DWR commissions its new research vessel; the Sentinel will be at forefront of water quality

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today commissioned a new research vessel as a state-of-the-art replacement for the San Carlos, which since America’s bicentennial year has been monitoring water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and upper San Francisco Estuary.

The Sentinel is a floating laboratory whose mission is to protect water quality. The flagship of DWR’s Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) enables staff to conduct water quality, nutrient and lower trophic (phytoplankton, zooplankton and benthos) monitoring of the Delta. The research vessel plays a critical role helping to meet water quality objectives and the mandated requirements of biological opinions issued by the courts to guide water quality issues in the Delta.

The Sentinel was named by DWR Director Mark W. Cowin, who is retiring at month’s end after a 36-year career at the Department. Cowin named the vessel to honor the late Laura King Moon, DWR’s former Chief Deputy Director who passed away in 2015. “Laura King Moon worked tirelessly as a guardian of California’s water supply and its environment,” Cowin said. “This new research vessel is dedicated in her memory.” Moon was an environmental champion who dedicated her 38-year career to resource and water policy.

The Sentinel’s commissioning took place aboard the historic Delta King on the Sacramento River in the Old Sacramento Historic District. During the ceremony, Cowin drew a comparison between the era of the Delta King’s commissioning in the 1920’s and the current era. “We are experiencing a period of great change – climate change, political change and changes in water management,” he said. “I think we can agree that the Sentinel is a welcome change.”

The Sentinel replaces the San Carlos, which provided valuable service for the past 40 years gathering information that informed water quality analysis, biological opinions and State Water Project (SWP) decisions. Cowin said it was time for a “new guardian of the Delta waters to greet new challenges.” Design and construction of the Sentinel was accomplished with funding from the SWP’s 29 contractors. The construction project began in February 2015, and builder Vigor Industrial of Seattle launched the vessel in October. Sea trials have been occurring since the launch.

The Sentinel’s characteristics: 60 feet in length, 24-foot beam, and a draft of 3 feet 6 inches.

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