The University of Maryland this week will start to operate a state-of-the-art marine monitoring system in Havre de Grace designed to study the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

The university's Center for Environment and Estuarine Studies will operate the $200,000 Northern Chesapeake Bay Research and Monitoring Facility to provide daily information on the bay and its aquatic life.

"You can respond in a much better, efficient method by knowing what the bay is doing now," said William C. Boicourt, an oceanography professor who will oversee research at the facility.

The Havre de Grace site was selected because it would provide researchers with information on the bay as well as the Susquehanna River, Boicourt said. The confluence of the river and bay is just north of Havre de Grace.

The center hopes to develop about five more monitoring stations -- modeled after the Havre de Grace facility -- at other sites in the Chesapeake Bay, Boicourt said.

Boicourt said he expects the monitoring stations to provide up-to-date information on the bay, rather than the "snapshots" of information now collected during periodical research programs.

The stations will track information on daily changes in the bay's currents, wind speed, water and air temperatures, plant life, and content of salt and chemicals, Boicourt said.

The research station will maintain monitoring equipment attached to a buoy to gather data. The buoy will be located in the bay about 10 miles from the city, Boicourt said.

The monitor will relay information to a computer housed in an 800-square-foot structure at Millard E. Tydings Memorial Park, Boicourt said. The information will then be passed on to researchers at the Center for Environment and Estuarine Studies headquarters in Cambridge, Dorchester County.

The information collected by the station will be shared with schools and government agencies, such as the state Department of Natural Resources, the state Department of the Environment and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Boicourt said.

By learning about the water's daily circulation, researchers and government agencies will be able to determine what methods should be used to help restore the bay's health, Boicourt said.

But the station also will help in the short term, Boicourt said.

He gave an example of an oil spill. If such a spill occurred, cleanup crews could determine where they need to work first from information collected by the monitoring station, Boicourt said.

The monitoring station, which has been planned for about two years, was financed through state money secured by former state Sen. Catherine I.

Riley, D-District 34, and Sen. William H. Amoss, D-District 35A.

The center will conduct an opening ceremony at the facility in Tydings Park on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

As part of the ceremony, the center's research vessel, the Aquarius, will be docked at Frank Hutchins Park on Congress Street for public tours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

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