Coast Guard looking into environmental impacts of improved docking
August 21, 2014
Finding it difficult to respond to search and rescue calls by agency standards at times, Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe is seeking to dock its boats on-location year-round to improve emergency response times.
Currently, one of the Coast Guard's two rapid response vessels is moored at the nearby Sierra Boat Company, which is about a 10-minute drive away from the station. The other is out of the water and on a trailer.
The boats are not anchored at the station's Tahoe City location because cyclical droughts and seasonal low water levels do not allow for on-site mooring year-round.
However, docking at other sites results in increased response times and creates security issues, according to the agency. It also makes it difficult to get a boat underway in less than 30 minutes after a distress call is received — a Coast Guard search and rescue standard.
"During winter time, there aren't a whole lot of other boats on the lake, so its dependent on us to respond to most of the calls, and it's our responsibility to get there as fast as possible," Petty Officer First Class Laura Bostwick said.
Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe needs year-round, 24-hour, immediate access to rapid response vessels to provide emergency search and rescue, "law enforcement and marine safety services to the boating public of Lake Tahoe," according to an agency letter.
For this reason, the agency is hoping to start a project that will allow boats to be docked year-round at the facility, located at 2500 Lake Forest Road in Tahoe City.
It is preparing a draft environmental assessment to evaluate the proposed project and its potential impacts on the environment. It is also welcoming comments on the project or suggestions for alternatives from local, state and federal agencies, as well as the public and Native American tribes.
During the environmental review, six project ideas are being considered for possible action so far. Four of them have to do with the construction of new pier or work on the existing pier, while the fifth involves dredging a 350-foot-long, 9-foot-deep channel. The last alternative is to take no action.
Boatswain's Mate Chief Daniel Polhemus said the station doesn't have a preference on which alternative to pursue, but it does want to provide the best emergency response possible.
"Whatever alternative gets us to that point," he said. "As far as the station is concerned, the safety of the mariners is paramount."
From Labor Day to Memorial Day, the Coast Guard is the only agency that has response boats docked on Lake Tahoe and is able to respond to emergency calls on the water, according to an agency letter.
During the summer months, when boating is at its busiest, other local agencies respond to distress calls on the lake. But none have a full crew able to respond to emergency calls at night, the Coast Guard said.
The Lake Tahoe station responded to 46 calls last year, and has responded to 31 calls so far this year.
The comment period for the environmental assessment of the proposed project opened Aug. 12 and will close Sept. 12. Anyone interested in submitting comments can do so by emailing Justin Westrum at Justin.email@example.com with the subject line "Station Lake Tahoe."
Written comments can also be provided at an open house, held at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach, on Aug. 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
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