, if they aren’t already. With over $153 billion in ocean-going trade through New Orleans annually, and another $31 billion a year in and out of Mobile, it is essential to get shipping channels cleared for the resumption of traffic as soon as possible after a storm. Just as important, the Gulf produces 23 percent of total U.S. crude oil production and 7 percent of natural gas production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  The resumption of operations at ports serving the energy industry is essential to keeping supplies flowing.

Several of Coast Survey’s regional navigation managers are gearing up coordination with state and port officials, and with the U.S. Coast Guard. Florida navigation manager Mike Henderson has been working since early Saturday morning at the State Emergency Center in Tallahassee. Gulf Coast (East) navigation manager Tim Osborn is relocating to the Louisiana emergency response center in Baton Rouge, and navigation liaison Patrick Fink will be working out of NOAA’s new Disaster Response Center in Mobile. Gulf Coast (West) navigation manager Alan Bunn, based in Texas, is moving to Lafayette to better handle on-the-ground logistics for the Rapid Maritime Response. The navigation managers coordinate requests for NOAA’s navigation response teams, as the NRTs are needed to help re-open shipping lanes and port areas by searching for underwater debris and shoaling.

Navigation response team 4, which is surveying off the coast of Galveston, will deploy to Lafayette, Louisiana, on Tuesday morning. NRT4 will survey in Louisiana, as needed according to priorities established by the Captain of the Port (COTP).

Also on Tuesday, NRT2 will join NRT1 in Panama City, Florida, to be ready for deployment as soon as Hurricane Isaac moves away from the coast. These teams will each survey areas in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana – again, as requested according to U.S. Coast Guard COTP priorities.

Some of NOAA’s major survey assets are the private contractors who conduct hydrographic surveys to acquire data necessary for nautical chart updates. Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Surveys Division is working with the contractors currently surveying in the Gulf, to ascertain their current locations, determine how they may be impacted by the storm, and their potential response capabilities.

Coast Survey’s Mobile Integrated Survey Team remains ready to move as necessary, once Isaac has made landfall and we have assessed the storm damage and navigational needs. When called to action, the MIST will mobilize on a vessel of opportunity.

Coast Survey is more than surveying, charting, and maritime response. The Coast Survey Development Lab is providing visualizations of experimental storm surge simulations to the National Hurricane Center for each forecast cycle of Hurricane Isaac. These simulations are being created in partnership with several federal agencies and research groups, and show the significant storm surge threat Isaac poses to the Gulf Coast.

Coast Survey Response Assets for Isaac

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