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Ocean observatory ready for next step

Posted: Friday, Feb 11th, 2011

The Ocean Observatories Initiative - a worldwide seafloor network designed to provide interactive, integrated, cutting edge ocean monitoring technology - includes the Newport Line of the Endurance Array, to be located off Yaquina Head. This conceptual drawing features the intended moorings at nearshore, continental shelf, and offshore sites. The Endurance Array also includes moorings off the Washington coast. The system is scheduled to begin full operation in 2015. (Graphic courtesy of National Science Foundation)

Everything is falling into place for the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) - a $387-million initiative to study the world’s oceans and their relationship to climate variability and change.

Initiated in 2007, the project sailed past another obstacle at the end of January when David Conover, director of the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Sciences Division, put the stamp of approval on its installation and operation.

On Feb. 4, Jean McGovern, the OOI program director from the NSF, announced the release of the final Site-Specific Environmental Assessment (SSEA) and the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) decision (copies are available at www.nsf.gov/geo/oce/envcomp/) pertaining to the project, including the Central Oregon Line of what’s known as the Endurance Array off the coasts of Oregon and Washington. McGovern said that, based on the final SSEA analysis, NSF determined that installing, operating and maintaining the OOI system would have “no significant direct, indirect, or cumulative impacts” on the human and natural environment surrounding the specific sites.

Federal law requires federal agencies to consider any and all potential environmental consequences of the OOI before installation and operation can begin. The final SSEA built on prior assessments of potential impacts on people and the natural environment associated with the proposed site-specific requirements for designing, installing, and operating the OOI.

“It focused only on those activities and associated potential impacts, including cumulative impacts not previously assessed,” McGovern noted.

While the decision and final SSEA remain under public review, project leaders are looking forward, with plans to put the first instruments and gliders into the water off Oregon’s central coast in 2012, followed by additional instruments, cables, and buoys in 2013, and system operation to begin in 2015. The project is designed for a 25-year lifespan.

For the complete article see the 02-11-2011 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-11-2011 paper.

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