Coast Guard’s prevention mission brings Columbia Cup spectators home safely

A Coast Guard boat crew aboard a 29-foot Response Boat-Small II patrols the Columbia River among spectators of the Columbia Cup hydroplane races and air show held in Kennewick, Wash., July 25, 2015.  The patrol was part of enforcement of a safety zone boundary up river from Columbia Cup events.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

A Coast Guard boat crew aboard a 29-foot Response Boat-Small II patrols the Columbia River among spectators of the Columbia Cup hydroplane races and air show held in Kennewick, Wash., July 25, 2015.
The patrol was part of enforcement of a safety zone boundary up river from Columbia Cup events.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

U.S. Coast Guard story by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read

When 70,000 people are expected to converge onto or near the banks of the Columbia River, somebody is responsible for their safety. The Coast Guard would be that somebody. The Columbia River is a federal navigable waterway which makes the Coast Guard responsible for people’s safety while operating or recreating on it.

Chief Warrant Officer Gary Clark, commanding officer at Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor, scans the Columbia River with binoculars to ensure Coast Guard boat crews are in position to enforce the safety zone along the Columbia River during the Columbia Cup hydroplane races held in Kennewick, Wash., July 24, 2015.  Clark is manning one of the command and control positions and is ensuring Coast Guard boat crews are in proper position to enforce the safety zone. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Chief Warrant Officer Gary Clark, commanding officer at Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor, scans the Columbia River with binoculars to ensure Coast Guard boat crews are in position to enforce the safety zone along the Columbia River during the Columbia Cup hydroplane races held in Kennewick, Wash., July 24, 2015.
Clark is manning one of the command and control positions and is ensuring Coast Guard boat crews are in proper position to enforce the safety zone.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

The Columbia River runs more than 1,200 miles starting in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia and running south through the state of Washington before turning west and creating the vast majority of the border between Oregon and Washington before emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

Along the route of the Columbia River lies the Tri-Cities. The Tri-Cities, Kennewick, Richland and Pasco, Washington, have been hosting the Water Follies event for 50 years. The Water Follies consist of two major events over the same weekend – professional hydroplane races and an over the water air show.

The Coast Guard has an eight man unit in Kennewick but it is an aid-to-navigation team, and they are not capable of carrying out law enforcement missions.

“This was an all-hands event for my crew, and we put in three 11-hour days,” said Chief Petty Officer Jesse Bruce, officer in charge, Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick.

Any on water event that may change normal operations on a navigable waterway requires a permit. In this case the permits were issued by Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland. In order to receive permits to run an event like the Water Follies, an organization must have a plan to mitigate safety issues that may come up.

A boat crew from Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, aboard a 26-foot ATON boat, and A Walla Walla County, Wash., sheriff's boat crew patrols the lower division of the Columbia River while enforcing a safety zone for the Columbia Cup Hydroplane races and air show held in Kennewick, Wash., July 25, 2015.  Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crews along with local maritime law enforcement patrolled areas up and down river from the events taking place in the safety zone to ensure the safety of spectators.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

A boat crew from Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, aboard a 26-foot ATON boat, and A Walla Walla County, Wash., sheriff’s boat crew patrols the lower division of the Columbia River while enforcing a safety zone for the Columbia Cup Hydroplane races and air show held in Kennewick, Wash., July 25, 2015.
Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crews along with local maritime law enforcement patrolled areas up and down river from the events taking place in the safety zone to ensure the safety of spectators.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Most events require a safety zone that surrounds an event that spectators are not allowed into. The enforcement of these safety zones usually falls on the local Coast Guard unit and local law enforcement agencies.

For the Water Follies event the Coast Guard was tasked to enforce a 2 ½ mile safety zone as stated in the local code of regulations that would effectively close the Columbia River to all vessel traffic. An anchor line was marked 1 ¼ miles upriver and 1 ¼ miles downriver from the planned races and air show.

To enforce the safety zone during the Columbia Cup and air show, Sector Columbia River, headquartered in Warrenton, Oregon, reinforced ANT Kennewick personnel with two boats and four boat crews and a vessel boarding and assist team. These Coast Guard personnel were assisted by several Washington state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as, volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary members. The Coast Guard Auxiliary supplied six boats with a minimum of three members aboard.

To supplement those forces, two operations specialist managed radio communications between the on-water boat forces and the command and control officers.

A boat crew from Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, aboard a 26-foot ATON boat, patrols the lower division of the Columbia River while enforcing a safety zone for the Columbia Cup Hydroplane races and air show held in Kennewick, Wash., July 25, 2015.  Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crews along with local maritime law enforcement patrolled areas up and down river from the events taking place in the safety zone to ensure the safety of spectators.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

A boat crew from Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, aboard a 26-foot ATON boat, patrols the lower division of the Columbia River while enforcing a safety zone for the Columbia Cup Hydroplane races and air show held in Kennewick, Wash., July 25, 2015.
Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crews along with local maritime law enforcement patrolled areas up and down river from the events taking place in the safety zone to ensure the safety of spectators.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

More than 800 man hours were worked during the enforcement of the safety zone over the 3-day event.

“We are super appreciative of how the public acted and participated in and around the Water Follies,” said Bruce. “This year everyone made it home safely at the end of night and from our end it was as successful event.”

Maritime Safety is one of the core missions of the Coast Guard and there are two basic parts to maritime safety – response and prevention. Response is basically search and rescue and often gets most of the attention outside of the Coast Guard. Prevention is all the planning and enforcement of rules and regulations that are designed to keep people on the water safe. The successful return of 70,000 people to their homes from their trip to the Columbia River tallies another successful mission by the Coast Guard.

Tags: , , , , , ,