High and dry, Coast Guard team ensures safety in Eastern Washington.

Kennewick team works on dry land to ensure safety on waterway.

U.S. Coast Guard story by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

Members of Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick work to repair mooring chains, replace decals, ensure proper position of the buoys and conduct other aid maintenance on Lake Roosevelt, located in northeastern Washington state, Aug. 5 2015.  The team conducted operations here recently servicing aids used by recreational and commercial boaters while they work and play on the popular lake. More than 1.5 million people visit the lake annually and it is ANT Kennewick’s responsibility to make sure the aids are serviceable and in good condition to ensure boaters travel safely on the waterway.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford.

Members of Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick work to repair mooring chains, replace decals, ensure proper position of the buoys and conduct other aid maintenance on Lake Roosevelt, located in northeastern Washington state, Aug. 5 2015.
The team conducted operations here recently servicing aids used by recreational and commercial boaters while they work and play on the popular lake. More than 1.5 million people visit the lake annually and it is ANT Kennewick’s responsibility to make sure the aids are serviceable and in good condition to ensure boaters travel safely on the waterway.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford.

In 1941, the United States government completed construction on what would become the largest hydropower facility and the largest concrete structure in the country: The Grand Coulee Dam.

With bolt cutters in one hand, Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, executive petty officer, Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, untangles a buoy’s mooring chain while conducting operations on Lake Roosevelt located nearly 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Washington state April 27, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

With bolt cutters in one hand, Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, executive petty officer, Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, untangles a buoy’s mooring chain while conducting operations on Lake Roosevelt located nearly 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Washington state, April 27, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

When the floodgates were closed on the Grand Coulee in 1942, the powerful waters of the Columbia River collected upstream and rose 380 feet, forming a reservoir called Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake. The lake, which stretches 150 miles long and has more than 600 miles of coastline, is home to a nearly two dozen aids to navigation that have to be maintained by Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick.

The massive reservoir’s healthy fisheries of rainbow trout, kokanee, walleye and smallmouth bass, have made Lake Roosevelt a popular fishing destination for anglers in the northwest. In addition to fishing, recreational boating activities draw people to the lake, attracting nearly 1.5 million visitors each year. Since the dam’s construction, the Coast Guard has been conducting regular operations in the area.

Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, executive petty officer, and Seaman Adam Lopez, both from Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, use a gas-powered auger to help set a sand screw that is attached to a chain and then to a buoy while conducting operations on Lake Roosevelt located nearly 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Washington state April 27, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford.

Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, executive petty officer, and Seaman Adam Lopez, both from Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, use a gas-powered auger to help set a sand screw that is attached to a chain and then to a buoy while conducting operations on Lake Roosevelt located nearly 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Washington state, April 27, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford.

On Lake Roosevelt, ANT Kennewick works the aids twice per year and when they do work them, it’s solely dependent on the water level of the lake. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, the level of Lake Roosevelt fluctuates for multiple reasons. The level can be adjusted via the Grand Coulee Dam for flood control, increasing or decreasing power production, irrigation needs, salmon runs or dam repairs. That being said, this can be seen as one of the few instances where it’s a good thing to have the buoys ‘high and dry.’

“We wait until the water level is down to access the entire mooring on the seabed because we use highly unusual methods of mooring these buoys in place,” says Chief Petty Officer Jesse Bruce, Officer in Charge, ANT Kennewick. “Instead of using a heavy sinker (a concrete block weight) that sits on the bottom, we use heavy-duty ground screws that sink deep into the mud and rock. Because we use this method, we can’t pull the mooring up off the bottom, when the lake is full, in order to verify its status due to limitations of our boat and the ability to return it to its assigned position.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Tenorio, engineering petty officer, Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, checks the thickness of the chain on a buoy’s mooring on Lake Roosevelt, located in northeastern Washington state.  The team was working here recently servicing aids used by recreational and commercial boaters while they work and play on the popular lake April 27, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Tenorio, engineering petty officer, Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, checks the thickness of the chain on a buoy’s mooring on Lake Roosevelt, located in northeastern Washington state, April 27, 2015.
The team was working here recently servicing aids used by recreational and commercial boaters while they work and play on the popular lake.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

The following are a few things that Aids to Navigation Teams do while working buoys in areas like Lake Roosevelt.

 

  • They’ll first check the integrity and cleanliness of the buoy. During this time they check for damage and clear any growth or debris from the buoy. They’ll also inspect all markings on the buoy as well as the reflective decals and replace them as necessary.
  • Then they check the mooring – this is when the team will inspect the chain that anchors the buoy to its position, measure the individual link thickness for wear, and inspect, and sometimes replace, lengths of chain, shackles and swivels.
  • Inspect the dormors and sinkers – These are the weights used to keep the buoys in place. Dormors are typically made of solid iron weighing between 135 and 500 pounds and the sinkers are concrete blocks that can weight anywhere between 100 and 300 pounds. Sometimes, as is the case with buoys on Lake Roosevelt, they use deep-set iron sand screws to anchor the buoys in place.
  • Using Global Positioning Satellite technology, the crew will then ensure the buoy and it’s mooring are in their correct position.

 

According to Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, a boatswain’s mate and the executive petty officer for ANT Kennewick, the Coast Guard has been enforcing navigation laws and regulations and performing boat inspections on Lake Roosevelt since the early 1940s.

(Left to right) Lt. Cmdr. Michele Schallip, chief of the Waterways Management Branch, Coast Guard District 13, Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Tenorio, engineering petty officer of Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, Seaman Adam Lopez, of ANT Kennewick, and Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, executive petty officer, also from ANT Kennewick, perform maintenance on a buoy while conducting operations on Lake Roosevelt located nearly 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Washington state, April 27, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

(Left to right) Lt. Cmdr. Michele Schallip, chief of the Waterways Management Branch, Coast Guard District 13, Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Tenorio, engineering petty officer of Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, Seaman Adam Lopez, of ANT Kennewick, and Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, executive petty officer, also from ANT Kennewick, perform maintenance on a buoy while conducting operations on Lake Roosevelt located nearly 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Washington state, April 27, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

“Along with law enforcement and search and rescue, we also have the responsibility of maintaining and repairing the aids to navigation on Lake Roosevelt and along the nearby Spokane River Arm,” said Severns. “These lighted aids are installed as far upstream as Kettle Falls, more than 50 miles away, and they help commercial log-towing tugs, as well as pleasure boaters, who enjoy recreational boating activities.”

ANT Kennewick is responsible for the primary service of 245 aids along the Columbia and Snake Rivers and Lake Roosevelt. Additionally, ANT Kennewick provides secondary service and discrepancy response for 194 Aids to Navigation for Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell located in Portland, Oregon. ANT Kennewick also maintains all necessary qualifications to support Search and Rescue response in their area of operations as well, which makes them the only ANT in the Coast Guard to hold such a qualification.

(Right to left) Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, executive petty officer, and Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Tenorio, engineering petty officer, and Seaman Adam Lopez, all from Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, work on an aid while conducting operations on Lake Roosevelt located nearly 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Washington state, April 27, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

(Right to left) Petty Officer 1st Class Chase Severns, executive petty officer, and Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Tenorio, engineering petty officer, and Seaman Adam Lopez, all from Aids to Navigation Team Kennewick, work on an aid while conducting operations on Lake Roosevelt located nearly 300 miles away from the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Washington state, April 27, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford

Considering there are only two boats and nine members that make up the unit at ANT Kennewick, the crew focuses heavily on teamwork to make sure all of their responsibilities are covered.

“Even with the small number of people we have, we are able to complete our mission, which is to maintain a safe waterway through annual servicing of fixed and floating Aids to Navigation,” says Severns.

Working the aids on Roosevelt is only one part ANT Kennewick’s responsibilities. ANT Kennewick is also part of a larger effort to maintain aids to navigation in the region.

“Our job is to ensure safe navigation of commerce in the complex MTS (Maritime Transportation System),” says Lt. Cmdr. Michele Schallip, chief of the 13th Coast Guard District’s Waterways Management Branch. “ANT Kennewick plays a vital role in administering and maintaining these aids to ensure those goals are being met.”

 

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