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California State waters map series—Benthic habitat characterization in the region offshore of Morro Bay, California

September 6, 2023

Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard geoform, substrate, and biotic component geographic information system products were developed for the California State waters of south-central California in the region offshore of Morro Bay. The study was motivated by interest in development of offshore wind-energy capacity and infrastructure in Federal waters offshore. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in coordination with the State of California and many other members of the California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, issued calls for information in 2018 for the study area offshore of Morro Bay, California. The study area is adjacent to a nuclear power plant (currently scheduled for decommissioning) with a developed electric grid connection, and in an area of high wind resource potential. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is the lead agency responsible for planning and leasing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and funded this project to assess baseline conditions of, and the potential effects on, the seafloor environment. This project, carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey, resulted in three data releases for individual map blocks that are part of the California State Waters Map Series: (1) Offshore of Point Estero, (2) Offshore of Morro Bay, and (3) Offshore of Point Buchon. The study area consists of 341 square kilometers (km2) of multibeam echo sounder (MBES) data acquired by Fugro, Inc., in 2010. Towed camera-sled video was acquired in 2012 to supervise the classification of the MBES data into habitats. There were 935 annotations of organisms and habitat made from 22 video transects. Using video observations of habitat as ground truth, derivatives of the MBES data were classified into 3 seafloor character types (hard-rugged, hard-flat, and soft-flat), 25 modifier groups, and 9 geoforms. The study area substrate is predominantly soft-flat sediment (mud and fine sand) covering 191.3 km2 (56.1 percent) of the area. Hard-flat substrate areas, predominantly coarse sediment in scour depressions, cover 52.2 km2 (15.3 percent) of the study area. The hard-rugged substrate areas are primarily outcrops of layered sedimentary bedrock and constitute 97.5 km2 of the study area (28.6 percent). After classification of bathymetry and backscatter raster images according to substrate, false-positive hard areas produced by noise artifacts were removed by manual editing. Nine geoforms were then identified in the analysis. The predominant geoforms mirror the seafloor character results, shelf geoforms (flat areas covered in soft sediment), rock outcrop geoforms (hard, rugged areas), and scour depression geoforms (flat areas covered in coarse sediment formed by bottom currents).

Publication Year 2023
Title California State waters map series—Benthic habitat characterization in the region offshore of Morro Bay, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20231064
Authors Guy R. Cochrane, Rikk Kvitek, Aaron Cole, Meghan Sherrier, Alia Roca-Lezra, Sean Hallahan, Peter Dartnell
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2023-1064
Index ID ofr20231064
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center