CORVALLIS - A request of $2 million recently included in a Senate Appropriations Committee bill would create an "ocean observing system" for Oregon. If passed by Congress, the system would be an ocean equivalent of the National Weather Service and provide valuable information about waves, currents and ocean conditions to a wide range of Oregon ocean users.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, at the request of Oregon Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden, has included funding for the Oregon Coastal Ocean Observing System (OrCOOS) in the Commerce/Justice/Science appropriations bill. It passed through full committee and is expected to move to the Senate floor in July.

Oregon State University would establish OrCOOS through its internationally recognized programs in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS), the College of Science, the Ocean Engineering group in the College of Engineering and the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Also participating would be OSU's Fisheries and Wildlife Department in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Other potential partners include Oregon state agencies, community colleges, private aquaria and industry.

The OrCOOS system would place multi-parameter buoys in Oregon coastal waters to measure water velocity, temperature, salinity and chlorophyll and to monitor hypoxia (a lack of dissolved oxygen in the ocean to support life). New technologies in radar that measure waves also would be put in place and models developed to pull the information together, according to Jack Barth, a professor in COAS.

"To make the information easily accessible to the public," he said, "all the data would be sent via satellite or radio to the coast to be put on the Internet as fast as possible."

Commercial groundfishing and trawl, Dungeness crab and shellfish fisheries are expected to benefit from the ocean observing system by receiving environmental data to help mitigate problems such as those caused by hypoxia. Recreational boaters, fishing charters and sightseeing cruises could use safety information provided by immediate, local observations of wave, current and meteorological conditions.

Also benefiting from the new data would be ocean researchers, natural resource managers, educational institutions, marine operations and those concerned with the ecosystem health, stability, biodiversity and management of the Oregon coast.

For more information, call COAS Dean Mark Abbott at 541-737-5195, or Barth at 541-737-1607.

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COAS, 541-737-3504