The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service (NOS) is the country’s leading authority on a wide variety of marine sciences, including hydrography; shoreline mapping; nautical charting; and water level, tides, and currents measurement.
NOS is preparing a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to analyze the potential environmental impacts associated with NOS’s recurring surveys and other related data collection throughout the U.S. and its territories. Data obtained from these projects are needed to produce charts and maps that are relied upon by mariners, scientists, shipping and fishing industries, and countless other users in the U.S. and beyond. The Proposed Action for the PEIS is to perform a wide variety of data collection field activities, including hydrographic surveys and habitat surveys (performed from manned vessels or autonomous vehicles), and to install tide gauges and other instruments and equipment. Field work may be performed by NOAA staff, contractors, or grantees from one of NOS's program offices.
Waters of the U.S. and its territories require routine measurement and data collection to ensure safe navigation, economic security, and environmental sustainability. Select a topic below to learn more about each of these key components.
Shipping on the nation’s network of coastal waterways, navigable channels, ports, and marine terminals is a primary mode of moving goods around the country and connects the U.S. to the global marketplace. Port authorities, mariners, and coastal communities depend on accurate navigational information provided by NOS to make informed decisions that support the U.S. economy.
NOS coastal and marine data also support ecosystem stewardship. Survey data enable marine resource managers to conserve, preserve, and restore ecological resources, including critical habitat for endangered seabirds, coral, seagrass, fish, sea turtle, and marine mammal species.
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to gather accurate and timely data on the marine and coastal environment. The need for the Proposed Action is to provide the public and private sectors with nautical charts, benthic habitat condition maps, current and tide charts, and other products necessary for safe navigation, economic security, and environmental sustainability.
Scope refers to both the geographic and temporal range of the Proposed Action. The “action area” for this Draft PEIS encompasses rivers; states’ offshore waters; the U.S. territorial sea; the contiguous zone; the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone; and coastal lands. The action area is organized into five regions: Greater Atlantic Region, Southeast Region, West Coast Region, Alaska Region, and Pacific Islands Region.
The temporal scope of the Proposed Action covers a time period of 5 years. At the conclusion of the 5-year period, NOS would reevaluate the Final PEIS to determine if the analysis contained within remains sufficient, or if new analysis is required.
NOS surveying and mapping activities include the use of a variety of equipment and technologies to gather accurate and timely data on the nature and condition of the marine and coastal environment, including:
NOS projects addressed in the Draft PEIS include the use of underwater acoustic sound sources to perform surveys for nautical charts, underwater obstruction detection, marine debris identification and location, and benthic (sea floor) habitat characterization. Below is a short video that explains how a multibeam echo sounder and side scan sonar are used to perform a hydroacoustic survey.
A three-minute video about multibeam and side scan sonar, including a visualization that shows how sonar data is used to make products like nautical charts. | Download: Soundscapes
NOS published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) in December of 2016. During preparation of the PEA, NOS decided that the scope of the surveying and mapping program and the complexities of the analysis warranted a PEIS. A Notice of Availability (NOA) will be published in the Federal Register to announce the publication of the Draft PEIS for public review.
NOS is, to the fullest extent possible, integrating the requirements of NEPA with all other applicable environmental review requirements. The PEIS will serve as the consultation document for the following regulatory requirements.
This graphic depicts a coastal waterway and shows many of the various surveying and mapping tools or activities used within U.S. waterways, to include:
NOAA's National Ocean Service will soon seek public comments on a draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the potential environmental impacts associated with NOS’s recurring surveys and other data collection throughout the U.S. and its territories. This page describes the purpose, need, and scope of these proposed activities.