Teaming up with small business to expand hydrographic technology

Sandy shoals in certain near shore areas shift continuously and present a danger to navigation. It is logistically impossible to keep nautical charts current using the traditional survey methods when the bottom contours change so rapidly. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey leverages remote sensing data in new ways to derive bathymetry for the purposes of updating nautical charts in dynamic coastal areas. An exciting new method Coast Survey is exploring is X-band radar wave imaging. Marine radar is not a new technology, however, there are advantages to exploring old technology for new purposes. Many NOAA vessels and other coastal installations are already equipped with the hardware to facilitate this type of data acquisition.

Radar wave imaging uses backscattered radar intensity to create remotely sensed images of waves. So how do we derive bathymetry from wave images? The shape and depth of the seafloor—whether rocky or sandy, shoal or deep—influences surface currents, as well as the character and speed of waves, and swell. Radar backscatter processing over time yields a series of coherent images of the wave field. By simply averaging the images of waves over a period, it is possible to depict the general shape of the seafloor bathymetry. Additional processing of the coherent wave-speed images produces derived depths.

To determine the value of using radar as a method for deriving water depths in near shore areas, NOAA teamed up with the Korean Hydrographic and Oceanographic Agency (KHOA), Oregon State University, and the private company Areté Associates. NOAA contracts awarded through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program funded Areté Associates for the research and development of X-band radar bathymetery technology. SBIR is a competitive program that enables domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization.

NOAA conducted radar bathymetry activities in two locations, the Oregon coast using Oregon State University’s X-band radar installed atop the U.S. Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay tower; and Beaufort, North Carolina, using a temporary X-band radar installation at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Macon near the Beaufort Inlet.

To explore the potential for wide-use and commercialization of the radar data, Areté created a real-time cloud service to automatically process regular uploads of nonproprietary radar data to produce raw and time-averaged radar images and movies, bathymetry and uncertainty grids, and water levels. This method presents potential for planning with regional navigation services field teams because they can easily collect radar data and process it in the cloud, eliminating the need for extra software, a technician, or even training requirements. Further, using the cloud service makes subsequent commercialization of the data easier for third-party developers.

The following is a video of time averaged X-band radar of Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina. This video is a product of Areté’s cloud-based processing service.  Each frame of the movie represents a 15-minute average of the radar backscatter (or images of waves). Notice the evidence of shoaling just outside the entrance to the inlet. Additional processing of the coherent wave-speed images produces derived depths.


NOAA Coast Survey 2017 leadership team

NOAA Office of Coast Survey has some new faces on its leadership team this year.

Director, Coast Survey: Rear Admiral Shepard M. Smith

ShepardSmith-hsRear Admiral Shepard M. Smith was named director of the NOAA Office of Coast Survey in August 2016. As director, Smith oversees NOAA’s charts and hydrographic surveys, ushering in the next generation of navigational products and services for mariners who need integrated delivery of coastal data. Smith has served with NOAA for 23 years, during which time he has been deeply involved in advancing the state-of-the-art in hydrography and nautical cartography. He most recently served as the commanding officer of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and previously served as the chief of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division, managing the privatization of paper chart printing and distribution. He also served on the interagency response teams for the search and recovery of TWA flight 800, EgyptAir flight 990, and the private plane piloted by John F. Kennedy, Jr. He also commanded the Thomas Jefferson during her six-week response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Rear Adm. Smith attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and earned a Master of Science in ocean engineering from the University of New Hampshire.

Deputy Director, Coast Survey: Kathryn Ries

Katie RiesKatie Ries has served as deputy director since 2001, co-leading the workforce of 235 employees and managing the day-to-day operations of Coast Survey’s national program. She also serves as a senior adviser to the director in his role as U.S. representative to the International Hydrographic Organization, and works to advance U.S. positions in IHO policy deliberations. From 2003 to 2012, she chaired the IHO’s MesoAmerican Caribbean Hydrographic Commission’s Electronic Chart Committee, where she led the development and execution of regional charting plans in Caribbean and Central America. With the opening of relations with Cuba, she led the development of a formal working relationship with our Cuban counterparts, resulting in a historic Memorandum of Understanding in 2016 to improve maritime navigation safety and related areas of mutual interest in the Florida Straits. Ries began her career in NOAA as a Presidential Management Fellow in the International Affairs office. She earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master of Art in international public administration from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 1986.

Deputy Hydrographer (Acting), Coast Survey: Rachel Medley

IMG_0605Rachel Medley is the acting deputy hydrographer in Coast Survey, where she focuses on external engagement and messaging strategies, making connections and identifying opportunities between NOAA navigation services and maritime interests. Rachel has long held the mantra of science with purpose and has spent the last decade gaining expertise in charting, hydrographic surveying, and navigation outreach to better understand and communicate Coast Survey’s science, products, and services. Experiences sailing aboard the USCG Cutter Healy as part of an Arctic survey, surveying the Potomac River aboard a navigation response team, and participating in the NOAA response effort to Deep Water Horizon aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces have helped shape Rachel’s dedication and service to the maritime community. Rachel also represented NOAA while on a secondment to the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office acquiring knowledge of international standards, policies, procedures, market and product management, and corporate communications plans. Rachel attended Mount Holyoke College as an undergrad, holds a Master of Science in geosciences from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master of Science in ocean mapping from the University of New Hampshire.  Rachel also has a Master of Science in project management from George Washington University and a LEAD certificate from the Office of Personnel Management.

Resource Manager, Coast Survey: Kathleen Jamison

kathleenjamisonSince 2012, Kathleen has worked for the Coast Survey’s resource management staff, formulating the President’s Budget narrative submissions and other budget scenarios for different funding levels, developing performance metrics for the annual operating plan, preparing testimony for the director, and helping the office strategically position itself for the changing world of nautical charting and hydrographic surveying. Kathleen started at Coast Survey as a nautical cartographer in 2006 before moving into managing hydrographic survey projects, primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. Kathleen participated in NOAA’s Leadership Competency Development Program from 2014-16, including rotations at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, National Centers for Environmental Information, and National Sea Grant Office.  Prior to Kathleen’s career at NOAA, she worked as a grant writer for a non-profit supporting D.C. Public Charter Schools and as a division assistant for arts education at the National Endowment for the Arts. She received her Bachelor of Art in humanities from University of Maryland and her Master of Science in geographic and cartographic sciences from George Mason University.

NOAA/University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center: Andy Armstrong

andyarmstrongCaptain Andy Armstrong (NOAA, ret.)  is co-director of the NOAA/University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center where he leads NOAA’s role in the research, mapping, and educational programs of the center. He is also the bathymetric team leader for the U.S. Interagency Extended Continental Shelf Task Project where he has been responsible for mapping nearly 875,000 square nautical miles of the seafloor in the Arctic Ocean, the U.S. Pacific Islands, and along the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific margins.  Andy joined the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps in 1974, following 4 years of service in the U.S. Navy. He retired from the NOAA Corps in 2001, continuing with NOAA as Co-Director of the Joint Hydrographic Center in a civil service capacity.  He has served on several NOAA hydrographic ships and field parties, conducting hydrographic and bathymetric surveys in Alaska and Hawaii, along the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico coasts, and in the Great Lakes. He served as commanding officer of NOAA Ship Peirce and NOAA Ship Whiting, and as chief of NOAA’s Hydrographic Surveys Division. He has a Bachelor of Science in geology from Tulane University and an Master of Science in technical management from The Johns Hopkins University.

NOAA Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping: Ashley Chappell

AshleyAshley Chappell has served as NOAA’s Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IOCM) coordinator since 2012, working across NOAA and with sister mapping agencies on strategies for data acquisition, stewardship, and re-use.  She also represents the National Ocean Service on the NOAA Arctic team and co-chairs the Committee on Marine Transportation System‘s Arctic team.  Prior to IOCM, Ashley supported Coast Survey and NOAA on budget formulation, performance metrics, policy, and legislation.  She started with NOAA as a cartographer, and nautical charting data is her first love.  Ashley’s undergraduate degree in geography came from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (winner of  2017’s NCAA men’s basketball championship, in case you had not heard).  She earned her Master of Science in geographic and cartographic sciences from George Mason University.


Chief of the Hydrographic Surveys Division: Captain Richard Brennan

rickbrennan-hs.jpgCaptain Brennan has served with the NOAA Corps for over 20 years, most recently as the chief of the Coast Survey Development Lab. He has sailed on nearly every hydrographic ship in the modern NOAA fleet. He has conducted surveys throughout U.S. waters, through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean to the Gulf of Maine, and from the Oregon coast to Chukchi Cap in the Arctic Ocean. Brennan’s most recent sea assignment was as the commanding officer of the NOAA Ship Rainier, surveying Alaskan waters. Captain Brennan has also served as chief of Coast Survey’s Atlantic Hydrographic Branch and as the mid-Atlantic navigation manager. Earlier, Brennan pursued a Master of Science degree in ocean engineering at the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, specializing in ocean mapping, acoustics, and tidal error models. After that, he led the Hydrographic Systems and Technology Program at NOAA, with a focus on transitioning new technology into fleet operations. Captain Brennan graduated from the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. He completed the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executive Fellows program in 2013.

Chief of the Coast Survey Development Laboratory: Captain Edward (E.J.) Van Den Ameele

EdwardJVanDenAmeeleCaptain Van Den Ameele has served 23 years in the NOAA Corps, where he has spent the majority of his career in hydrographic survey operations, marine technology implementation, and business process improvements.  Prior to joining the Coast Survey Development Laboratory, he was commanding officer of NOAA Ship Rainier, conducting hydrographic surveys in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and the Arctic.  He has also previously served aboard NOAA Ships Mount Mitchell, Surveyor, Rainier, and Fairweather.  His previous assignments include serving as chief of business operations at Office of Marine and Aviation Operation’s Marine Engineering Branch in Newport, Oregon, and as the chief of the Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Systems and Technology Program. He has also held assignments at the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Pacific Hydrographic Branch in Seattle, Washington. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, a master’s certificate in technology management from the University of Washington.

Chief of the Marine Chart Division: John Nyberg

John NybergJohn Nyberg served as the deputy chief of the Marine Chart Division from 2010 to 2014, and was named chief in July 2014. As deputy, he helped direct Coast Survey’s chart modernization to digital products, changing the operational focus from paper-based chart compilation to electronic navigational charts. Prior to his work in the Marine Chart Division, Nyberg was deputy chief of Coast Survey’s Navigation Services Division, moving to the leadership position after working as a technical advisor and United States Coast Pilot cartographer. During his 12 years with NSD, he helped manage the procurement of the research vessel Bay Hydrographer II, initiated the modernization of the United States Coast Pilot’s production system, and served as acting navigation manager for Long Island Sound. Nyberg has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, with a major in geography. In 2006, he earned his master’s in international management from the University of Maryland University College.

Chief of the Navigation Services Division: Captain James Crocker

Crocker - official head shotCaptain Crocker has served with the NOAA Corps for 23 years. Most recently, he was the executive director to the Deputy Under Secretary for Operations where he was responsible for executing operational management and policy coordination activities across NOAA’s line and corporate offices. His responsibilities also included serving as a senior advisor to the Deputy Under Secretary. Crocker has conducted hydrographic survey operations from Texas to Maine and from Southern California to the North Slope of Alaska. He recently completed highly successful back-to-back tours of duty as commanding officer of NOAA ships Fairweather and Thomas Jefferson. While serving as commanding officer on Fairweather, he led the first Arctic reconnaissance survey conducted by a NOAA ship to the U.S./Canadian border. Additional NOAA sea experience includes hydrographic survey operations as executive officer on Thomas Jefferson and Rude, and junior officer on Rainier and Heck. Prior to his commands, Capt. Crocker was the chief of operations for the Hydrographic Surveys Division. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree in general management from the College of William & Mary and Bachelor of Science degrees in physical oceanography and ocean engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology.

Coast Survey in World War 1: “an instant and eager response to the country’s call for help”

On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, in the World War that began three years earlier, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. By 1918, over 30 percent of Coast and Geodetic Survey personnel were on active duty with the Army and Navy. With 272 members of the C&GS in active military service, and 5 survey vessels transferred into naval service, the Survey curtailed much of their regularly scheduled hydrographic work. Instead, personnel directed most of their energies to the assistance of the military branches, with the remaining hydrographic parties conducting special confidential surveys for the Navy Department.

Military map 1918
In one example of support for the military, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey prepared this military map in 1918 for the U.S. Signal Corps.


The C&GS 1918 annual report briefly mentioned some of the hydrographic projects:

“Special hydrographic examinations were made by means of the wire drag at points designated by the Navy Department. Among such were the wire-drag surveys in Long Island Sound and in York River (Chesapeake Bay). Quite an extensive wire-drag examination was made of the waters in the vicinity of Eastport, Me. Initial surveys included such work as the location of points for naval fire-control experiments, the reestablishment of the speed-trial course at Lewes, Del., for torpedo-boat destroyers, the location of the Port Jefferson trial course in Long Island Sound, and the Block Island (Rhode Island) trial course.”

Wire drag 1917
This C&GS launch is involved in the wire drag survey off Block Island, 1917


Additional war projects included:

  • Survey of Hampton Roads naval base, for extensive improvements
  • Surveys around the coal piers at Newport News and in the Newport News dredged channel in Hampton Roads, to meet the needs of the Navy Department
  • Surveys of the approaches to Portsmouth Harbor NH, approaches to Narrangansett Bay, Long Island Sound, Florida reefs, Cape Cod Canal, and Plymouth Harbor, to “meet the needs of the Navy Department”
  • Layout of a one-mile trial course at Alexandria VA, for naval vessels

Additionally, the Navy asked for a survey of the Virgin Islands. In addition to the general survey for the Navy, local naval officials requested a number of small surveys. According to the Coast and Geodetic Survey Annual Report, 1918:

“One topographic party was started on the sheet embracing the town and harbor on April 22. The other party was started on the western sheet May 1. Both continued with only short interruptions for signal building and triangulation the balance of the fiscal year.

“Extreme care was taken to obtain accuracy on the sheet covering the town. An elaborate. control was furnished. The contours were determined with more than ordinary precision, due to the fact that the local government is contemplating installing a water system in the vicinity, and the Coast Survey chart would be studied for a waterworks site.

“At the request of the Navy Department particular stress was given the locating of old ruins, stone walls, boundary monuments, etc. All of this topography was done on a 1:10,000 scale. Twenty-foot contours were determined.

“At the request of the local authorities a special topographic survey was made of a piece of alien property which it was contemplated to seize for military purposes. This survey consisted in locating the shore line, docks, houses, and contours.”

(See chart 905, Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda to St Thomas and St Croix, 1921, and chart 906, Virgin Passage and Vieques Sound, 1922)

As happened during the Civil War, Coast and Geodetic Survey ramped up their chart production for the war effort – as well as for the United States Shipping Board, formed in 1917 to promote the development of an American merchant marine, and to address shipping problems during time of war.

Map and chart production in 1919 was 136 percent greater than for the year 1915.

In the annual report of 1919, Capt. E. Lester Jones, Coast and Geodetic Survey director from 1915 to 1929, paid tribute to the service of all C&GS personnel through the war:

“This service has 103 years of active history which show that it has never failed in loyalty, no matter what the call. Its members have always given the benefit of their trained thought and well-informed judgment whenever and wherever they were needed and however they could best be used.

“In the great conflict just ended these traditions have been upheld.

“Admiration is due the spirit that has animated each and every member of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. To a man there was an instant and eager response to the country’s call for help. At all times, a service which is laboring for the safety of mankind, it stood ready to undertake new work. The kind of work needed was varied-all could not go into battle. The men in the field would have been useless without the executive work behind them at home, and all honor is due them, who, showing a steady, uncompromising moral courage, unmoved by clamor and undisturbed by outer excitement, have kept steadily at their posts, carrying on most successfully the important and necessary work here.

“Those who were sent to the field were simply performing their duty in another way, and established an enviable and remarkable record, showing again their unusual adaptability and training.

“The Bureau was about equally represented in both Army and Navy and performed signal valuable service in each.”


“The 200th Anniversary of the Survey of the Coast,” Prologue Magazine, by John Cloud; National Archives, Spring 2007, Vol. 39, No. 1


NOAA Coast Survey offers new certification program in nautical cartography

The International Board on Standards and Competence for Hydrographic Surveyors and Nautical Cartographers (IBSC) recognized and approved Coast Survey’s new certification program in cartography (CAT-B) at their 40th meeting in Willington, New Zealand. Capt. Andy Armstrong (NOAA, ret.), co-director of the Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center at the University of New Hampshire, presented the program at the meeting.

Capt. (NOAA ret.) Andy Armstrong (left) with IBSC Chair, Mr. Adam Greenland (right) at the 40th meeting of the IBSC in Willington, New Zealand.
Capt. Andy Armstrong (left) with IBSC Chair Adam Greenland at the 40th meeting of the IBSC in Willington, New Zealand.

The new program will grant certificates to up to 13 cartographers per year, through a combination of lectures, hands-on chart production experience, work details to various branches within the Coast Survey, and field trips to working hydrographic survey vessels. The first class (which is already full), will begin in fall 2017 at Coast Survey headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. The duration of the program is 51 weeks and comprises six courses:

A refresher course will review basic math, computer and communication technology, marine geography, hydrography, and geodetic topics.

Introduction to cartography course (provided by Montgomery College) will review elements of cartography; specifically scale, design, and data manipulation techniques.

GIS and spatial analysis course (provided by University of Maryland, College Park) will provide a comprehensive understanding of spatial analysis methods and practical experience using GIS.

Map design course (provided by Montgomery College) will offer hands-on experience using various styles and techniques associated with cartographic design, including analysis of chart design parameters and compilation of thematic cartographic projects.

GIS and spatial modeling course (provided by University of Maryland, College Park) will give the student a foundation and understanding of various issues related to modeling and simulation in GIS, including concepts, tools, and techniques of GIS modeling (vector- and raster‐based modeling).

NOAA training project and 12-week internship program will include: 1) a detailed review of many of the activities conducted by the branches in Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division; and 2) a training project that demonstrates the student’s ability to implement the knowledge gained during the certification.

Coast Survey plans to offer this program on annual basis. Registration for the 2018 session will be announced next January.

NOAA wants to learn from you

Coast Survey is in a constant conversation with chart users, marine electronics firms, and maritime officials, listening to the ideas and observations of the people we serve. We want to hear from you!

There are several ways to make a request or suggest an improvement to Coast Survey’s navigational products. You can let us know about a chart discrepancy. You can ask a question online, or call us at 888-990-6622. You can meet with one of our regional navigation managers who are stationed around the U.S. coasts. Or, you can get involved through the Hydrographic Services Review Panel, a federal committee – with public members – who interact with NOAA experts and advise the NOAA administrator.

There are two opportunities coming up for HSRP involvement

JOIN US AT THE NEXT MEETING – The panel meets twice a year to examine navigational and geodetic challenges in specific U.S. regions. In April, they will meet in Seattle, and will hear directly from Pacific Northwest maritime industry representatives, governmental agencies, academics, and recreational boater groups. The two-day meeting will be held on April 18-20, and is open to the public.

The meeting agenda has time set aside every day for public comments in an open forum. If you cannot be there in person, you may sign up to participate in the webcast. You may want to provide written comments in advance (email to, or you can comment using the chat or questions function during the webinar.

APPLY TO JOIN THE PANEL – People who attend panel meetings, and particularly those who have worked with NOAA’s navigation products, know the importance of offering their expertise, time, and experience to discussions about product improvements. These people (and you!) can apply to join the Hydrographic Services Review Panel. Applications are being accepted until May 30. The Federal Register Notice tells you all about it.

Why get involved in the HSRP?

The perspectives of the people who depend on NOAA maritime products – especially for safety or commercial efficiency – are essential to planning improvements of NOAA’s navigational data, services, and products. As we determine future priorities, the Hydrographic Services Review Panel is a vital part of our information gathering process. Panel members have a wide range of expertise and experience, and so the HSRP can bring a diverse set of opinions to NOAA’s decision-making process.

We want to learn from you.

Maybe you would like to join the HSRP for an extended involvement in a range of issues. On the other hand, you may have a particular issue that you would like to bring to the panel’s attention, or you just have a question that one of Coast Survey’s experts can answer. We hope you’ll join in the HSRP’s conversation, in person or via the webinar, in April.

Whether your maritime experience comes from steering a vessel with a paper chart, or setting your course with the next generation of navigation products, we look forward to hearing from you.

Coast Survey joins Florida to survey sensitive site

One of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRT) recently responded to a request by the State of Florida, who needed help surveying a submerged prehistoric archaeological site located offshore of Sarasota County. Last week’s survey and investigation were necessary to map the full extent of the site and the surrounding area.

Florida’s Division of Historical Resources learned of the possible offshore site several months ago, and began working with their contacts at BOEM. The combined federal/state team, working with their resources and experts, then contacted NOAA for assistance. After a series of consultations, Coast Survey and the state’s team of archaeologists planned to use various imagery resources to look at the possible historical site. The NRT, which is conveniently based in Fernandina Beach, Florida, has multibeam and side scan sonar capabilities that could be deployed in the field effort.

The Florida and Coast Survey teams met last week in the Sarasota area. Working on the water for two long days, the NRT and the Historical Resources experts obtained high-resolution data and imagery across the site. With the data in hand, Florida can pursue future efforts to preserve the site and protect its artifacts.

NRT and FL team
The NRT and the State of Florida archaeologists depart for survey operations. Pictured in the NOAA boat are NRT members James Kirkpatrick (acting hydrographer-in-charge) and Lucas Blass. The archaeologists with the Florida Division of Historical Resources are Ryan Duggins, Melissa Price, and Tim Parsons, in the boat on the right.
“The collaboration between NOAA and the State of Florida was exemplary,” observed Tim Osborn, Coast Survey’s navigation manager who arranged NOAA’s resource allocation on the project. “For important endeavors like this, bringing experience and expertise together in a teamwork approach strengthens everyone’s ability to protect important cultural resources.”

Collaborative effort to create new nautical chart returns recreational boaters to Haverhill, Massachusetts

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.

“When NOAA laid out the previous chart of the Merrimack River in the early 1970s, the river did not attract much boating and recreation. I have seen the beauty of today’s river and the Haverhill community–the result of decades of hard work–and I am proud that NOAA can support the communities’ effort to restore the economic vitality of a working waterfront along the Merrimack.”


“This is a great example of public and private partners coming together to advance economic development goals for the region. I commend the Greater Haverhill Foundation for realizing the need for better navigational charts to encourage tourism and I was happy to bring this to the attention of NOAA,” said U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas. “I greatly appreciate NOAA’s responsiveness and dedication to Haverhill and communities all along the Merrimack River.”
Full ENC of the Merrimack River at 1:12,000 scale

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.

New 1:12,000 scale ENC coverage compared to existing smaller-scale coverage of the Merrimack River and nearby coast.

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.

New 1:12,000 scale ENC (a) compared to the existing 1:80,000 ENC (b) of the Haverhill area on the Merrimack River.

“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.

New 1:12,000 scale ENC (a) compared to the existing 1:80,000 ENC (b) of the Rocks Village area on the Merrimack River.

“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.