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May 14, 2007

Contact: Kate Bosley
(757) 436-0200

David Hall
(301) 713-3066, ext. 191

NOAA and Partners Celebrate Mobile, Ala., Installation of 200th National Water Level Observation Station

NOAA representatives today joined other federal, state, and local officials in Mobile, Ala., to officially mark the installation of the agency’s 200th National Water Level Observation Network station at the Port of Alabama State Docks. Operated by NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, the NWLON station provides mariners, first responders, and the public with real-time tide and water level information.

“NOAA is proud to be a leader in providing accurate, real-time tide and water level data to support safe and efficient navigation,” said John H. Dunnigan, assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “This new national water level observation station in Mobile reflects NOAA’s commitment to enhancing public safety, supporting our nation’s marine transportation system, and promoting economic security.”

NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services installed the 200th NWLON station on Pier A at the Port of Alabama State Docks in April. The State Docks station will be a key component of the Mobile Bay NOAA Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) also being installed this year.

“We certainly see the benefits of the water level monitoring station,” said Jimmy Lyons, executive director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority. “The PORTS® program will provide our pilots, shippers and agents with real time information to facilitate vessel safety, reduce transit delays and optimize cargo carriage.”

The Port of Mobile is the 11th largest in the United States. In 2006, the Alabama State Port Authority handled 24.3 million tons of cargo in 2006, accounting for $89.5 million in revenue. Major commodities moving through Alabama ports include automotive (finished and parts), chemicals, computers/electronics, agriculture/forestry products and coal. Also in 2006, Alabama exported globally to 179 foreign destinations in 2006. More than 110,000 jobs in Alabama are export-supported.

Real-time access to accurate water level information is more important than ever, as vessels built today often exceed the average depths of many ports and harbor channels. Water level data are also used to improve storm surge forecasts, support nautical charts, respond to hazardous material spills, assist in search and rescue efforts, and monitor long term sea level trends, among other uses.

“This real-time information is just a phone call or click away and will be used not only by mariners but also by emergency managers during coastal storms,” said Michael Szabados, director of NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services.

During the ceremony, officials also unveiled a bench mark in Mobile’s Cooper Riverside Park commemorating 200 years of science, service, and stewardship by NOAA and its predecessor agencies. This and the other station bench marks in the area are tied into the National Spatial Reference System, which provides the foundation for accurate positioning in 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.

An agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, 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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