Secretary of Commerce Announces $40 Million in Recovery Act Projects to Support Efficient Marine Navigation and Create Jobs

August 20, 2009

Container ship.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced in Norfolk, Va. today $40 million for critical hydrographic survey and chart projects across the United States that strengthen the economy, create jobs, and support safe and efficient marine commerce and trade. Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will allocate $32 million to utilize hydrographic surveying contractors to collect data in critical coastal areas which are used to map the seafloor and update nautical charts. 

“These Recovery Act contracts are an important investment in our nation’s marine transportation system, which employs more than 13 million people. Our waterways are facing unprecedented demands from marine commerce, but our seafloor mapping is outdated,” Secretary Locke said.  “Charting our coastal seafloors for the most up-to-date information gives ports and shippers important data to increase efficiency and safety, boosting our nation’s long-term economic health.”

Across our country, ocean transportation already contributes more than $742 billion to the national economy. All commercial shipping vessels rely on NOAA’s nautical charts to safely pass through U.S. waters. Those charts are generated and updated with data gathered by hydrographic surveys.

Recovery Act funding will be used to conduct 39 surveys, charting nearly 2,000 square nautical miles in the Chesapeake Bay, and in the coastal waters of Alaska, Washington, California, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Virginia. Using the latest technologies, surveyors map the sea floor, measure the water depth, search the ocean for storm debris or accident wreckage, and record the natural features of coastal seabeds and fragile aquatic life.

Fishing boats at dock.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Between 2010 and 2020, the value of freight carried in and out of U.S. ports is predicted to increase 43 percent. To accommodate this growth, facility planners need hydrographic survey data to facilitate this century’s bigger ships and busier waterways. The information gathered through these surveys will also support essential planning efforts along coastlines providing important data to help balance the conservation needs of fragile ecosystems and competing demands for coastal ocean space for navigation, alternative energy, or other commercial purposes.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is managing the projects. Surveying will cover high priority maritime areas on the U.S. Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. Surveying firms conducting the work are based in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

The Recovery Act will fund private hydrographic survey firms to complete the following projects:

An additional $8.24 million in Recovery Act funds have been allocated for data collection activities that support the development of nautical charts and coastal planning. More information on funded projects nationwide is available on the NOAA Recovery Act Web site. The public can follow the progress of each project on the recovery site, which will include an interactive online map that enables the public to track where and how NOAA recovery funds are spent.  

NOAA’s mission is to understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.