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The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) are funding a project to help the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other communities in southeast Alaska establish a harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring program for recreational and subsistence shellfisheries. In October, two cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) were reported by the state and prompted the closure of most southeast Alaska commercial shellfishery areas since the opening of the fall fishery. However, recreational and subsistence shellfishers in the region continue to get sick from PSP exposure in non-tested areas outside the commercial zone. The NCCOS project will support a workshop for state and tribal resource and public health managers, where researchers from NOAA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a contractor will provide expert guidance on running a HAB monitoring program, hands-on training on HAB cell identification, and advice on toxin detection methods. Support for NOAA participants will be provided by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
The Office of Coast Survey (OCS) supported efforts to clear a navigational hazard from the Mississippi River last week, after a barge sank in the river south of Baton Rouge, La. Since the specific location of the wreck was unknown, shipping was halted until a clear path for navigation could be assured. With the closest NOAA survey vessel working states away and unable to immediately respond, an OCS navigation manager consulted with the U.S. Coast Guard and a private survey company, to help plan the surveys conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and their team. The barge was located, and traffic was reopened to deep draft ships as plans were made to raise the wreck. To ensure that removal operations avoided underwater pipeline crossings, an OCS cartographer plotted the wreck position and provided the NOAA nautical chart with locations indicated.
On Nov. 19, the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) hosted a webinar on how to acquire accurate heights in western states. Participants from federal and local governments, universities, and private industry learned about NGS' National Height Modernization Program initiative to establish accurate, reliable elevations using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology in conjunction with traditional leveling, gravity, and modern remote sensing information. NGS presented its plans for a new vertical reference frame and familiarized participants with the products and tools it provides to the public. Participants discussed how other states and agencies are implementing height modernization and the challenges involved in obtaining accurate elevation information in western states, such as tectonic motion and localized subsidence.
On Nov. 15, NOAA's National Marine Protected Areas Center issued a new report on the state of marine protected areas in the United States titled, "Marine Protected Areas of the United States: Conserving Our Oceans, One Place at a Time." The report provides a detailed snapshot of the coverage, level of protection, resources protected, and ecological representativeness of MPAs in U.S. waters. It also features brief case studies in MPA management from around the country, including NOAA's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. For the first time, the report summarizes data on U.S. MPAs specifically protected for their natural heritage--ecosystems, biodiversity, habitats, and species--as well as for their cultural resources and values. This focus on natural and cultural heritage MPAs provides greater comparability with the accepted international definition of MPAs established by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The University of California, Santa Barbara Ocean Science Education Building (OSEB), home to the new main office for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, has been awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification recognizes the building's energy and resource efficient design, storm water management, and low environmental impact from construction practices and materials, which included more than 20 percent recycled content. In addition to the sanctuary office, OSEB will eventually house the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science, an interactive space for children and adults to learn about marine ecosystems and processes. The LEED Gold Certification signifies that OSEB was designed and built to achieve high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.
On Oct. 29-30, the Alaska ShoreZone Partners held their annual meeting in Anchorage for scientists, GIS specialists, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies to present new developments in 2013. ShoreZone is a mapping and classification system that specializes in the collection and interpretation of low-altitude aerial imagery of the coastal environment. At the meeting, ShoreZone presented a new development (with funding from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement) to digitize video and photo imagery for the North Slope. A representative from the Office of Response and Restoration presented at this meeting on the integration of ShoreZone imagery and biological information into Arctic ERMA® that can be used for planning, preparedness, response, or a natural resource damage assessment. Looking ahead, plans are being discussed to integrate ShoreZone imagery into stand-alone ERMA® for use in situations where Internet connectivity is unreliable.
Hawaii has new ocean and coastal data available to inform weather forecasts and enable safer, more efficient marine transportation. The Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS), a regional member of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®), with support from Young Brothers, recently deployed a wave buoy about three nautical miles off Hanalei on the north shore of Kauai. The buoy measures wave period, height, and direction as well as sea surface temperature. The buoy joins the existing PacIOOS network of 11 real-time wave buoys in Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Marshall Islands. This is the first buoy off the island of Kauai. Wave buoys stream data to inform safe navigation and recreation as well as provide critical information for coastal hazards and low-lying inundation forecasts for north-facing shores.
In response to the impacts of Sandy, a team of federal agency policy and science experts partnered to create an interactive sea level rise mapping and calculator tool that helps planners, managers, and decision makers identify and prepare for future flood risks related to sea level rise. Recognizing the need to more quickly inform rebuilding decisions, the team expedited development of the tool. The team was awarded Climate Champion for the 2013 Presidential GreenGov Awards. The GreenGov awards celebrate President Obama's Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in environmental, energy, and economic performance. The team included staff members from NOAA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Global Change Research Program.
The NOAA Digital Coast website now includes a number of new Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data sets contributed by outside partners. These data sets provide LIDAR in areas that were lacking high-resolution elevation data, provide newer LIDAR to existing areas, or provide a source for customized LIDAR downloads. A 2012 LIDAR data set provides complete coastal coverage of the Northeast region from Connecticut through Maine. Data for 2000-2012 covers the Puget Sound area. Taken together, 2006 data from Ohio and 2006-2008 data from Pennsylvania cover the U.S. shorelines of Lakes Erie and Ontario. A sizeable portion of the Mississippi River Delta is covered in a 2009 data set. Lastly, multi-county areas in the state of Mississippi are covered in a 2011-2012 data set.
Scientists funded by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) participated in a recent forum held by the Michigan House Democrats’ Great Lakes and Conservation Task Force to address human-caused stresses to Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. The team presented findings and recommendations related to phosphorus inputs and eutrophication symptoms that are adversely affecting the bay’s fisheries and water quality. The NCCOS-funded team is currently involved in a five-year project to study the combined effect of multiple stressors on the bay, which have resulted in the loss of many ecosystem services people value. Eutrophication, unchecked, can result in the loss of many ecosystem services people value.
This week, the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) performed a geodetic survey of the peak of the Washington Monument. NGS fabricated an adapter to enable a GPS antenna and traditional survey instruments to be affixed to the peak for the project. These surveys will allow NOAA to establish a new definitive height for the monument and allow comparisons with future surveys to detect any changes in height. While the peak has been used as a visible survey point for more than a century, it is rare for the monument to be occupied by survey equipment. The last height survey was done in 1999.
On November 5, NOAA unveiled a new web-based viewer called ENC Online, which will allow people to see NOAA’s electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) as they actually appear on electronic charting systems. ENC Online provides a continuous depiction of the U.S. coastal and marine environment; users can zoom to selected features depicted on nearly 1,000 ENCs of NOAA-charted waters, and will be able to measure areas, distance, and other functions. ENCs are increasingly popular with commercial mariners, who value the charts’ flexibility and multi-layered information.
The revised draft Alaska Dispersant Preauthorization plan is now public. The draft describes a preauthorization area focused on the offshore approaches (more than 24 miles offshore) to Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, and the Aleutians. The proposed preauthorization area extends into the southern Bering Sea. The plan also includes a case-by-case dispersant use authorization process. The preauthorization only applies to crude oil. A series of outreach meetings and government-to-government consultations are planned this fall in central and western Alaska to inform stakeholders and seek comments on the proposed plan.
In preparation for the upcoming tidal datum updates in areas of Alaska and Louisiana that experience rapid land movement, a notice was published in the Federal Register announcing NOAA's use of a modified procedure for tidal datums in areas of anomalous relative sea level trends. "Notice of Change to the Nation's Tidal Datums with the Adoption of a Modified Procedure for Computation of Tidal Datums in Area of Anomalous Sea-Level Change" was published in the Federal Register on October 25. A technical report is being finalized and will be published on the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services website. The report details the modified procedure and the areas where it is used.
A renewable energy transmission company is using National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) products to help assess routing alternatives for a proposed undersea energy transmission cable into Maalaea Bay, Maui. The requested products predict the distribution of light-dependent "mesophotic" corals that live off of the coast of Maui and could potentially be threatened by an undersea energy transmission cable system. The cable system under consideration would allow renewable wind power generated in Maui County—which includes the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kahoolawee—to be transmitted to Oahu for consumption, contributing to Hawaii's 2030 goal to have 40 percent of its electricity sales come from renewable energy. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary originally partnered with NCCOS to develop the coral distribution prediction products.
National Geodetic Survey (NGS) employees volunteered their services in mid-October to assist the Surveyor Historical Society (SHS) with building a Bilby tower in Osgood, Ind., the hometown of Jasper Bilby who invented the tower in 1927. Bilby's invention of a temporary steel tower that was capable of rapidly being built, torn down, and rebuilt at another survey station revolutionized geodetic surveying. When SHS learned of the discovery of an abandoned Bilby Tower in Louisiana several years ago, they received permission to tear down the tower and rebuild it in Osgood as a permanent monument to its inventor. NGS volunteers, including two NGS retirees, were honored guests in addition to a direct descendant of Jasper Bilby.