Demand is growing in the United States and worldwide for information about the geology of offshore continental shelf regions, the character of the seafloor, and sediments comprising the seafloor and subbottom. Interest in locating sand bodies or high quality deposits that have potential as sources for beach nourishment and ecosystem restoration is especially great in some regions of the country. The Atlantic coast, particularly New York and New Jersey, has been the focus of these studies for the past 40 years with widely varying results. This study is the first attempt at applying probability statistics to modeling Holocene-age cape-and ridge-associated sand deposits and thus focuses on distinct sand body morphology. This modeling technique may have application for other continental shelf regions that have similar geologic character and late Quaternary sea-level transgression history.
An estimated volume of 3.9 billion m3 of marine sand resources is predicted in the cape-and ridge-associated marine sand deposits in three representative regions or tracts on the continental shelf offshore of New York and New Jersey. These estimates are taken from probabilistic distributions of sand resources and are produced using deposit models and Monte Carlo Simulation (MCS) techniques. The estimated sand resources presented here are for only three tracts as described below and for Holocene age sand resources contained in cape-and ridge-associated marine sand deposit types within this area. Other areas may qualify as tracts for this deposit type and other deposit types and geologic ages (for example, paleo-stream channels, blanket and outwash deposits, ebb-tide shoals, and lower sea level-stand deltas), which are present on the New Jersey and New York continental shelf area but are not delineated and modeled in this initial evaluation.
Admittedly, only a portion of these probable sand resources will ultimately be available and suitable for production, dependent largely on geographic, economic, preemptive use, environmental, geologic and political factors. In addition, offshore sand resources should only be considered if the area is seaward of the active zone of significant nearshore sediment transport, about 10 to 12 m in depth, and in sufficiently shallow water so that sand can be extracted within U.S. dredging equipment limits, currently about 40 m in depth. If the material is to be used for beach nourishment, material must be of an appropriate sediment texture and character (grain size, sorting, shape, and color) to match the native beach and have mineralogical properties important to its use. Extraction of sand can disturb or alter the benthic habitat and seafloor ecology, so these factors and other site-specific effects will need to be evaluated for any intended use. These and other factors are not considered in this report but can be expected to reduce the total net volume of sand resources available for production. The purpose of this report is to describe and present results from a probabilistic mineral modeling technique previously applied to onshore mineral resources. This modeling and assessment procedure is being used for the first time to assess and estimate offshore aggregate resources; this study is part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Marine Aggregates Resources and Processes Project (http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/project-pages/aggregates/).