NOAA will continue efforts to close the Great Lakes hydrographic data gap this year

By LCDR Charles Witsotzkey

NOAA Navigation Manager for the Great Lakes Region

Part of the Great Lakes Bottom Mapping Working Group Winter 2021 Underwater Update newsletter. Subscribe here.

Several recent mapping missions from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey have brought the region closer to closing the hydrographic data gap, with two large, traditional contract surveys planned for later this year. 

One will focus on southern Green Bay, WI (Project OPR-Y390-KR-21) and another near  Whitefish Point in Lake Superior (Project OPR-Z394-KR-21). The two project areas are shown below, along with an underlay depicting OCS Hydrographic Health Model priority areas. The model is a quantitative risk-based assessment used to inform survey prioritization. Coast Survey considers both local requests and the hydrographic health model when determining project areas.

The southern Green Bay project will address known and suspected chart discrepancies, provide baseline environmental data for the proposed Green Bay National Marine Research Reserve, and directly support a University of Wisconsin – Madison research into the prevalence and sources of PFAS Chemicals in the Green Bay ecosystem. 

In the northern half of Green Bay, NOAA continues to evaluate data from a recently-completed contract that used state-of-the-art Satellite Derived Bathymetry methods to obtain usable depth data for charting applications. Coast Survey and the National Geodetic Survey’s Remote Sensing Division completed the contract. Preliminary results indicate that the new methods will be useful for obtaining near shore bathy data in areas with high levels of water clarity. 

This year’s Whitefish Point project will support the update of nautical charts for an important commercial shipping area. The planned operations by the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario have been postponed until 2022 due to the impacts of Covid-19 safety procedures that will remain in place on NOAA survey platforms throughout 2021.

Bathymetric surface for OPR-Y395-KR-20 – Vicinity of Chicago

Coast Survey’s recent surveys near Chicago in 2020 (Project OPR-Y395-KR-20) and the Straits of Mackinac in 2019 (Project OPR-X388-KR-19) are still in the Coast Survey quality control process. The Chicago data was recently delivered to the quality control branch, and it will likely be 12-18 months before the data starts to be delivered to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)

Processing the Straits of Mackinac survey has been delayed somewhat due to competing high priority projects and consultations with various authorities to ensure sensitive data is managed properly. This survey data is presently beginning to be transmitted to NCEI. Please contact the Great Lakes Navigation Manager ( with any questions you may have about Coast Survey or National Ocean Service activities in the region.

Recent Posts