By: Ron Ohrel
Following Post Tropical Storm Sandy, NOAA invested significant resources toward charting the impacted coastline, identifying potential hazards to navigation, and helping partners remove marine debris that threatened to harm sensitive ecosystems. NOAA accomplished this through a combination of aerial, underwater, and shoreline surveys.
Due to differences in response activities across the states impacted by this storm, it was important to coordinate marine debris survey and response efforts at all levels of government. NOAA managed hydrographic survey operations in more than 800 square miles of Sandy-impacted waterways along the Eastern seaboard. The data acquired through those efforts is being used to update nautical charts, model flood events, and identify marine debris for potential removal.
The hydrographic survey work revealed nearly 10,000 possible underwater obstructions in Sandy-affected areas between Delaware and Connecticut. In addition, to assess Sandy debris conditions in wetlands, marshes, and other sensitive areas, NOAA compared pre- and post-Sandy aerial imagery of the mid-Atlantic coastline. Comparing post-Sandy data with information collected prior to the storm gives an indication of Sandy’s marine debris impacts in shallow water and shoreline areas.
NOAA has entered its survey data into a centralized database and shared much of that data with state partners. The data outputs helped the states prioritize some of their marine debris removal efforts. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, for example, used NOAA data to target debris clusters in eight different coastal wetlands for removal this autumn. The work will allow the state to restore natural tidal marshes along its coastline.
Using survey data for multiple purposes is an efficient use of NOAA’s survey data collection and mapping resources, and assists a variety of stakeholders in many different ways.