Waters off the ports of Rota and Tinian will be off-limits to the public during underwater military training, which is part of the biennial Exercise Valiant Shield scheduled for next month.
“The Coast Guard believes this safety zone is necessary to protect divers participating in this underwater military exercise from potential safety hazards associated with vessel traffic in the area,” the Coast Guard stated in the final rule posted in the Federal Register. “This safety zone will prohibit persons and vessels not involved in the exercise from being in the safety zone unless authorized by the Captain of the Port of Guam or a designated representative.”
The safety zone for Tinian will be enforced from 5 p.m. on Sept. 10, 2018 to 5 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2018. The safety zone will cover all navigable waters two miles off Chulu and Babui beaches in Tinian from surface to bottom.
For Rota, the safety zone covers all waters off of the Port of Rota, from surface to bottom, and will be enforceable from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2018.
The Coast Guard said it did not receive public comments when the proposed safety zone rule was posted in the Federal Register on May 21 and the comment period ended on June 20.
“The captain of the Port of Guam has determined that potential hazards associated with the exercise will be a safety concern. The purpose of this rule is to protect divers participating in this underwater military exercise from potential safety hazards associated with vessel traffic in the area,” the rule states.
The Coast Guard said based on its environmental analysis, it was “determined that this action is one of a category of actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment.”
Valiant Shield is a large-scale U.S. military war game held in the Pacific Ocean every two years. According to the Navy, Valiant Shield focuses on cooperation between military branches and on the detection, tracking, and engagement of units at sea, in the air, and on land in response to a wide range of missions.
In 2016, 18,000 personnel and more than 180 aircraft from the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and nine ships participated in Valiant Shield on Guam and around the Marianas Island Range Complex.
This story was originally published in the Marianas Variety on Aug. 7, 2018