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NOAA’s Response to Hurricane Impacts on Ports, Harbors, Navigation Channels and the Surveying for Debris and Hurricane Hazards that Pose a Risk to Commercial Fishing, Shrimping, and Recreational Boating

Tim Osborn, Ed Martin, Patrick Fink, Crescent Moegling (tim.osborn@noaa.gov), (ed.martin@noaa.gov), (patrick.fink@noaa.gov), (crescent.moegling@noaa.gov)

NOAA Office of Coast Survey

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is responsible for the surveying and charting of the nation’s coastal waters, navigation channels, and Ports and maintains a large suite of navigation charts. As part of the Coast Survey mission, navigation managers and navigation response teams (NRTs) and survey contractors (under contract to Coast Survey) are deployed across the nation and work with Ports, States, the U.S. Coast Guard, Pilots and many others on charting and navigation issues and to respond to severe incidents and storm impacts. The nation’s Marine Transportation System (MTS) is a critical part to the nation’s economy. Over 90 percent of all goods found in the U.S. today were at one time transported by ship or barge through the MTS network.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita impacted ports and waterways from Pensacola, Florida to Galveston, Texas and damaged or destroyed port facilities, docks, shore terminals and huge numbers of coastal housing, businesses and other infrastructure. In the aftermath, the coastal shorelines, bays, and nearshore areas of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas found significant debris and hazards that pose a risk to shipping, shrimping, commercial fishing, and recreational boating.

NOAA’s Coast Survey was tasked immediately after the storms by the US Coast Guard to survey and locate debris and hazards to navigation and use to critical ports and waterways that included Pensacola, Mobile, Pascagoula, Biloxi, Gulfport, New Orleans (and the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico), the GIWW, Port Fourchon, Port of Lake Charles, Port Arthur, and the Port of Houston-Galveston. Both NOAA assets and contract vessels were deployed and a large coordinated effort was implemented to survey, identify and collaborate with other agencies in the removal of hazards in an effort to clear ports and priority navigation channels.

2006 saw the development and implementation of a survey effort to identify debris and hazards in fishing grounds in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama that pose significant risks to the Gulf Coast shrimping and commercial fishing industry. Through consultations with state Wildlife and Fisheries and Marine Resource agencies and others, NOAA developed survey plans for over 600 square nautical miles of nearshore and coastal bay areas that is now being implemented. Using sidescan and single beam sonar imagery, hazards and debris are being located and listings of the position and attributes of the hazards are being provided to state agencies, U.S. Coast Guard, FEMA, and others. A Gulf of Mexico Marine Debris website was established and provides graphical depictions of the hazards.

NOAA will provide an overview of the response efforts implemented post hurricane along the northern Gulf and a status and examples of the ongoing work of the nation’s largest marine debris survey effort to be implemented.

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