Coast Guard: Temporary Fix in Place for Broken Channel Markers Off LBI

By GINA G. SCALA | Jun 12, 2019
Supplied Photo

Surf City — All but three hazardous channel markers in the Intracoastal Waterway off Long Beach Island have been temporarily fixed by the Coast Guard following a vocal call-to-action from recreational boaters after two separate boating accidents occurred in local waters Memorial Day weekend.

The ICW is a 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 temporary fix consists 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.

Two 26-foot trailerable aids to navigation boats (TANB) were used to perform the work, according to Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Elijah Reynolds. Each boat had a crew of four, and leapfrogged much of the way as they worked to install the temporary fixes from Toms River through the waters off LBI, ending just above Atlantic City June 5. Reynolds and his crew were at it again June 6 in the ICW between Atlantic City and Cape May.

Fixing each channel marker in this way took approximately an hour, he said.

“No one has ever done anything like this,” he said. “I think it’s going to hold up until the divers get here next month.”

The Coast Guard’s East Coast diving team will also take a closer look at three channel markers in the ICW off Long Beach Island, which were left as they were prior to Reynolds getting the go-ahead from his chain of command to implement the temporary fix.

“We couldn’t do channel marker 79,” he said. “It’s leaning about 75 to 80 degrees and we had some discussion about whether we would yank it off. There’s no hazard there right now; you can still see it. If I pulled it off and we can’t pick it up (the buoy weighs more than the boat can safely transport), now I’ve created a hazardous condition.”

A similar situation exists at channel marker 84, Reynolds said.

“It’s still doing its job,” he said, noting there is no underwater hazard at channel marker 84. “It’s just leaning. The divers will look at it.”

Reynolds purposely took the TANB he was driving over the area where channel marker 87 should have been to see if a hazard existed. He said the bay floor felt like sand, not mud. The crew searched for 45 minutes for some sign of wreckage. There was no pole in the area so they attempted to drive one into the bay floor twice without any success.

“The WR (wreck) buoy is there, but there’s nothing else,” he said, adding the area is “15 feet from a house. We will check it out with the divers.”

Reynolds has said he knows a July time frame for a more permanent fix for the channel markers isn’t ideal, but logistics, including the schedule of the East Coast dive team and the size of the boats the Coast Guard used to initially install the aids to navigation, are some of the challenges to getting the work done. Reynolds has approved a 49-foot boat from his fleet for use in the ICW, which is hard to navigate in the area due to shoaling and water clarity.

“You can’t see your fingers in the ICW,” Reynolds said, noting he has to rely solely on his instrumental panels, which are accurate down to the one-1,000th of a decimal point.

The fleet, including Reynolds, has 17 people and three boats responsible for aids to navigation from Shark River in Monmouth County south through a portion of Virginia. Reynolds’ Coast Guard 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 waters off Long Beach Island.

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