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United States Lake Survey [19]

The incorporation of the United States Lake Survey into NOAA brought another organization with a long and colorful history to the Department of Commerce. This Survey's activities began on March 31, 1841 when, in an effort to support westward expansion, an Act of Congress provided $15,000 for a "hydrographical survey of the Northern and Northwestern Lakes." To do the job, the Lake Survey was created within the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers which was later merged into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Like the Commerce Department's Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Lake Survey had responsibility for the preparation and publication of nautical charts and other navigational aids.

The Survey, housed in Detroit, Michigan, published its first charts in 1852 -- covering all of Lake Erie. By 1882, the Survey had completed the original Congressional mandate, producing some 76 charts. The original Survey was then disbanded. By 1901, however, it became clear that the original survey and charting products required revision. For example, since the deepest draft vessels used in the Great Lakes in the mid-late 1800's drew only 12 feet of water, the Survey's charts only showed depths of 18 feet or less! By the early 1960's, deeper draft vessels were in use which required additional information on waters of the Great Lakes. So, the Lake Survey was reconstituted and its mission expanded to include responsibility for lakes and navigable waters of the New York State Barge Canal System, Lake Champlain and the Minnesota-Ontario Border Lakes. In addition to traditional survey, charting, and navigation information responsibilities, the Lake Survey also brought to NOAA responsibilities for studies on lake levels and associated river flow. Originally initiated to support navigational needs, the stream measuring stations and Survey's water level and precipitation gages enabled engineers to make six-month forecasts of lake levels and build a data base dating back to 1860 which supported the needs of public planning agencies and private sector interests like construction firms.

The Survey greatly expanded this effort in 1962 with the establishment of the Great Lakes Research Center. At the time of NOAA's creation, the Center was conducting strong programs in coastal engineering (water motion, including tides, currents, waves, seiches, and shore processes, like sedimentation) and water resources (water quality, water quantity and ice and snow conditions). This work was supported by a suite of facilities including: the Great Lakes Regional Data Center, a Technical Library and Instrument Office, an Ice and Snow Laboratory, a Chemical Laboratory, and a Sedimentation Laboratory. The Lake Survey brought all of these capabilities into the new NOAA.

National Data Buoy Project [20]

In December 1967, the United States Coast Guard established the National Data Buoy Development Project to develop a national system of automatic ocean buoys to gather oceanic and atmospheric data. By the 1960's, scientists had recognized the need for more detailed information on environmental conditions over vast marine areas which remained largely uncovered except for occasional observations from ships or aircraft of opportunity, oceanographic research expeditions, or the few existing ocean station vessels. As a result, a number of Federal agencies and universities began programs to develop and implement networks of buoys which could routinely and automatically report environmental conditions like temperature, wind speed and direction, etc. Unfortunately, these disparate efforts were largely designed to meet individual agency or research needs.

In 1966, the Panel on Ocean Engineering of the Interagency Committee on Oceanography, convened a group of Federal agency representatives to address the problems and possibilities associated with automated data buoy networks. This group recommended a national system of ocean data buoys and the Committee asked the Coast Guard to conduct a feasibility study. After ten months of work, the study report made the following conclusions:

• extensive requirements exist for oceanographic and meteorological information to satisfy both operational and research needs in the oceanic and Great Lakes environments;

• automatic, moored buoys were capable of meeting a significant portion of those needs; and that

• a network of such buoys, would be an essential element of an overall environmental information and prediction system. [13]

The National Council for Marine Resources and Engineering Development (established by the same law which created the Stratton Commission) took these conclusions seriously and in November 1967, asked the Coast Guard to accept lead agency responsibility for the research, development, testing and evaluation required to support future decisions on national data buoy systems. The National Data Buoy Development Project was established to do the job. The Project Office drew on existing capabilities in a number of disciplines from oceanography to communications and began an effort to develop a single, national system capable of providing key observations required to describe conditions in the marine environment (including the Great Lakes). Reorganization Plan No. 4 brought this responsibility and challenge to NOAA.

National Oceanographic Data Center [21]

The National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) was established by the Department of the Navy in 1960 to aggregate and disseminate the oceanographic data being collected by all Federal agencies. Although established by the Navy, NODC was actually sponsored by the ten agencies with interests in the marine environment: the Atomic Energy Commission; Bureau of Commercial Fisheries; Coast Guard; Coastal Engineering Research Center; the Department of the Navy; ESSA; the Federal Water Quality Administration; the Geological Survey; the Department of Health, Education and Welfare; and the National Science Foundation. Policy and technical direction for NODC was provided by an advisory body of representatives from those agencies and the National Academy of Sciences. Established to provide a mechanism to process, exchange and store global data from Government, industry, academic and research organizations, NODC brought to NOAA the world's largest useable collection of oceanographic data. Using data received from national and international sources (including a network of liaison offices in key regions of the country), NODC provided a variety of services including: data processing; data reproduction; analyses and preparation of statistical summaries; and data record evaluation on a cost reimbursable basis. The addition of NODC to the ESSA Environmental Data Centers provided the new NOAA with the key components of what would become the Nation's premier environmental data service.




Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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