demand (CSC, 2002). These conclusions are neither unexpected nor novel—earlier assessments have consistently reached the same conclusions:

“The greatest information needs of the users in the states, industry, and academia are for bathymetry, imagery, and seabed characterization” (NRC, 1992; p. 2).

“The nation has a large and growing backlog of requests for new surveys and charts. At the present level of effort, the backlog cannot be reduced” (NRC, 1994a; p. 66).

“NOAA should accelerate the current timetable of approximately 15 to 20 years to reduce the current survey backlog. The backlog prevents NOAA from making progress on surveys and charts for the rest of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ)” (USDOT, 1999; p. 103).

Nearly half the depths published on current charts were measured using lead line techniques over a sparse grid prior to 1940, and one-third of the national shoreline has yet to be mapped. Given limited resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) must allocate priority for survey to “critical areas.” These areas include only primary coastal shipping lanes and approaches to major U.S. ports and largely exclude the extensive nearshore areas used by fishing fleets, oilfield service vessels, and other commercial, government, academic, and recreational vessels. Also excluded from these surveys are most of the vast coastal areas managed by the nation’s primary coastal zone managers, as well as many of the areas containing “essential fish habitat” that require mandatory mapping under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The public cost for inadequate bathymetric data becomes staggering when all factors are included (see Box 4.1).


There is a clear need for an expanded effort in bathymetric data acquisition in the coastal zone. In deeper waters (greater than about 10 meters) the technology to collect these data is available and relatively efficient (see Chapter 2). Accordingly, if a national commitment to accomplishing this deeper mapping exists, it should be straightforward to establish an overarching structure to ensure that it is done efficiently and effectively. The committee is confident that the approaches outlined here could form the basis for effective national planning as well as cost savings that could be directed to additional data collection. The real challenge and

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