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June 16, 2007

Contact: Ben Sherman
(202) 253-5256 (cell)

NOAA Emphasizes Importance of Using New Elevations in Louisiana Reconstruction, Recovery Projects
Provides Critical Update on South Louisiana Elevation Surveys

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today that new elevations for more than 340 bench marks in southern Louisiana have been published. The newly published values will provide official elevations in 27 parishes across the southern part of Louisiana that experienced damages from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The announcement was made today at a ceremony attended by U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in Galliano, La.

This network of elevation bench marks, with additional Global Positioning Station (GPS) Continuously Operated Reference Stations (CORS), establishes an essential new network of vertical control to serve as benchmarks for south Louisiana. A large portion of the funding for this project was provided through a cooperative agreement between NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and included the cooperation of the Louisiana Spatial Reference Center at Louisiana State University located in Baton Rouge, La.

“Users should avoid using older, outdated bench marks for vertical control,” said NOAA National Geodetic Survey director Dave Zilkoski. “These new heights are considerably more accurate than those measured previously."

Use of the new elevations and vertical control network continues to be paramount in supporting hurricane recovery, repair and construction efforts. These new elevations and the control network will be needed in the future to enable projects such as evacuation routes, restoration projects and hurricane protection levee projects.

"NOAA's National Ocean Service recognizes the importance of continuing to support the rebuilding and restoration efforts in Louisiana by providing accurate bench marks made possible through this cooperative effort with FEMA," said John H. Dunnigan, NOAA assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service. "One of NOAA's central missions is promoting public safety and preparedness. These new, accurate elevations are a significant contribution to that effort."

Planners will be better equipped to determine road and bridge heights relative to water and ground levels from this data, thus assuring restructured evacuation routes and shipping lanes will have the appropriate clearance to avoid flooding and obstructions.

NOAA and the Louisiana Spatial Reference Center have made significant efforts to establish outreach and education throughout the coastal parishes. Meetings have been held with officials to explain the new data points and offer training in the use and extension of the more accurate elevation points now available. NOAA also continues to coordinate with officials from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explain the new benchmarks and instruct users on the use of these new technologies. The use of the Global Positioning System and NOAA’s Continuously Operating Reference Stations will continue to provide accurate elevation reference points as the region recovers from the impacts of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

NOAA officials noted it is critical that users of the elevation data apply it in accordance with new approaches being developed, and work with the Louisiana Spatial Reference Center to improve the geospatial reference system in Louisiana. While there will be fewer specific benchmarks maintained, the overall accuracy of the heights will be maintained for longer periods.

NOAA officials emphasized that NOAA does not predict the rates of subsidence nor attempt to determine its causes in Louisiana or elsewhere. NOAA is the supplier of data used by the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state agencies, academics, emergency planners, engineers, surveyors, environmental restoration efforts, and others to determine those rates based on various models.

The new elevations will assist in the on-going statewide effort in Louisiana to improve the accuracy of the state’s survey benchmarks. The original announcement of this height modernization effort was made in July 2005 at a New Orleans news conference.

Currently, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey is analyzing the historical leveling, new leveling and GPS surveys. The data is being feed into updated scientific models to provide more accurate elevations on a number of additional benchmarks in southern Louisiana.

The Louisiana Spatial Reference Center was established in 2002 at Louisiana State University in response to users’ and public safety needs. The Reference Center operates in partnership with NOAA to develop and provide height modernization procedures in Louisiana to share technology development with others.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts, and protects.

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