Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced in Norfolk, Va. today $40 million for critical hydrographic survey and chart projects across the United States that strengthen the economy, create jobs, and support safe and efficient marine commerce and trade. Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will allocate $32 million to utilize hydrographic surveying contractors to collect data in critical coastal areas which are used to map the seafloor and update nautical charts.
“These Recovery Act contracts are an important investment in our nation’s marine transportation system, which employs more than 13 million people. Our waterways are facing unprecedented demands from marine commerce, but our seafloor mapping is outdated,” Secretary Locke said. “Charting our coastal seafloors for the most up-to-date information gives ports and shippers important data to increase efficiency and safety, boosting our nation’s long-term economic health.”
Across our country, ocean transportation already contributes more than $742 billion to the national economy. All commercial shipping vessels rely on NOAA’s nautical charts to safely pass through U.S. waters. Those charts are generated and updated with data gathered by hydrographic surveys.
Recovery Act funding will be used to conduct 39 surveys, charting nearly 2,000 square nautical miles in the Chesapeake Bay, and in the coastal waters of Alaska, Washington, California, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Virginia. Using the latest technologies, surveyors map the sea floor, measure the water depth, search the ocean for storm debris or accident wreckage, and record the natural features of coastal seabeds and fragile aquatic life.
Between 2010 and 2020, the value of freight carried in and out of U.S. ports is predicted to increase 43 percent. To accommodate this growth, facility planners need hydrographic survey data to facilitate this century’s bigger ships and busier waterways. The information gathered through these surveys will also support essential planning efforts along coastlines providing important data to help balance the conservation needs of fragile ecosystems and competing demands for coastal ocean space for navigation, alternative energy, or other commercial purposes. [NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey](http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/) is managing the projects. Surveying will cover high priority maritime areas on the U.S. Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. Surveying firms conducting the work are based in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.
The Recovery Act will fund private hydrographic survey firms to complete the following projects:
[li]Alaska – $5.3 million. Seven surveys cover 674 square nautical miles. These surveys encompass Unimak Pass and shipping safe transit lanes. This critical area experiences high levels of commercial shipping between the Pacific Northwest and Japan, with about 3,000 ships transiting annually. Surveys here will support safe navigation, protecting sensitive ecological resources and coastal tourism from the devastating effects of maritime accidents.[/li][/ul]
[li]Washington – $1.3 million. Four surveys cover 34 square nautical miles. The surveys in Puget Sound encompass an area west of Tacoma and Commencement Bay. This project supports the efforts of the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health and the Puget Sound Partnership. Data gathered during the survey will support safe marine transportation and characterize marine habitats. Coastal managers can also use the information to select appropriate sites for renewable energy projects and to monitor the effects of climate change.[/li][/ul]
[li]California – $3 million. Four surveys cover 112 square nautical miles. These surveys in the approaches to the San Francisco Bay area contribute to the California Seafloor Mapping Project, a multi-year partnership to develop the first comprehensive and seamless maps of California’s seafloor and marine resources. The data acquired in this project will enhance efforts to manage marine ecosystems and coastal resources, to identify obstructions to navigation, and to better understand the California coast’s unique natural hazards.[/li][/ul]
[li]Louisiana – $7 million. Seven surveys cover 441 square nautical miles. The surveys are located offshore of Terrebonne Bay, La. The area contains a high concentration of oil and gas production platforms and their associated pipelines. Supply vessels supporting oil and gas production, as well as the fishing fleet who navigate these waters rely on this information.[/li][/ul]
[li]Florida/Alabama – $3.4 million. Three surveys cover 104 square nautical miles. These surveys encompass the safe transit lanes, anchorages and approaches to Pensacola. U.S. Navy ships, coastal shipping vessels and fishing vessels navigate these waters regularly and their safe transit relies on this information.[/li][/ul]
[li]Georgia/Florida – $3 million. Five surveys cover 148 square nautical miles. The Brunswick, Ga. port is expanding after recent dredging operations requiring updated survey data for shippers and naval submarines transiting the area. Updated charts will also help to minimize the chance of ships striking endangered Right Whales and will benefit commercial and recreational fishermen who monitor bottom terrain.[/li][/ul]
[li]Virginia – $4.3 million. Five surveys cover 125 square nautical miles in the busy southern Chesapeake Bay. An increase in marine commerce, including the transport of liquefied natural gas, as well as significant recreational boating makes this a critical area for charting.[/li][/ul]
[li]Virginia – $4.1 million. Four surveys cover 219 square nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean, most of which have not been surveyed since 1939 when lead line measurements were used. Heavy coastal shipping traffic in the area will benefit from updated charts.[/li][/ul]
An additional $8.24 million in Recovery Act funds have been allocated for data collection activities that support the development of nautical charts and coastal planning. More information on funded projects nationwide is available on the NOAA Recovery ActWeb site. The public can follow the progress of each project on the recovery site, which will include an interactive online map that enables the public to track where and how NOAA recovery funds are spent.
NOAA’s mission is to understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.