Coast Guards Seeks Public Input on Buoy Changes

US Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma. Photo courtesy of the US Coast Guard.

Photo courtesy of the US Coast Guard.

BARNSTABLE – The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England is accepting public comment on proposed changes to federal aids-to-navigation, or buoys, in Southeastern Mass. waterways.

A Coast Guard review has identified 43 buoys out of the 450 in Buzzards Bay, Nantucket Sound and other local waters that do not provide a navigational benefit compared to their maintenance cost.

Thirty-one of the buoys are believed to have limited or no navigational safety value and are labeled for removal. The sound signal, or bell, would be removed from 10 buoys and two would be relocated near their current positions.

“We thought those particular aids were worth mentioning to the mariners and seeking their input with respect to how much value they might add to navigation safety,” said Ed LeBlanc, the chief of Waterways Management Division for the Coast Guard’s Sector Southeastern New England.

Leblanc said the Coast Guard is always looking at its aid-to-navigation system in the area to make it the best it can possibly be.

Harwich Harbormaster John Rendon said he has concerns about changes including the removal of two buoys marking Saquatucket Channel.

“They mark the ship channel coming into Saquatucket and we have a fairly narrow channel coming in and they mark the outer limits of the channel where there is some shoaled areas,” Rendon said. “We have a ferry that operated out of here, several large passenger boats, several deep draft sailboats. So I do have some concern.”

Rendon said the buoys add safety to boaters who are passing through the channel at night or through fog other than their GPS or radar.

“I will be providing comments directly to the Coast Guard on behalf of the town of Harwich and the concerns, that not only I have, but some of the boaters here in Harwich have that operate out of here on a daily basis,” Rendon said.

Chatham Harbormaster Stuart Smith, who also serves as the president of the Cape and Islands Harbormaster Association, has not seen the proposal yet but said it is something that the harbormaster association will look into and make comment on.

“Whenever there is a reduction in the aids-to-navigation it’s something we need to look at carefully,” said Smith.

LeBlanc said the proposal is not set in stone.

“This is not a plan. This is simply a proposal,” he said. “This is simply a way to continue the conversation.”

The Coast Guard has three public meetings every year with mariners in the Cape Cod area where several issues are discussed, including aids-to-navigation.

“We do have an excellent record of listening and changing our proposals based on input from mariners which is exactly what we are seeking through those bulletins that have been issued,” LeBlanc said.

The public comment period runs through June 30.

LeBlanc said the Coast Guard will take a look at the comments and form final recommendations and have them published sometime in the fall.

In no case would any of the proposed changes be made before November 1.


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