Captain’s Corner: Limited Access Areas

U.S. Coast Guard photo of CAPT Tom Allan taken by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy TamargoThis month’s Captain’s Corner comes from LTjg Shane Alexander, the head of the Sector’s Waterways Management Division. Shane provides a little insight into current restricted areas along the St. John’s River and a preview of additional limited access areas that are under consideration. In addition to limited access areas, our waterways division helps process marine event permits, controls and evaluates current aids to navigation used to mark federal waterways, help schedule CGC MARIA BRAY and CGC HAMMER operations (see pictures), and is involved in a variety of other matters to deconflict activity on our waters to ensure the maritime community can operate safely and securely. Shane and his team regularly attend Harbor Safety and waterways committees in the port. If you ever have a questions, or suggestion, they are ready to see how they can assist and make Northeast Florida better for all water users.
Look forward to seeing you all in the port!

– CAPT Tom Allan

Evolving Limited Access Area Regulations

By LTjg Shane Alexander

IMAG0133Underneath the umbrella of Sector Jacksonville’s area of responsibility, a diverse set of port related activities occur. In support of them, exclusionary zones have been established under the authority of the Coast Guard, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE). A map depicting current limited access areas is linked here. In addition to these, several restricted areas are in the preliminary stages of establishment.

The first project is an initiative by Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville to establish a 260 acre restricted area for the purpose of Search and Rescue (SAR) training in the St. Johns River off the shore of NAS. The goal is to protect SAR trainees and watercraft from potential injury or damage from unintended collisions with submerged crab traps. It is also intended to prevent delays or cancellations of training in order to maintain safety, as well as, prevent potential damage to traps. Some impact to crabbing is anticipated, as the proposed area would not allow for the anchoring of crab traps within the restricted area. However, when not in use, vessels will still be able to fish and transit the area.

On Feb. 19, 2014, NAS held an informational public meeting as part of their ongoing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) in an effort to increase awareness regarding the potential hazards faced by Navy personnel amidst routine rescue swimmer training in the river. Following the completion of the EIS, NAS JAX will formally submit the request to the ACOE. Further details may be found on the NAS JAX SAR Public Scoping Letter. Interested parties desiring to submit comments regarding the proposed area should do so by March 31, 2014 to:

NAVFAC Southeast/SAR Training Area
NEPA Program Manager, EV21
P.O. Box 30
Jacksonville, FL 32212-0030

In addition to the activity at NAS, Sector Jacksonville requested the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) establish a restricted area roughly 100 feet along the waterfront of USCG Sector Jacksonville. As a base co-located with a small boat station, two patrol boats, a buoy tender, and a construction tender, a multitude of concerns must be taken into account. The establishment of a restricted area increases protection from potential subversive or terrorist acts that may be carried out against or by gaining access to Sector Jacksonville or a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter via the water. Furthermore, it also reduces the potential for public injury or property damage during routine and emergency Coast Guard operations at a unit with a high operational tempo. In particular, Station Mayport’s readiness to respond to SAR and Ports, Waterways & Coastal Security missions. Lastly, it will serve as a permanent buffer or explosive safety arc, to guard the public when ammunition transfers are conducted between the Sector, cutters and small boats.