- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) Local Coast Guard officials are developing a plan to ban recreational boating in Hampton Roads Harbor if the country moves to the highest threat level for terrorist attacks.
The restricted area would start at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay between the Eastern Shore and the tip of Virginia Beach and extend to the James River Bridge and the Back River on each side of the Peninsula.
"This would affect marina boats, private boats, yachts," said Lawrence M. Brooks, the Coast Guard's port captain. "As we get into boating season, it could be a really big issue if we have to do it."
The ban would be triggered by a specific terrorist threat against the port of Hampton Roads or if the Coast Guard nationally moved to Maritime Security Condition 3, equivalent to Code Red or "severe" in the government's new five-point, color-coded threat scale. The threat level is at the third-highest alert level, or Code Yellow.
The Coast Guard's strategy is designed to prevent terrorists from using pleasure boats to set off bombs near Navy ships, the area's bridges and tunnels or other sensitive areas. It's also designed to prevent terrorists from hijacking ships and crashing them into those targets.
The plan, Mr. Brooks told the Daily Press, could include an allowance of certain "windows of daytime movement" when traffic could be allowed to be escorted through the port primarily to allow boaters to depart the port.
Boaters who are on the water when the ban is called would be approached and ordered back to their marinas, Mr. Brooks said.
Ideally, he said, there would be enough time before the new security level is called to warn boaters about the ban through news reports.
The Coast Guard is also discussing installing flashing signs in certain parts of the harbor that would alert boaters to the changes, he said. The Coast Guard has not yet decided whether the ban would prohibit commercial fishing traffic, Mr. Brooks said.
The Coast Guard is also developing a system in which Coast Guard personnel ride more commercial cargo ships into the harbor in the event of a Code Red. Ideally, Mr. Brooks said, he would like to have Coast Guard personnel board and ride all container ships and cargo ships in and out of the harbor in the event of a Code Red.

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