Memphis District Commander Col. Zachary Miller joined officials from the U.S. Geological Survey and a group of Mississippi River city mayors at a press conference Monday (Sept. 16) to announce the launch of a new shipboard water quality monitoring system. The steam ship American Queen, where the press conference took place, is the first commercial vessel to mount the system.
The shipboard installations will work together with 3,700 stationary sensors already in place to give the USGS and other interested parties a more comprehensive look at water quality on America’s greatest river.
USGS Director Jim Reilly said the shipboard sensors will sample the water every five minutes reporting temperatures, levels of turbidity, oxygen and nitrates, and other data. The system will then send this information via satellite to the USGS where computers will compile it with other readings to give a near real time picture of the river’s condition.
“Working with our partners, the Corps is actively restoring habitat up and down the Mississippi River,” Col. Miller said. “Sensors such as the one being deployed today will provide critical information that decision makers can use to identify areas for restoration.
“We are working with the Lower Mississippi River Resource Conservation Committee and the state’s fish and wildlife agencies, in the restoration of side channel habitat,” he went on to say. “To date, our partners have identified 255 projects and have restored 100 miles of side channels. These projects improve water quality and restore vital habitat along the lower river. So we in the Corps are intimately involved with understanding what is going on in the water.”
The new shipboard systems will also gather information on runoff from farms and other locations of chemicals like phosphorus and nitrogen. Reilly said many believe these chemicals are a major cause of the annual hypoxia “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans.