Exploring the Use of Drones for Oiled Shoreline Assessments
OR&R, the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and the U.S. Coast Guard teamed up with Chevron Corporation to explore the utility of drones as a reconnaissance tool for shoreline oiling. During an oil spill, the nature and extent of shoreline oiling are usually determined by ground-based surveys using the Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique (SCAT). In situations when shorelines cannot be safely accessed (e.g., heavy surf conditions, rocky outcrops, cliff or bluff bases) or when they include sensitive habitats like marshes, SCAT may be limited to conducting helicopter-based and/or ground-based binocular surveys, or no surveys at all. Emerging technologies like drones may become important elements in future SCAT survey efforts.
Team OCEAN: Sanctuary Ambassadors on the Waterfront
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Team OCEAN volunteers and staff work to promote safe and enjoyable public use of the marine environment while protecting natural resources. During the 2016 season, volunteers contributed 263 hours of service and interacted with approximately 800 recreational boaters. During peak tourist season and heavy-traffic holidays and weekends, Team OCEAN manned sanctuary vessels at popular reef sites throughout the Keys. Team OCEAN encourages proper use of sanctuary resources and provides tips on how to practice basic boating safety and reef etiquette. Informational packets are offered to vessels, which include free charts and helpful tips for navigating the Sanctuary. Team OCEAN members also serve as sanctuary “ambassadors” on the waterfront, promoting responsible tourism opportunities to visitor-related businesses.
Sharing Knowledge of SET Technology at Wetland Resiliency Workshop
NGS served as a subject matter expert on wetland resiliency at a regional workshop in Cape Charles, VA. The workshop brought together scientists who use Surface Elevation Table (SET) technology to monitor wetland elevation changes in sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay. More than 20 participants from Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware attended the workshop, which was co-hosted by the Virginia Coastal Reserve, the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative, and Maryland Sea Grant. The aim was to compare datasets and trends within a similar framework of wetland resiliency to local sea level rise to better inform managers and decision makers on wetland sustainability or wetland loss in the region.
NOAA Briefs U.S. Navy on Sea Level Rise Information
CO-OPS and OCM met with the Oceanographer of the Navy to discuss NOAA sea level rise and coastal inundation data, tools, and predictions, and how they could be incorporated into the planning of naval installations. Topics included the Digital Coast platform, Sea Level Rise Viewer tool, and ongoing efforts to develop regional sea level rise scenarios in support of the interagency Sea Level Rise Task Force.
Whale Alert App Benefits Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Busy shipping lanes that coincide with whale feeding areas, breeding regions, and migratory routes present an immense threat of ship strikes to whales. With the free Whale Alert app, mariners and the public have a user-friendly tool directly on their iPads or iPhones that displays “whale safety zones.” The app also allows users to report any live, dead, or distressed whale sightings to the appropriate response agency. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is now using the near real-time data submitted via both the Whale Alert and SpotterPro apps to complement its monthly marine mammal aerial survey of shipping lanes in the Santa Barbara Channel. Eleven endangered blue whales and two humpback whales were spotted during the last survey—the highest number of individuals recorded this year. Whale Alert is a collaboration among government agencies, academic institutions, nonprofit conservation groups, and private companies.
American Cyanamid Settlement Agreement Released for Public Comment
NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection released for public comment a settlement agreement with a potentially responsible party for contamination related to the American Cyanamid Superfund Site located on the Raritan River in Bridgewater, New Jersey. The facility was used for the manufacture of chemicals, dyes, and pharmaceuticals, and for coal tar distillation, starting in the early 1900s. The settlement agreement, which addresses liability natural resource injuries only, includes (1) reimbursement of the Trustees’ past assessment costs, (2) removal of the Weston Mill Dam in Franklin Township and Manville Borough, (3) monitoring before and after the dam’s removal, (4) an analysis of fish passage alternatives for the Island Farm Weir and the design of a Trustee-approved alternative, and (5) reimbursement of future Trustee oversight costs. Public comments on the Consent Decree will be accepted until December 16.
‘Seaside with a Scientist’ at Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
The “Seaside with a Scientist” event at Mississippi’s Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve transported dozens of adults and children by boat deep into the estuary to learn firsthand about scientific research. Connecting Grand Bay Reserve scientists to members of the local community improves people’s understanding about what the reserve is doing to protect and conserve estuaries. Some projects currently under way study how a local bird species is affected by environmental changes, how “blue carbon” is stored within marshes, and how prescribed burns can improve maritime pine savannas. Chevron Corporation partnered with the Grand Bay Reserve to hold the special event, which was part of National Estuaries Week.
Studying the Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Hawaii Island
An NCCOS-funded Ecological Effects of Sea level Rise project led by The Nature Conservancy on the Big Island of Hawaii is predicting the effects of sea-level rise on unique and historic Hawaiian groundwater-fed pools, wetlands, and fishponds. Data from the project will support mapping and app development with various sea level rise scenarios. Fishponds have cultural significance to native Hawaiians and are integral to the state’s watershed and land stewardship system. These waterbodies occur throughout the west Hawaii coastal corridor and support numerous endemic species while providing key ecosystem services to natural and human communities. Other partners include the National Park Service and local communities, groups, and agencies.
A Remedy for New Jersey’s Lower Passaic River
NOAA and its co-trustees are assessing natural resource damages in the Lower Passaic River and Greater Newark Bay. The sediment of the lower 8.3 miles of the river—part of the Diamond Alkali Superfund Site—is heavily contaminated with dioxin, PCBs, heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins, and fisheries there have long been closed as a result. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a major step forward in the site’s cleanup and restoration by securing $165 million to design a $1.38 billion remedy for this section of the river.
Hawaii’s Oceanic ‘Twilight Zone’ Yields Important Discoveries
Sixteen NOAA-funded authors published A Comprehensive Investigation of Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago, which summarizes more than a decade of research on the deep coral reefs of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM). The use of cutting-edge technology to access these remote habitats, which some refer to as the oceanic “twilight zone,” resulted in several important discoveries. Among the most significant were levels of endemism—species unique to a specific geographic location—approaching 100 percent in PMNM fish assemblages. This is the highest level of endemism recorded in any marine ecosystem on Earth.
Marine Biogeographic Assessment of Main Hawaiian Islands
Hawaii is developing local renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, primarily by exploring opportunities with offshore wind. NCCOS partnered with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to evaluate potential human, coastal, and marine impacts from these projects through a biogeographic assessment of the ecosystems surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands. The resulting report, interactive map, and data provide information about marine life and the physical environment of offshore Hawaii. It also includes an overview of benthic habitats and corals, fishes, sea turtles, marine mammals, and sea birds. Funded by BOEM, NCCOS worked in collaboration with federal, state, academic, and nongovernmental entities to synthesize existing data from years of research.
Regional Initiative to Protect Blue Whales and Blue Skies
In an effort to reduce air pollution while also protecting whales, 10 shipping companies joined an initiative to voluntarily reduce ship speeds to 12 knots or less. In California, ships account for more than 50 percent of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in Santa Barbara County and more than 25 percent of NOx emissions in Ventura County. Ship strikes are also a major threat to whale populations. Slowing ship speeds reduces both air pollution and the risk of fatal strikes on whales. The initiative is through the 2016 vessel speed reduction incentive program, spearheaded through a collaboration of partners that includes Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The success of the partnership could serve as a model to be used throughout the national marine sanctuary system as a collaborative effort that incorporates best business practices to protect marine resources.
2017 Tide Tables and Tidal Current Tables Completed
CO-OPS completed the official 2017 Tide Tables and Tidal Current Tables publications. These annual publications have been produced by CO-OPS and its predecessors for 150 years; the first annual publication was for tide predictions in 1867. The 2017 Tide Tables, East Coast of North and South America, include updates to predictions in Cuba. The 2017 Tidal Current Tables, Pacific Coast of North America and Asia, include updates to tidal current predictions in Puget Sound, Washington.
NOAA Leads U.S. Delegation at 6th Meeting of Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission
Office of Coast Survey Director RDML Shepard Smith led the U.S. delegation–including representatives from NOAA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Navy–to the 6th meeting of the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (ARHC) in Iqaluit, Canada. The purpose of the meeting was to advance bilateral cooperation with the Russian Federation to eliminate electronic chart overlaps in the Bering and Chukchi Seas and secure hydrographic data to update the ARHC’s nautical chart assessment study. The ARHC also established the Arctic Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure Working Group to advance integration of marine data for the Arctic and confirm the Russian Federation to the International Hydrographic Organization Council, which will be established in spring 2017. The ARHC provides a forum for collaboration to ensure safety of life at sea, protect the increasingly fragile Arctic ecosystem, and support the maritime economy.
Response Tool CAFE Wins Environmental Award
OR&R’s response tool, the Chemical Aquatic Fate and Effects (CAFE) database, allows spill responders to estimate the fate and effects of thousands of chemicals, dispersants, oils, and dispersed oils on freshwater and marine resources. First released in 2015, CAFE’s data and features were updated in 2016. CAFE was recently recognized by the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) as the winner of its 2016 Environmental Product Marine Environment Protection Award. Awards were judged on alignment with NAMEPA goals (“Save our Seas”), educational benefit, environmental benefit, innovation, and measurable successes in improving protection of the marine environment.
Pacific Geodetic Advisor Supports Republic of the Marshall Islands
NGS’s Pacific Geodetic Advisor is working with the Division of Lands and Survey, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), to upgrade the geodetic control of Majuro Atoll following NGS Height Modernization guidelines. The project will help RMI develop new models to delineate locations vulnerable to seawater inundation during extreme high tide events and adaption strategies for projected sea level rise scenarios. Additionally, the advisor will work with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Universities of Hawaii and Guam, and the Marshall Islands Conservation Society on coastal topographic and bathymetric mapping using unmanned aircraft systems to support inundation modeling in RMI. Other activities include training on project planning and GPS observations and processing, so that RMI surveyors can achieve accurate positions (latitude, longitude, and height) while complying with recognized standards for georeferenced data.