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Summary of the Atlantic Margin Offshore Aggregates Workshop

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The Atlantic Margin Offshore Aggregates Workshop was held at Minerals Management Service Headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, on May 10 and 11. It was attended by 46 persons (Table 1) representing 20 organizations. These included the Minerals Management Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA (NMFS and NODC), the Ocean Studies Board (National Academy of Science), Geological Surveys of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama, SUNY Stony Brook, N.Y, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Coastal Carolina University, the Environmental Defense Fund, and three consulting firms: Earth Tech., Inc., Louis Berger and Associates, and SAIC (Newport, RI).

Opening talks by S.J. Williams, C. Chesnutt, and C. Hartgen outlined missions and activities of USGS, USACE, and MMS in the coastal zone.

Presentors in the first topic session reviewed sediment data holdings and offshore geophysical mapping applicable to aggregates and their environmental assessment. A total of eighteen databases or significant regional bodies of data on offshore sediments were identified. These are enumerated in Table 2. In addition to the sediment presentations, NOAA-NMFS reviewed its extensive benthic biological and fish databases, a significant fraction of which were collected on the same stations as early USGS Atlantic sediment investigations. An overview of land aggregate status pointed out that construction aggregates (sand, gravel & crushed stone), are widely available within the continental U.S. However, land use competition and restrictions are increasingly inhibiting their practical availability.

Aggregates management was discussed from perspectives ranging from USACE and MMS mission and needs, to environmental issues relating to coastal land policy (Environmental Defense Fund), and industrial requirements. Special attention was focused on the New York Bight area. This is the only area within state territorial waters where offshore dredgings are currently being used for construction aggregates and yield revenue (to the State of New Jersey). Several sites have been leased by MMS in federal waters under the 1994 OCS Lands Acts Amendment provisions.

In the database section, USGS reviewed problems encountered in USGS and industrial computer databases. It outlined plans to migrate current "legacy" databases to a unitary ACCESS system accomodating both flat files and relational data. An expanding ACCESS database system is being managed for the NY District of the Corps of Engineers by the SAIC corporation. MMS’s web-based database and informational systems were reviewed. These are currently focused mainly on offshore energy development in the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, NOAA-NESDIS-NODC coast-wide oceanographic database developments were discussed.

"Modeling" discussions spanned the range from management modeling to vigorous discussion of physical-oceanographic (wave and current) predictions in the near-coastal environment. The Geological Survey of Alabama, in cooperation with neighboring states, has developed an integrated data acquisition, planning, and GIS system currently in an active growth phase for the northeastern Gulf coast.

The GIS session featured the multi-agency "Landview" database and mapping system and cooperative GIS publications in the Massachusetts Bay area (USGS). MMS’s environmental database and public outreach systems, and Maryland Geological Survey’s web-based systems were reviewed. Then followed a general data display session and participant interactions.

The Wrapup discussion identified next steps in development of cooperative database and GIS products along the Atlantic margin. A steering committee to guide development of GIS products was nominated (Table 3). The committee includes representatives to coordinate GIS input relating to biological (benthic and fisheries) distributions, physical oceanographic (e.g. current) information, modeling, and electronic publication, as well as sediment database development.

Steps recommended to follow the meeting included:

  • Circulation of the results of the meeting (this memo) with revised agenda, participant list and GIS steering committee members,
  • Requests to offshore sediment data holders to submit data dictionaries or parameter descriptions to the steering committee. This will be followed by further contacts toward publication of a cooperative database.
  • Meeting of members of the Steering Committee (or via conference calls) in July to recommend timelines and action steps in developing cooperative GIS products.

In the meantime, all participants and interested persons are encouraged to contact the convenors or other members of the steering committee with recommendations, questions or comments.


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