Louisville District making a difference for river navigation

Published April 20, 2017
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shares a multi-agency mission with the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to maintain navigable waterways in the United States and develop more effective and efficient inland river and maritime systems.

Louisville District’s navigation team has worked with the electronic Navigation Information Systems since 2002.  This is a national team effort to support and develop Navigation Information Systems such as the Inland Electronic Navigational Charts referred to as IENC, Automatic Information Systems known as AIS, and eHydro.  

A partnership among the Coast Guard Office of Navigation Systems, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center developed an Automatic Identification System.  The AIS will transmit e-MSI messages to vessels from the Ohio River locks across the Louisville District. The messages can include information on weather, bridge clearance, hazardous cargos, safety and security zones and lock status.  The e-MSI test bed will help determine the equipment and infrastructure needed to modernize U.S. waterways and make them safer.

eHydro is a Corps-wide enterprise GIS for producing hydrographic survey mapping and analysis products that USACE can easily share with partnering agencies and private industry.  Louisville District was the first inland district to implement eHydro.  The Louisville team has the key role tasked to assist all other inland Districts to implement eHydro this fiscal year.

The Louisville team is developing additional software modules for the eHydro program. For example, the Channel Availability module, enables analysis of navigation channels, in aggregate and over time, for planning, budgeting, and to help with emergencies. 

Another module deploys “virtual buoys” based on the latest hydrographic surveys.  Using AIS, the module broadcasts a dynamic virtual buoy location to mark the navigation channel synced with hourly gage/water surface changes.  Towboat pilots can view the virtual buoy on electronic river charts on the Electronic Chart Display System in their pilot house.  

Similarly, a separate module converts a hydrographic survey into an internationally-compliant IENC overlay that USACE shares with the USCG and NOAA.  This enables the Coast Guard cutter crews to assess the channel, comparing previously placed buoys to the updated survey conditions on a map, while still in port.  Once on site, the crew can use the overlay directly on their ECDIS showing contours and spot depths to aid buoy placement.  Doing so is more accurate and saves tremendous time and money.