Hurricane Rita scattered residential, industrial and vegetative debris throughout the Calcasieu Lake estuary system, creating a hazard for recreational and commercial boaters, as well as their vessels and gear.

In an attempt to make the waters safer, and to guide future cleanup operations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Coast Survey, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program (Louisiana Sea Grant), Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), Lake Charles Power Squadron, LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Lake Charles Pilots have teamed up to mark and map as much of this marine debris as possible.

Volunteers are needed in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes for the project on Calcasieu Lake, Moss Lake and West Cove from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, June 24. Volunteers will be provided with maps and markers, and will travel in their own boats to assigned areas of the lake to look for debris. They will mark floating debris with foam floats, and submerged debris will be marked with PVC pipe. Volunteers will remove any small debris they can safely bring to shore, and will be asked to write down the location of all debris they mark. Additionally, boaters and residents are asked to report the location of any marine hazards they have encountered in these areas at www.laseagrant.org/debris/

Volunteers should meet at 8 a.m., Saturday, June 24, 2006, at Calcasieu Point Landing, 3955 Henry Pugh Blvd., in Lake Charles to register and pick up supplies. Registered volunteers will be treated to lunch and drinks.

Chartlette graphics of the three survey sites (Calcasieu Lake, Moss Lake to the north, and West Cove to the south-southwest) were assembled by NOAA, and these locations were divided into transects approximately every 100 meters. Each transect has been assigned an exclusive number to eliminate duplicate effort. GPS coordinates for both the beginning and end of each transect will be provided, and volunteers are asked to follow one complete transect line the day of the survey. Any large marine debris encountered will be described, logged using GPS (LAT/LON) and uniformly marked.

Debris that has the potential to shift, move or sink with the tidal current will be marked with an orange foam bullet float. These floats were carefully selected so as to not interfere with U.S. Coast Guard markers and other navigational aids. Stationary or submerged debris will be flagged with 1.5-inch diameter PVC pipe pushed into the soft lake bottom. Note that none of these markers are officially sanctioned aids to navigation.

The location of marine debris hazards reported by volunteers will be combined and mapped by NOAA. This information will be available online as they are completed.

The second phase of this project will use side-scan sonar to assess and map submerged debris that is not visible above the waterline.