New camera will benefit Cook Inlet mariners

While monitoring busy beaches may be one welcome benefit of our latest ice camera (Peninsula Clarion, April 25), for Cook Inlet RCAC and the mariners docking at Nikiski in the winter, it’s all about the ice.

Freshwater ice forming in the Kenai River is different from saltwater or brackish ice. It is denser and poses a greater risk to mariners. When this freshwater ice is transported on a flood tide it can move as far north as the Nikiski docks, creating dangerous conditions for vessels during and after mooring. For this compelling reason, the Kenai River is an ideal location to install our latest ice camera. Once installed, this camera will be able to monitor the amount of freshwater ice leaving the river, making it an important risk management tool for vessels that moor at the Nikiski facilities.

The ice forecasting network of cameras is one of Cook Inlet RCAC’s most important initiatives. Since its implementation, the cameras have become an essential part of the process used by NOAA’s Ice forecaster to develop the all-important marine advisories for mariners transiting throughout Cook Inlet during the winter months.

We have been working steadily to improve and expand the network, which has become a sophisticated system of cameras mounted on platforms, docks and other strategic locations. These cameras can locate and evaluate ice pan size and thickness, establish the location of the “hard edge” of an ice flow, capture vessel movement through ice when possible, record ice coverage and ice make-up, track outstanding events, index video with on-scene observations and still photos, archive images, and utilize data to aid in future ice forecasts.

Throughout its evolution, the network’s primary goal — and our highest priority — has been to increase navigation safety in Cook Inlet. We are grateful to our partners: the Alaska Ocean Observing System, State of Alaska, City of Kenai, ASRC Energy Services, Cook Inlet Energy, Hilcorp Alaska, Offshore Systems Kenai, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Municipality of Anchorage, XTO Energy and NOAA for sharing this goal.