Engineer Research and Development Center

For Immediate Release:
Release No: V-1-15

Contact: Field Research Facility
Phone: 252-261-6840

Monitoring Project Set for Currituck Sound

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility, or FRF, in Duck, North Carolina is kicking off a $1.3 million research project in the Currituck Sound. The FRF is installing five large monitoring platforms in the estuary, one of the largest, single-effort, estuarine monitoring efforts in the United States.

The FRF is a component of the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Currituck Sound project falls within the Coastal Observations and Analysis Branch of the laboratory structure.

“The installation of the Currituck Sound array observing platforms represents a major investment by USACE to address significant gaps in our understanding of complex estuarine systems,” said Dr. Heidi Wadman, who is leading the project. “We consider engaging the public to be key in the success of this project, letting the local public know what we are doing in a "hey - isn't this cool" sense can only strengthen the project. We are also hoping that local residents will help us keep an eye on the platforms and the solar panels they contain. Damage to those panels would involve complicated and expensive repairs.”

Five instrument platforms will be installed to form both cross-shore and alongshore arrays in Currituck Sound. Measurements at the five stations will include winds, waves, currents, temperature, salinity, and video. In addition, seabed elevation changes and additional water quality parameters including the dimming of light as it moves through water, or light attenuation, the amount of dissolved oxygen in Currituck Sound, algae content and pH will measured at multiple stations.

Currituck Sound, part of the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System, is a narrow, shallow, wind-driven end-member of North Carolina’s complex Albemarle-Pamlico region, the largest coastal lagoon system in the lower 48 states. Coastal lagoons are common features along the east and Gulf coasts.

The Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System provides critical habitat for fish and marine invertebrates, as well as habitat for birds and other wildlife. It is also subject to a wide range of manmade challenges, including dredging, shoreline development and beach or sand management, all of which can impact water quality, ecological function, flood vulnerability and habitat resilience. Currituck Sound is a small and easily monitored area, which makes it an ideal location for long-term monitoring.

The study will also focus on turbidity, an expression of the amount of light that is scattered by material in the water. The higher the intensity of scattered light in the water, the higher the turbidity. Materials that cause water to be turbid include clay, silt, fine inorganic and organic matter, algae, plankton and other microscopic organisms.

All data will be publically available in real-time via the Coastal and Hydraulics Lab’s Data Portal, a state of the art data discovery tool and library.

The ERDC is the premier research and development facility for USACE, with more than 2,500 employees, $1.2 billion in facilities and an annual research program exceeding $1.1 billion. It conducts research in both military and civil works mission areas for the Department of Defense and the nation.

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