2000 Administrators Award
2000 Bronze Medal
2005 Bronze Medal
Helen F. Stewart
National Ocean Service
Office of Coast Survey
National Ocean Service
Office of Coast Survey
Organizations: NOAA/NOS Office of Coast Survey (OCS)
What is the significance of this accomplishment? NOAA conducted immediate emergency hydrographic surveys that enabled the Coast Guard to reopen all 13 major economically-vital Gulf ports and waterways within days after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck.
I. Certificate Citation: For conducting emergency surveys used by USCG to reopen 13 economically-vital Gulf ports and waterways within days after Katrina and Rita struck.
Nominated By: Kathryn L. Ries
NOAA/NOS-Office of Coast Survey
Section 1. Definitions Hydrographic survey—A survey of a water area, with particular reference to submarine relief and any adjacent land.
Hydrography—The science that deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of the oceans and adjoining coastal areas, with particular reference to their use for navigational purposes.
Nautical chart—A special purpose map generally designed for purposes of navigation.
Navigation Response Teams (NRTs)—Three person, mobile emergency response teams that are deployed in emergencies as requested by federal, state and local governments/port authorities. They have trailorable small survey launches equipped with side scan sonar to survey waterways for wrecked vessels and oil rigs, large debris, and shoaling that can damage or ground passing vessels.
OCS—Office of Coast Survey, NOAA’s National Ocean Service
USCG—United States Coast Guard
Section 2. Award Justification What was the specific goal, challenge or problem related to the Department’s mission and/or strategic plan? These activities directly support both the DOC strategic goal to “provide the information and tools to maximize U.S. competitiveness and enable economic growth” and the related NOAA goal to “support the nation’s commerce with information for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation.” Essential to the movement of food and relief supplies, the Gulf ports and waterways are also vital to the transport of oil and coal.
What was the context in which the nominee(s) addressed the goal, challenge or problem?
Waterways had to be surveyed and cleared before vessels could safely transit. Ships have gotten longer, wider and deeper, and determining precise water depths is imperative for safe navigation. Hurricanes play havoc with the sea bottom, rendering the depths and obstructions on nautical charts obsolete. Three days before Katrina hit, NOAA dispatched four NRTs to the Gulf area, followed by one hydrographic survey ship, one research ship temporarily outfitted with hydrographic survey equipment, and a contract hydrographic services provider to scan the sea bottom.
What specific actions did the nominee(s) take to address the goal, challenge or problem?
These professionals demonstrated tremendous endurance, dedication and flexibility to obtain such substantial achievements in this unprecedented situation. Deployed to the region abruptly, some showed great ingenuity such as outfitting a research vessel with required survey equipment in record time. They daily conducted meticulous and systematic surveys searching for obstructions and shifted navigation channels. At night they processed data and produced preliminary charting products in extraordinarily short order for response authorities that ultimately were used to reopen affected ports. One outstanding example is the quick work done in the crucial ship channel for Mobile, AL that allowed it to be cleared for vessel traffic, permitting a coal ship to transit to an electricity generating plant that desperately needed fuel.
What were the results of the actions in either quantifiable or qualitative terms? The survey results allowed the USCG to reopen 13 major ports and waterways to maritime commerce and emergency relief within days after both events.
Section 3. Additional Information How long did it take to complete the accomplishment? When was the accomplishment completed/implemented deployed? Information from the NOAA emergency hydrographic surveys allowed the
Coast Guard to reopen all 13 major Gulf ports and waterways within days after the hurricanes struck. This nation is heavily dependent on maritime trade, much of which flows through the impacted ports in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi. They are heavily linked to this nation’s petroleum, grain and farm products, fruit, poultry, coffee, chemical and steel trades. The Port of New Orleans is the focal point for waterborne transportation of cargo to 28 states and supported $37 billion in economic benefits to the country.
What is the short-term impact (1-2) years of the accomplishment on the bureau and/or the Department’s mission? The USCG recognized NOAA on November 15, 2005 for “exceptionally meritorious service from August 29 to September 17 while serving on the Hurricane Katrina Waterways Survey and Reconstitution Team.” In response to the hurricane’s catastrophic effects, the maritime industry, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), USCG and NOAA devised a safe, orderly, and systematic plan for reopening the waterways of southeast Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, ensuring that vital cargo could be delivered safely and efficiently to nationally important facilities along the Gulf Coast.
Did the accomplishment result in a major advancement in non-scientific areas such as customer service or administrative support? If so, how? NOAA hydrographic expertise was deployed in advance of the hurricanes’ landfall, ensuring that emergency surveys would be conducted as soon as possible after the hurricanes hit. NOAA personnel’s dedication and tireless efforts provided a superlative level of customer service to all the partners above, helping them accomplish their missions, and serving the people of the Gulf Coast.
Did the accomplishment result in a major advancement in the science, technology, or automation? If so, how? No.
What is the long-term impact (3-5) years of the accomplishment on the bureau and/or the Department’s mission? NOAA’s hydrographic capabilities are essential to the future recovery of these ports by ensuring that accurate navigation products and information are available for the mariners transiting in and out of these economically critical ports.