Navigation Response Team 1 finds vehicle during survey of Intracoastal Waterway, assists sheriff’s office

While surveying the approaches to Panama City (FL), St Andrews Bay, and West Bay, Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 1 recently made an unexpected find. When team members Mark McMann and Aurel Piantanida reviewed hydrographic data collected with their side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder, they discovered an upside-down vehicle in Panama City’s West Bay Creek, part of the Intracoastal Waterway (see chart 11385).

NRT 1's multibeam echo sounder captures the submerged car's image.
NRT1’s multibeam echo sounder captures the submerged car’s image.

The vehicle location was adjacent to the channel maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, and so it was not an obstruction to navigation. However, it was near a bulkhead where a local company loads gravel onto barges, and NRT1 was concerned about the safety of the barges.

NRT 1's side scan sonar shows the car adjacent to the channel in West Bay Creek.
NRT1’s side scan sonar shows the car adjacent to the channel in West Bay Creek.

The team relayed the information to Bay County’s sheriff who sent divers to the location. With the NRT’s assistance, the sheriff’s divers found the vehicle and called in heavy equipment from the local gravel company to remove it.

The Bay County Sheriff's office called in heavy equipment operators to remove the car found by NRT1.
The Bay County Sheriff’s office called in heavy equipment operators to remove the car found by NRT1.

Why was the 2007 Ford Escape in the creek? The investigation is in the able hands of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. In the meantime, thanks to the sheriff’s response, led by Sgt. William T. Brotherston, a risk to the barges was removed.

The star on West Bay Creek marks the location of the submerged car.
The star on West Bay Creek marks the location of the submerged car.

obstruction_West_Bay_Creek_Chart_Location

Survey discovers exposed natural gas pipeline south of Mobile Bay

Ocean floors are always changing. Coast Survey’s hydrographic surveys are intended to find and measure those changes. Often, we need to do more than that, as shown by a recent survey of the seafloor in Alabama coastal waters.

A Coast Survey contractor ‒ David Evans and Associates ‒ found a large high-pressure natural gas pipeline that had been uncovered and was lying exposed, as shown by this side scan sonar image. The exposed 36-inch diameter pipeline, pressured to 2,100 psi, posed a threat to navigation and the environment.

Side scan sonar of exposed pipeline

NOAA navigation manager Tim Osborn worked in concert with the contractor to report the danger to the Department of Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOERME), and to the U.S. Coast Guard District 8 Headquarters Waterways Section. Tim and the contractor were able to provide precise positions, imagery, and other resources.

The Coast Guard is warning mariners to avoid the area.

The pipeline delivers over 1.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to the 20 million residents of Florida. In addition to posing a threat to the marine environment, an accidental rupture of the pipe could cause a national economic impact in losing a huge supply of energy.

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Learn more about hydrographic surveys and side scan sonar.