Contact: Ben Sherman
NOAA News Releases 2005
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Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration outlined several areas where NOAA is playing a lead role in supporting the five Gulf States addressing coastal environmental challenges as part of the U.S. Ocean Action Plan. The announcements were made during a presentation at the Coastal Zone’05 conference, the largest international conference for coastal resource management professionals.

NOAA, co-chairing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is one of 13 federal agencies participating in a federal workgroup that is committed to a long-term partnership with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. NOAA is working within this new partnership framework to meet Gulf State needs by establishing an expanded and improved harmful algal bloom forecast system and improve storm surge and coastal flood forecasts and warnings.

“In working with the Gulf state governors through the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, we are rapidly moving forward in developing a plan for coordinated state-federal efforts related to habitat restoration, water quality improvements and enhanced ocean education opportunities,” said Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., assistant administrator of NOAA’s Ocean Service.

The Ocean Action Plan calls for increased integration of resources, knowledge and expertise to address key priorities in the Gulf of Mexico region. The Gulf Alliance outlined five priorities for restoring and protecting the Gulf of Mexico:

  • Improving and protecting water quality, particularly healthy beaches and shellfish beds;
  • Restoring coastal wetlands and estuarine ecosystems;
  • Reducing nutrient loading;
  • Identifying and characterizing Gulf habitats to support coastal management;
  • Expanding environmental education to improve stewardship.

In support of the new Gulf Alliance partnership, NOAA has established two Gulf of Mexico regional efforts – the NOAA Harmful Algal Bloom Partnership Project and the NOAA Storm Surge Partnership Project. Both projects are building on existing NOAA efforts and will seek to focus their products on the needs of coastal managers while taking advantage of rapidly developing new technologies, such as those comprising the emerging Integrated Ocean Observing Systems.

“Through these partnership projects, we hope to demonstrate the tremendous scientific and socioeconomic value of IOOS in addressing key management issues. One of the most critical needs of both federal and state partners in the region is to understand the local management needs – the scale, scope and severity of the issues they are facing,” said Spinrad. “We will be better able to shape ocean observing systems, and develop more reliable and versatile products.”

The development of IOOS will provide key information to both partnership projects. Already the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System is a key player in developing information and technologies that NOAA can use.

As an example, traditional HAB forecasts have had to rely largely on actual in-water sampling and overhead satellite imagery. Developments in robotics and other new technologies will allow for the inclusion of biological sensors mounted on autonomous underwater vehicles. As a result, the data collected will provide information on offshore subsurface blooms not currently identifiable by existing satellite imagery or available through standard monitoring programs.

This new data will lead to an improved HAB forecasting system to locate and forecast blooms before they reach shore, and pinpoint potential respiratory irritation at specific beaches. Advance warnings of HABs can allow planning for bloom events and help mitigate the negative impacts of HAB events on local communities, businesses and visitors.

Likewise, advances being developed through IOOS can support more refined models and improve storm surge predictive capabilities. NOAA, along with other federal and state agencies and the private sector, is working to develop high resolution digital elevation models for portions of the Gulf of Mexico coast. These technologies should allow coastal communities to better mitigate storm impacts thereby reducing loss of life, property damage and ecosystem destruction.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through research to better understand weather and climate-related events and to manage wisely the nation's coastal and marine resources.

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