The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:
(SEATTLE) — The Coast Guard 13th District commander, working in conjunction with the Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound captain of the port, has established temporary safety zones and a Voluntary First Amendment Area associated with Arctic drilling and support vessels in Puget Sound from April 15 through June 30.
The zones are necessary to allow maximum use of the waterway by all users consistent with safe navigation and to ensure special interest groups and other mariners are not injured by deep-draft and support vessels with maneuvering characteristics with which they may be unfamiliar.
“The Coast Guard is responsible for safety, security and environmental stewardship in our navigable inland and coastal waters,” said Capt. Joe Raymond, commander, Coast Guard Puget Sound and captain of the port. “Safety is our top priority.”
A 500-yard safety zone will be in place around the Noble Discoverer, Blue Marlin, Polar Pioneer, Aiviq and other Arctic drilling-related vessels while underway. A 100-yard safety zone will be in place around the same vessels while moored or anchored.
Whether intentional or unintentional, interference with deep-draft and other vessels, particularly those with limited ability to maneuver, has the potential to result in collision, grounding, serious injury, death or pollution in the highly sensitive ecosystem of Puget Sound. The safety zones provide ample space for any vessel to operate near during their transit without disrupting their safe navigation.
The Voluntary First Amendment Area is a regulated navigation area in Elliott Bay, developed following discussions with several special interest groups, where the Coast Guard recommends, but does not require, those desiring to express their views on Arctic drilling assemble. It is a no-wake area where individuals can congregate without compromising their personal safety or jeopardizing the safe navigation of maritime traffic around them.
The Coast Guard supports freedom of speech and peaceful assembly upon domestic waters as well as ashore. None of the Coast Guard's actions are aimed at restricting the lawful exercise of these rights. The Coast Guard's involvement helps ensure safety of those using the waterway both as a forum for self-expression and as a mode of transportation. The Coast Guard's focus is on waterway safety.
The signed temporary final rule establishing the safety zones and Voluntary First Amendment Area will be published in the Federal Register at www.federalregister.gov and will be searchable using key words safety zone + Puget Sound. It can take up to three days from the date submitted for items to become searchable.