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NOAA News Releases 2005
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The Columbia River is the 13th major United States waterway to install a new Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) designed to support safe, cost-efficient marine transportation by providing accurate real-time oceanographic and meteorological data. Managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the system is now operational and serving that maritime community in a variety of user friendly formats, including telephone voice response and the Internet.

“Over 95 percent of the nation's overseas trade crosses our borders by ship, including nine million barrels of petroleum each day. The information provided by the NOAA PORTS® Program is vital for the safe and efficient passage of that trade in the United States,” said Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., assistant administrator of NOAA's National Ocean Service. “This is another example of NOAA science providing value for Americans.”

The Columbia River annually handles nearly 48 million tons of cargo. Vessel operators must know the depth of the water in order to move the greatest amount of cargo without running the ship aground. In port areas, water levels and currents frequently differ from predictions, as a result of changes in winds and water run off. PORTS® provides accurate real-time information needed to make marine transportation both safe and efficient.

The Columbia River PORTS® will provide real-time information on water level and meteorological conditions, updated every six minutes and quality-controlled to ensure accuracy. Users of NOAA PORTS® information include port authorities, vessel pilots, shipping companies, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, recreational boaters, fishermen, coastal managers, environmental organizations, academia and surfers.

The Columbia River joins 12 other PORTS® systems supporting various seaports around the nation. Other areas using the system are: Anchorage, Alaska; Chesapeake Bay; Delaware River and Bay; Galveston and Houston, Texas; Los Angeles-Long-Beach, Calif.; Narragansett Bay, R.I.; New York-New Jersey Harbor; San Francisco Bay, Calif.; The Soo Locks, Mich.; Tampa Bay, Fla.; Tacoma, Wash.; and New Haven, Conn.

Administered by NOAA National Ocean Service's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS), the Columbia River PORTS® is a cooperative effort with the Port of Portland. Funding for the PORTS® is shared by the Port of Portland, which pays for the equipment, installation and operations of the system, and NOAA, which provides the management, quality control and data dissemination.

The NOAA water level station at Longview, Washington will contribute to the Columbia River PORTS® and was provided with support from the NOAA Coastal Storms Program's Pacific Northwest pilot. The Coastal Storms Program began its Pacific Northwest pilot project in 2003 to help officials and the public plan for and mitigate damage from coastal storms. To achieve this goal, NOAA is developing a series of tools and models to address specific hazards-related issues, including flooding, toxic runoff and erosion.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and 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 our federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global Earth observation network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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