This week marks two historic events. On Monday, BP, the United States, and the five Gulf States agreed to a settlement resolving claims for federal civil penalties and natural resource damages related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The settlement is now set forth in a proposed Consent Decree that includes up to $8.8 billion for natural resource damages stemming from the spill. Staff members from across NOS programs worked tirelessly over the past five years to assess injuries to the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources; this settlement recognizes the success of their work. Learn more from the Office of Response and Restoration here.
Also on Monday, President Obama announced that, for the first time since 2000, two new national marine sanctuaries have been identified by NOAA for possible designation under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. The two areas are an 875-square-mile area of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin and a 14-square-mile area of the tidal Potomac River in Maryland called Mallows Bay. Both nominations received tremendous community support. With this announcement, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries kicks off a public input process. Learn more here.
Finally, I’d like to acknowledge our staff members who live in areas on the East Coast impacted by the recent unrelenting rain, particularly those in the Carolinas. Our thoughts are with you as you recover from the devastating effects of these storms.
W. Russell Callender, Ph.D.
Acting Assistant Administrator
Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management,
National Ocean Service
As record ocean temperatures cause widespread coral bleaching across Hawaii, NOAA scientists confirm that the same stressful conditions are expanding to the Caribbean and may last into 2016. As a result, NOAA declared the onset of the third global coral bleaching event ever on record. The bleaching event is hitting U.S. coral reefs disproportionately hard. NOAA estimates that by the end of 2015, almost 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs will have been exposed to ocean conditions that can cause corals to bleach. While corals can recover from mild bleaching, severe or long-term bleaching is often lethal. After corals die, reefs quickly degrade and coral structures erode. This results in less shoreline protection from storms and fewer habitats for fish and other marine life. Learn more here.
Results from a six-year NCCOS-sponsored study on the impacts of “shoreline hardening” (such as bulkheads and riprap) on submerged aquatic plants, crabs, fish, ducks, and geese in the Chesapeake Bay prompted government regulators to consider the cumulative impacts of these installations. In some Chesapeake tributaries, up to 80 percent of the shoreline has been hardened. Unfortunately, this practice impedes natural processes, such as the growth of wetland plants and seagrasses. The study is investigating the large-scale effects of shoreline hardening on the entire estuary, and how the system might recover were natural habitats restored. As development along the bay increases every year, it has become apparent that a different approach to erosion control is necessary. Scientists suggest that a regional approach to protecting the bay’s critical shallow habitats could improve the estuary’s health while addressing property owners’ concerns.
Last week’s nor'easter and hurricane caused extensive shoreline impacts and flooding throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. NGS collected aerial imagery beginning October 6, identifying the area from Cape May, NJ, to Brunswick, GA, of primary concern. It was the first time NOAA collected “oblique” imagery—aerial images taken from an angle instead of “straight down”—in an emergency response effort. This allows a wider area to be photographed and improves the visibility of vertical structures like buildings and land features like the coastline. It was also NOAA’s first response effort to deliver imagery via contracted Cloud computing services, resulting in an estimated 90 percent cost savings and sixfold faster processing. NOAA imagery helps determine the extent of coastal flooding and identifies hazards to navigation and damages sustained by property and the environment.
OCS is sharing the latest information on NOAA’s suite of navigational products for recreational boaters at the United States Sailboat Show, which opens today (October 8) in Annapolis, MD. Visitors to Booth D21 can get free PDF BookletCharts and print-on-demand paper charts, and see OCS personnel demonstrate products and data accessibility. Hours are 10 am – 6:30 pm Thursday through Sunday, and 10 am – 5 pm Monday.
Hawaii recently became the second state in the nation (following Vermont) to create a court dedicated to environmental issues. The Hawaii Environmental Court offers an innovative approach to marine and terrestrial conservation and provides a means for more effective enforcement of the state's natural resources laws. The creation of the court recognizes the complexity of environmental cases and the benefits of specially trained judges to oversee them. To assist in the effort, CRCP worked with the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources to fund legal fellows to help develop penalty schedules for marine violations and training materials for judges and prosecutors.
An interactive 90-minute webinar on risk communication is now available for coastal communities. “Seven Best Practices for Risk Communication” teaches participants how to apply risk behavior science and communication techniques in their communities. Offered on a quarterly basis, the webinar focuses on the fundamentals of behavior change, with an emphasis on encouraging people to be proactive. For more information, visit the Digital Coast.
For the past few weeks, the CO-OPS HAB team has been busy issuing forecasts for a widespread bloom in Texas of Karenia brevis (commonly known as Texas red tide). The reports are available to the public and provide daily respiratory irritation forecasts by coastal region, as well as potential bloom transport and intensification. On September 30, the HAB team celebrated the fifth anniversary of the expansion of NOAA’s HAB Operational Forecast System to this part of Texas.
Recent analyses by OR&R scientists indicate that fish in the Lower Hudson River won’t achieve the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) protective goals until decades later than predicted in a 2002 Record of Decision (ROD). Data collected after the 2002 ROD reveals higher estimates of post-remedy PCB sediment concentrations, and Lower River fish that will remain unacceptably contaminated for decades longer than hypothesized. Upper River fish will also take much longer to achieve the ROD’s protective goals. The Hudson River Superfund Site is 200 miles long, has been highly contaminated for decades, and will remain contaminated for decades into the future without additional sediment removal. State officials and at least one Member of Congress have echoed the federal trustees’ message calling for further cleanup of the Hudson.
NOS Acting Assistant Administrator
Dr. Russell Callender
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