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Using GIS to Map the Impacts of Marine Debris Left in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

Brendan M. Bray National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program Brendan.Bray@noaa.gov

During the 2005 hurricane season, Katrina and Rita inflicted severe damage on the Northern Gulf of Mexico coastal region, and deposited huge amounts of debris over large areas of the Gulf coast. Submerged marine debris poses a hazard to vessel traffic and can adversely affect commercially viable fishing grounds. To address the submerged debris problem, Congress appropriated emergency funds to survey areas potentially affected by submerged marine debris, tasking NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey (OCS) and Office of Response and Restoration which houses the NOAA Marine Debris Program, to conduct the surveys, compile and disseminate data to public stakeholders in an effective and useable format, conduct marine debris characterization, and carry out other outreach activities specific to this project. This partnership has been formally titled the Gulf of Mexico Marine Debris Project (GOMMDP) and is covering near shore areas from Lake Borgne, Louisiana to Perdido Bay, Alabama.

One of the key elements of the GOMMDP is using the data received from hydrographic surveys to generate an integrated survey database within a Geographic Information System (GIS). Such a database facilitates the generation of products depicting the location of debris found, debris dimension, sounding depth, clearance depth and other information, as well as designation of recovery or removal constraints (e.g., archeological sites). The Project team is utilizing the debris data and GIS applications to provide stakeholders with critical information and maps of near shore survey areas. GIS products will present useful information both to stakeholders analyzing the impact of marine debris and to personnel mobilized for removal of surveyed contacts, and may provide best removal, disposal or relocation results with the limited funds and resources likely to be available in the near future.

Stakeholders, including the US Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, state resource managers, and commercial and recreational fishermen now have access to debris maps and data by way of the GOMMDP Web site (http://gulfofmexico.marinedebris.noaa.gov). The project team is also developing an Internet Mapping System (IMS) to deliver debris location and data to users via dynamic, scaleable, and easy to use web-based maps. Stakeholders will be able to access data layers and depict operational data such as debris density and abundance, or analytical information such as acres of sea grass impacted by submerged debris. Users will also be able to download GIS data files for use in separate GIS analyses.

The purpose of this presentation is to highlight the functional properties of GOMMDP GIS tools, demonstrate its benefit to users, and answer any questions regarding the future objectives of the project.

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