Coast Guard Keeping Eye on Channel Markers Off LBI as Ice Season Nears

Photo by Jack Reynolds.

Long Beach Island — While the extended 15-day forecast calls for below-normal temperatures on Long Beach Island, the declining mercury isn’t conducive to forming dangerous ice that could, in turn, create hazardous navigation conditions in the Intracoastal Waterway. Still, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation team, based in Cape May, will keep an eye on the weather and its potential impact on channel markers.

Salt water freezes at 29 degrees. For dangerous ice conditions to exist in the ICW, the temperature needs to stay at 29 degrees for a prolonged period of time, night and day, said Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Elijah Reynolds, officer in charge of the Aids to Navigation team. For three days, overnight at least, beginning Nov. 11, the temps will hover around 29 degrees, he said. Those numbers will reach the 40s during the day, and while ice can form at night, it’s not sustainable.

More than likely ice conditions won’t become problematic in the area until January/February, he said. That’s historically been the timeframe in the New Jersey ICW.

Icy conditions, along with the age of the steel sitting in saltwater, are responsible for broken channel markers many in the local boating community attribute as the cause of two separate boating accidents in the ICW 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.

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.

Currently, Reynolds and his team are keeping their eyes on nearly a half-dozen channel markers that are leaning, but still working. One of those markers is off the coast of Long Beach Township. It was assessed twice during the summer when Reynolds’ team was putting temporary fixes in place prior to the dive locker team arriving in mid-July.

Channel Marker 87, also off the coast of Long Beach Township, is missing, Reynolds said. A buoy was put in place in the summer. Until the marker is found, there is no way of knowing how it went missing, he said.

“Anytime a buoy goes off station, it poses a danger to mariners,” he said.

Boaters should always operate at safe speed and stay within the confines of the channel, and if they see something, they should say something. Reynolds can be reached directly at 609-898-6427, or boaters can call the local Coast Guard station to report a discrepancy with any aids to navigation.

“We can only correct what we know isn’t functioning properly,” he said.

Weekly, every Wednesday, the 5th Coast Guard District releases a local notice to mariners listing any and all discrepancies for aids to navigation from the Shrewsbury River in Monmouth County south to Little River in South Carolina. When issues arise after the notice to mariners is released, a voice message goes out over the radio, alerting mariners to those discrepancies.

The Aids to Navigation 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 local waters.

– Gina G. Scala

Reposted from The Sandpaper