HOMER -- A year-long effort by Homer charter skipper Bob Ward to get better weather information for mariners has paid off -- the new federal budget includes $1.7 million for information-transmitting sea buoys in Alaska, including one in lower Cook Inlet.
"It worked," Ward exclaimed last week shortly after hearing that his idea had been funded by Congress.
He was especially pleased, he said, because his discussions with the National Weather Service had started with the agency asking him for weather observations when he took charter clients south to the Barren Islands.
"I turned it around and asked them for a weather station," he said. It was a winning situation for both he and the agency, he added. "They were really pleased, too."
The appropriation, inserted in the final federal budget bill by Sen. Ted Stevens, should be enough to install seven satellite-feed weather buoys from Southeast to the International Date Line, according to Greg Matzen of the National Weather Service in Anchorage.
"I'm just elated," Matzen said. "These (buoys) will be good. It's going to verify what a lot of people who sail through those areas already think, and it's excellent for us in the forecasting business."
He said the weather service had long wanted to get additional monitoring equipment in lower Cook Inlet, as well as elsewhere in Alaska.
"We kept getting shot down and shot down," he said.
Ward was undeterred, however, and eventually made his request known to Stevens' office.
The first two data buoys should be installed this year by the National Data Buoy Center. The first is scheduled for the Fairweather Ground, an area of relatively shallow water off Southeast Alaska. The second is destined for the Barren Islands in lower Cook Inlet, he said.
The remaining buoys will be placed in the following year or two in Shelikof Strait and Glacier Bay, off Cape Yakataga and Sand Point, and near the International Date Line.
Each buoy will transmit a variety of information twice an hour, including wind speed and direction, air and water temperature, barometric pressure and wave height. The information is transmitted via satellite to the National Data Buoy Center in southern Mississippi and is immediately uploaded into the weather service's Alaska Web site (www.alaska.net/~nwsar/).
The new Alaska buoys will be the 6-meter type, according to Matzen.
Joel Gay is managing editor of the Homer News.
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