Coast Guard Teams Begin Removing and Replacing Hazardous Channel Markers Off LBI

By Gina G. Scala | Jul 16, 2019
Photo by: Elijah Reynolds

Surf City, NJ — As promised, they’re here. The Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation and East Coast dive teams are working in tandem in the Intracoastal Waterway off Long Beach Island to remove and replace broken channel markers many believe were responsible for two separate boating accidents in local waters 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 LBI.

The monthlong project kicked off Monday, July 15, well north of Barnegat Light with channel marker 38, before the 17 Coast Guardsmen, including seven from the Aids to Navigation team and eight members of the dive team, began working in the waters off Long Beach Island.

On Tuesday, the dive team removed the remnants of channel markers 53, 65 and 67 before a crew from the Aids to Navigation team, stationed in Cape May, placed a seasonal buoy to mark the spot. In June, the Aids to Navigation team, led by Senior Chief Boastwain’s Mate Elijah Reynolds, the officer in charge, had implemented a pilot program for temporary fixes that consisted of placing new foam buoys over the broken markers to further identify them to boaters as well as, in some case, new steel poles to keep them from drifting.

Reynolds said Tuesday the steel pole of the temporary fix at channel marker 53, off Harvey Cedars, was bent 45 degrees when they arrived in the area that morning. From what he could ascertain, the temporary fix had been struck, most likely over the weekend, despite the large foam buoy affixed to the pole. It took about two hours to remove the hazard from the water and for his team to replace it with a seasonal buoy before the two teams moved south toward the Causeway, he said.

There are roughly 10 channel markers in local waters that the two teams will be tackling as they work to remove and replace the hazardous aids to navigation on the ICW off LBI. The work is part of a larger project extending from Toms River, where work began earlier this week, to Cape May, where the project is expected to end in mid-August.

The Aids to Navigation team is team is responsible for ensuring more than 364 structures, including channel markers and buoys, are up to date and functional. Roughly 75 percent are located in the ICW in New Jersey, and a majority of those markers are located in the local waters. A majority of the hazardous channel markers are also located in local waters, according to Reynolds.

Reynolds is piloting a 49-foot buoy utility stern loading (BUSL) boat as the dive platform for the operations in the shallow waters of the ICW off LBI. The BUSL draws about 5 or 6 feet of water, depending on the weight load it’s carrying, he said. It can safely transport up to 16,000 pounds.

As the work continues, the Coast Guard is asking the public to use caution where they’re operating boats and other watercraft on the Intracoastal Waterway between Toms River and Cape May.

Boaters causing wakes or coming too close to divers can cause a potentially dangerous situation for workers above and below the water. Coast Guard members will be providing boaters with numerous signals that they are conducting operations, such as diver-down flags, day markers, lights and VHF-FM Channel 16, as well as a broadcast to mariners.

— Gina G. Scala

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