Great news for Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay mariners! The Lower Cook Inlet Wave buoy is back online! Offline since May due to dead batteries, the original buoy was successfully recovered by C&C Salvage on July 31, 2020, and a new upgraded buoy deployed on August 14, 2020. Data are now reporting in real time to the AOOS Real Time Sensors data portal (https://portal.aoos.org/#metadata/52551/station/data), the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP) webpage (https://cdip.ucsd.edu/m/products/?stn=204p1), and the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) (https://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=46108). The newly deployed buoy is an upgrade from the previous one and now reports surface temperature and current data (surface water speed and direction) in addition to wave data.
The buoy is a partnership with CDIP, a US Army Corps of Engineers program, which maintains an extensive marine observing network for monitoring waves along the coastlines of the United States. Data are used by coastal engineers and planners and responders (e.g., US Coast Guard), weather and wave forecasters (e.g., the National Weather Service), research, state and federal scientists, and by the general public and mariners. AOOS has supported the lower Cook Inlet buoy since 2015 and also maintains CDIP buoys offshore of Nome and Kodiak.
AOOS has known since last fall that the battery for the lower Cook Inlet buoy would not last through the winter months, and plans were made for a buoy turnaround in the winter of 2020. A replacement buoy was shipped to Alaska just before Christmas. Unfortunately, poor weather and nearshore ice conditions delayed the new buoy deployment in both January and February of 2020. By March, the threat of the novel COVID-19 virus struck the U.S., restricting both workforce activities and travel throughout the state of Alaska. This further delayed the buoy turnaround.
Since May, when maritime activity in lower Cook Inlet and the Homer area picks up with the onset of seasonal commercial fishing and summer boating, AOOS has been receiving calls from the public and agencies, including the National Weather Service, asking about the buoy and when it might be back in service and stressing the importance of this asset to multiple end users. AOOS maintained ongoing communication with our buoy partners at the Kachemak Bay NERRS and NOAA Kasitsna Labs in Sedolvia, but contracting a vessel that could operate while maintaining safe COVID-19 work environment protocols thwarted our ability to get the buoy back into operation though our usual channels. C&C Salvage, a private salvage company based in Home, recovered the existing buoy and mooring assembly and then re-deployed the replacement buoy.
AOOS would like to thank the USACE and the CDIP team – James Behrens and Andrew Grey in particular- for contracting this buoy recovery/deployment operation and overseeing the turnaround from San Diego. We also would like to thank Zech Bennett and his team at C&C Salvage for expediting this turnaround. We also express our ongoing gratitude to our buoy partners at KBNERR and Kasitsna Bay Labs for helping us work through the local logistics during this pandemic. A special thanks goes to Kirby Marine for supporting our efforts by helping us acquire mooring anchor hardware, and to the US Coast Guard in Homer for agreeing to assist as needed during this and future buoy operations. Though COVID-19 has changed the way many of us are completing work in 2020, with all our great partners, we were able to finally get this valued asset back into operation for the second half of the busy summer maritime season and well before the onset of fall storm conditions.