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James River closed to boat traffic three hours a day

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You will not be able to operate your boat on part of the James River at certain times this week. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) announced in the Federal Register of Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 that it is restricting traffic on part of the river around Newport News, Virginia. The Coast Guard is creating one-hour safety zones every day effective immediately and lasting through Friday, Aug. 15.

USCG is taking the action so the U.S. Navy can use the waterway to continue its ongoing testing of unmanned and remote-controlled watercraft. USCG actually started the closures last week but made the announcement official this week retroactively. The closures will last every day from from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., noon to 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. So plan accordingly if you want to cruise up or down the river.

If you have any questions, contact Lieutenant Commander Gregory Knoll, Waterways Management Division chief, Sector Hampton Roads, Coast Guard, (757) 668-5581, Gregory.J.Knoll@uscg.mil.

The Navy is testing these vessels near its James River Reserve Fleet and Hog Island. USCG put the matter up for public comment last month. It got two responses. No one requested a public meeting so none is scheduled. USCG says it is not giving advance notice and only offered a short comment period because the Navy didn't give it substantial lead time to do so.

The Navy boats will be traveling very close to each other at high speeds, so it would not be safe to allow other water traffic through the area. Based on one of the public comments, the schedule has been altered to allow more time in the morning for boats to pass. USCG says effects should be minimal given the tides and that the captain of the Port, Hampton Roads or his designated on-scene representative can make an exception in his discretion to let a boat pass.

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