NOAA’s updated hydrographic survey specifications now available for public comment

A draft of the new Hydrographic Survey Specifications and Deliverables document from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is now posted to the Federal Register, where it will be available for public comment until October 12, 2023. All interested parties are encouraged to review the draft and provide feedback via the instructions provided in the Federal Register Notice.

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Historical Hydrography on the St. Mary’s River

An image of NOAA's Bay Hydro II on the water with the Echoboat 240, uncrewed system in the foreground.

By Riley O’Connor

In November 1633, the Ark and the Dove set sail from the Isle of Wight—an island off the south coast of England—carrying English and Irish settlers bound for the new colony of Maryland. By January 1634, both vessels arrived at the Island of Barbados and began heading for the colony of Maryland. These settlers sailed into the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River, and eventually, the St. Mary’s River.  They stopped roughly 12 miles (19 km) northwest from Point Lookout, where the Potomac River enters the Chesapeake Bay. This group of settlers would go on to found Maryland’s first European settlement and future provincial capital, St. Mary’s City.

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Research vessel Bay Hydro II makes history on Mayland’s Elk River

NOAA survey vessel Bay Hydro II in it's homeport at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
By Lt.j.g. Carly Robbins, junior officer in charge R/V Bay Hydro II

Situated on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay, 162 nautical miles above the Virginia Capes, Elk River is the western approach to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The canal is one of the busiest waterways in the country. It connects the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, servicing the ports of Baltimore, Wilmington, and Philadelphia. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regularly surveys the dredged channels in the approaches and in the canal, but they are not responsible for the remaining waters of the Elk River. The Elk River was last surveyed in the early 1900s, making depths on the nautical chart close to 100 years old! As a result, NOAA R/V Bay Hydro II was tasked to conduct a modern hydrographic survey of Elk River in Spring 2023.

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NOAA releases 2023 hydrographic survey season plans

An image showing all NOAA hydrographic survey vessels.

NOAA hydrographic survey ships, navigation response teams, and contractors are preparing for the 2023 hydrographic survey season. The ships and survey vessels collect bathymetric data (i.e. map the seafloor) to support nautical charting, modeling, and research, but also collect other environmental data to support a variety of ecosystem sciences. NOAA considers hydrographic survey requests from stakeholders such as marine pilots, local port authorities, the Coast Guard, and the boating community, and also considers other hydrographic and NOAA science priorities in determining where to survey and when. Visit our “living” ArcGIS StoryMap to find out more about our mapping projects and if a hydrographic vessel will be in your area this year!

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Supporting the mighty Columbia River through strong partnerships

An image of the Hood River Bridge crossing the Columbia River.

The Columbia River and its tributaries comprise one of the largest river systems in North America, flowing from British Columbia, Canada and through the United States to its final destination, the Pacific Ocean. The river is used extensively for transporting various cargoes into and out of the United States including forest products, grain, containerized cargo and bulk products like salt and cement. Upstream of Portland, barge and recreational traffic navigate the river to Kennewick, Washington or Lewiston, Idaho on the Snake River. For the people that use this river for its resources, this traffic almost assuredly has some type of ecological impact.

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Conducting survey operations with Coast Survey’s navigation response teams

An image showing the navigation response team retrieving the survey vessel from the water.

Strategically placed around the country, NOAA’s navigation response teams―30-foot survey vessels with a three-person survey team―maintain emergency readiness while checking chart accuracy in changing ports and harbors. Navigation response teams work day-to-day in ports and harbors, collecting data to update the nation’s nautical charts. They measure depths, locate obstructions, report dangers to navigation, and update features for safe navigation. Whether there is a need to investigate wrecks, check for suspected shoals, conduct surveys for coastal management, or work with other federal agencies to support homeland security, Coast Survey’s navigation response teams have the expertise to get the job done safely and efficiently.

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NOAA focuses on the Great Lakes for the 2022 field season

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson shown from the bridge wing of a passing ship outside of Montreal, Quebec.

In 2022, NOAA and NOAA contractors will survey U.S. coastal waters and beyond, including multiple missions in the Great Lakes. As the volume, value and size of marine vessels in U.S. waters continues to grow, it is essential that NOAA increase the accuracy and frequency of surveys. A great amount of data on nautical charts of the Great Lakes is more than 50 years old, and only about 5 to 15 percent of the Great Lakes are mapped to modern standards using remote sensing methods such as light detection and ranging and sound navigation and ranging.

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Coast Survey’s mobile integrated survey team goes to Antarctica

An image of the United States Coast Guard cutter Polar Star docked at McMurdo Station ice pier on a relatively ice free day for Winter Quarters Bay.
By, Annie Raymond

In 1959, following the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, scientists from twelve nations conducting active research in Antarctica came together and signed the Antarctic Treaty. In the years following, 42 additional countries acceded to the treaty. The treaty preserves the entire continent and surrounding waters solely for purposes of peaceful scientific collaboration and bans resource extraction and military activity. McMurdo Station on Ross Island, operated by the United States through the United States Antarctic Program, a branch of the National Science Foundation (NSF), has emerged as the largest year-round station and primary logistics hub for the region. The first U.S. Operation Deep Freeze happened prior to and in support of the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58. Since then, Operation Deep Freeze has continued annually and has become the name for supply sealift missions to McMurdo, delivering fuel, food, and supplies to scientists in Antarctica.

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Aid to navigation recovery operations with NOAA’s Navigation Response Branch and the U.S. Coast Guard

Flushing Bay Channel Lighted Buoy 3 was struck by a tug and barge in late July, and was reported sunk immediately following the strike. The buoy marks the entrance to a channel frequented by commercial barge traffic, specifically, loaded fuel barges bound for LaGuardia International Airport. The Navigation Response Branch (NRB) was called upon in early August to assist United States Coast Guard (USCG) Sector New York in locating the sunken buoy in Flushing Bay, New York.

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By the Numbers: Coast Survey’s 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season

NOAA Office of Coast Survey 2020 hurricane season infographic

As the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season came to a close on November 30, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey tallied a few numbers to see what the combined response effort of the navigation response teams, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, and hydrographic survey contractor David Evans & Associates, Inc., looked like.  

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