Coast Guard Tackles Seasonal Buoy Replacements in Intracoastal Waterway

By GINA G. SCALA | Dec 11, 2019
Photo by: Elijah Reynolds

Long Beach Island — The Coast Guard removed four seasonal buoys from the Intracoastal Waterway north of Barnegat Light over a 24-hour period last week, replacing them with ice buoys that are designed to handle cold conditions better.

Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Elijah Reynolds, officer in charge of the Aids to Navigation team, Cape May, said the buoys pulled from the ICW have a start and expiration date to be in the water. Buoys 13, 26, 30 and 43 were all scheduled to be removed, he said, noting each was equipped with a light on top. The ice buoys do not have lights.

The ice buoy is made from steel, while the seasonal buoys are generally made from foam and can be dragged under by ice, according to Reynolds. Salt water freezes at 29 degrees. For dangerous ice conditions to exist in the ICW, the temperature needs to consistently stay at 29 degrees for a prolonged period of time, night and day, he said. While there have been isolated periods of cold weather, it has been regular enough to create a hazardous climate, and icy conditions are more than likely to occur in local waters in January and February, he has said.

In the meantime, Reynolds and his crew dropped a new buoy near Barnegat Inlet buoy 12, he said. That buoy, which was missing for more than six months, has a light on it. Reynolds said his team addressed that aids to navigation discrepancy as soon as the fleet’s 49-foot boat was back in service, which was last week.  A second buoy, considered a danger buoy, just north of the north jetty, was also serviced, he said.

Nine more inspections need to be completed, he said. Those buoys range from numbers 9 to 31 north of Barnegat Inlet and close to Oyster Creek.

Icy conditions, along with the age of the steel sitting in salt water, are responsible for broken channel markers that many in the local boating community attribute as the cause of two separate boating accidents in the ICW during Memorial Day weekend. The ICW is the 3,000-mile inland waterway running from Boston south along the Atlantic seaboard, around the southern tip of Florida and around the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. It runs through bay areas west of Long Beach Island.

Reynolds said there are two types of ice that are the most detrimental: fast ice and plate ice. Fast ice is a continuous piece of ice that develops quickly from shore to shore. It doesn’t drift and is held in place by land, he said.

“Plate ice is a big piece of fast ice that broke away,” Reynolds said, noting plate ice is generally thick and will “take with it” most things in its path, such as a channel marker.

In July, the Coast Guard removed and replaced more than 10 broken channel markers in the ICW off LBI over a 55-hour period. In total, the Aids to Navigation team and the East Coast dive locker unit removed 20 broken markers spanning the waters from Toms River to Cape May.

“We’re working toward a spring removal of damaged structures. We want to be done before the busy season,” Reynolds said earlier this week, reiterating there are continuing discussions regarding a long-term plan to maintain and/or replace the aids to navigation in the ICW.

Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it awarded a more than yearlong contract to Barnegat Bay Dredging Co. to deepen certain bay areas from Cape May north toward Long Beach Island, helping the Coast Guard to maintain aids to navigation in one of the most traversed areas of the ICW.

The Harvey Cedars-based company is expected to start the dredge work sometime this week in the Cape May Ferry area, according to Steve Rochette, public affairs officer of the Corps, Philadelphia District.

“After that, the sequence and locations for dredging are still being determined,” he said, noting the sequence may not go exactly south to north. “We’re coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard on some of the areas with shoals that hinder the navigation of their equipment.”

The problem areas exist mostly south of the LBI region, Reynolds said at the time, noting there is a significant trouble spot in the ICW around Avalon in Cape May County where a navigational channel, due to shoaling, basically doesn’t exist. The depth of the water in that area, he said, is about 1 to 3 feet. A majority of the ICW is maintained at 6 feet of water.

“If they accomplish what they intend,” Reynolds said, “it will hopefully allow a large Coast Guard cutter to navigate the ICW to remove old pilings and drive new ones.”

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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