Friday, December 17, 2010

Big Brother on the Bay

New tools to help keep bay safer?

Capital Gazette Communications
Published 12/16/10
Maryland's Natural Resources Police yesterday unveiled a new software system designed to provide real-time radar and information to enhance security and law enforcement on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
  E.B. Furgurson | The Capital Natural Resources Police Superintendent Col. George F. Johnson IV talks about the state's new marine law enforcement radar and camera internet system that will aid not only NRP officers but other law enforcement, military and crucial commercial installations to keep the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries safer. He is aboard an NRP quick response boat at Sandy Point State Park.
The initial deployment of four radar stations and one long-range camera, all tied into an online network, is the first step toward covering the entire bay. When fully operational, the system, with up to 20 radar stations, will aid search and rescue, homeland security, and maritime and conservation law enforcement efforts.
"This has been four years in the making," NRP Superintendent Col. George L. Johnson IV said.
Since 9/11, there has been a push to identify gaps in national security measures and access to the bay is one of them, Johnson said. The project is funded primarily from grants from the U.S. Coast Guard that support homeland security missions.

The system is designed to link all law enforcement and other agencies with maritime interests through the online network, so information can be shared. It also will combine input from agencies such as the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, the Port of Baltimore, and the Calvert Cliffs nuclear facility. The Navy will be adding some of its radar capability to the system early next year ...

I was stopped by the Coasties while fishing just outside the exclusion zone at Calvert Cliffs a few weeks ago.  When I saw their boat coming down the Bay I figured I would get stopped.  I don't really mind the Coasties, who have always been very polite.  They just check your gear to make sure you're safe, and write up a report.  They also give you a "ticket" on the stop, which, if you get stopped again inside a short period, you just show them and, they usually give you a pass.  The guys were interested in whether we were catching any (we were) even though they aren't responsible for enforcing MD game laws.  I was told fishing there was legal, but to expect to be stopped again if I stayed that close.  I said that was a fair trade.

I've always thought the "exclusion zones" around these sites is largely "security theater".  If someone really was threatening the plant or gas dock with a bomb aboard the boat, they would simply drive it in an detonate it.  There would be essentially no time for the coasties to react, as they are rarely close enough to intercept a boat.  But now, with all this electronics it maybe that the coasties will be driven nuts by all the calls reporting boats close to (or crossing) the lines.

In the good old days, before 9/11, we could do virtually anything short of actually landing at the plant.  I remember boats tying off to the curtain wall, and fishing over the top into the intake water bay.  Sometimes big schools of fish (striped bass or blues) would  hang out in there.  I never did that, but I did bump it a few times.  We also used to bang around between the pilings at the Gas Dock, which now has a huge exclusion area.

Trevor with a good sized striper with Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in the background

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