RA4, one of two new NOAA survey launches carried by NOAA ship Rainier, test tows a moving vessel profiler. The Rainier is one of the most modern and productive hydrographic survey platforms of its type in the world. The ship is designed and outfitted for conducting coastal hydrographic surveys in support of NOAA’s nautical charting program.
Local bridge and highway improvements are not the only transportation projects to benefit from stimulus funds. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the Office of Coast Survey is allocating $40 million for mapping the sea floor, collecting data in critical coastal areas, and updating nautical charts.
Accurate nautical charts are imperative to laying out navigation courses and helping ships find the shortest and most economically safe routes. Over 98 percent of the nation’s cargo is carried by waterborne transportation—and all of those ships rely on nautical charts to find their way.
At a ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia, Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced a series of projects that will be supported using ARRA funds. These projects range from surveying nearly 675 square nautical miles within an area of Alaska that is a main shipping route between the Pacific Northwest and Japan to surveying over 400 square miles of waters with a high concentration of oil and gas platforms off the coast of Louisiana. Other projects will be completed in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and Washington. All of the projects will help to improve the safety and efficiency of the nation’s marine transportation system.
Using stimulus funds, private contractors will conduct a total of 39 surveys using the latest technologies to 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. Collected data will be used to update the nautical charts.
Some selected areas were last surveyed over 70 years ago, and the ARRA-funded surveys will more than double the area that would have been covered by NOAA's survey contractors in 2009 without ARRA funds.
In addition to directly boosting our nation’s long-term economic health, the hydrographic surveys of critical navigation routes and coastal areas help planners allocate ocean resources to meet future demands. The data support essential marine spatial planning along coastlines that host fragile ecosystems that are used for navigation, alternative energy, or other commercial purposes.
Our marine highways carry more than three-quarters of all U.S. goods and supplies.
Nautical charts, created using data collected during hydrographic surveys, are a fundamental tool in ensuring that these goods reach their final destinations.