This week, NOAA and the U.S. Power Squadrons, a non-profit organization dedicated to safe boating, will renew a 50-year commitment to a cooperative charting program that helps to update the nation's thousands of navigational charts.
Under the voluntary program, formalized by a Memorandum of Agreement, members of the U.S. Power Squadrons scan water and land areas, looking for changing conditions that may not be reflected on NOAA nautical charts. Power Squadrons members submit their reports online, and NOAA cartographers review and incorporate changes to their navigation products.
"The partnership between Coast Survey and the Power Squadrons is a long and successful one, speaking to our shared vision of safety on U.S. waters," said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. "The cooperative charting program, originally formalized in 1963, continues an extremely cost-effective method for correcting chart errors that are the result of constantly changing coastlines and seafloors."
U.S. Power Squadron members and others report wrecks and other potential navigation dangers to NOAA, and cartographers update the nautical chart. These are realtime displays from a January 16 hydrographic survey, as NOAA R/V Bay Hydro II confirmed the location of a reported wreck in the Chesapeake Bay.
Over the last ten years, Power Squadrons members have submitted more than 28,000 corrections to NOAA's nautical charts and the United States Coast Pilot, a series of nautical books that cover a variety of information important to coastal and Great Lakes navigators. More than 4,000 members have submitted reports, adding their particular local knowledge to NOAA's national effort to keep navigation materials accurate. "I believe that our cooperative efforts with NOAA represent an ideal partnership between a volunteer organization and a federal agency," says John Alter, chief commander of the U.S. Power Squadrons. "It gives our members a feeling of accomplishment and pride to see their contributions reflected in the latest nautical chart updates and provides a tangible benefit to being a United States Power Squadrons' member. This cooperative effort has stood the test of time, and we look forward to our continued commitment to this important civic service."
Glang will attend the U.S. Power Squadrons' annual meeting on Saturday. He and Alter will sign a new Memorandum of Agreement that updates and improves the cooperative charting program.
In 1963, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, one of NOAA's predecessor agencies, recognized the challenge of maintaining one thousand U.S. nautical charts -- covering 95,000 miles of coastline -- with the sparse resources at hand. Many charts would go uninspected by Coast Survey surveyors for decades, agency leaders acknowledged. To help remedy the situation, Coast Survey established the cooperative charting program so local Power Squadron members could check their local charts for accuracy and report discrepancies.
The U.S. Power Squadrons is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to making boating safer and more enjoyable by teaching classes in seamanship, navigation and related subjects. The organization has nearly 40,000 members, in more than 400 squadrons across the country and in U.S. territories.
NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, originally formed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, updates the nation's nautical charts, surveys the coastal seafloor, responds to maritime emergencies and searches for underwater obstructions and wreckage that pose a danger to navigation. Join Coast Survey on Twitter @nauticalcharts, and check out the NOAA Coast Survey Blog at http://noaacoastsurvey.wordpress.com for more in-depth coverage of surveying and charting.