After a long break, NOAA gauges Columbia's currents
September 28, 2023
Lorraine Heilman, an oceanographer with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, talked to an audience in Cathlamet recently about a project she led to survey the current in the Columbia River. As part of the National Current Observation Program, she and her colleagues go all over the country to update the tidal current tables, using "ever more interesting and new and fancy pieces of equipment," she said.
They used Cathlamet as a staging area in the last year.
"The marina is really, really nice," Heilman said. "We have grown to love the town quite a bit."
According to Heilman, NOAA's last survey of currents in the Columbia river was in 1981.
"That's only 42 years ago," she said. "Not so bad, but the Army Corps of Engineers has done an awful lot of dredging, the ships have gotten a lot bigger, and the character of the river has changed a little bit."
"It was definitely time to re-up our current survey," Heilman said.
The team set up 26 stations in the Columbia River starting in March of last year to gather data on currents. They added another 11 stations this year, and six from last year have continued to operate.
"Some of you may remember there was a lot of noise and banging at the city dock," she said.
Heilman went on to explain how NOAA measures the current, both historically amd how they do it today. She fielded a variety of questions from the audience, her passion and knowledge evident to any who were listening.