Coast Guard proposes boating restrictions for NATO

March 9, 2012 8:21:18 PM PST
The U.S. Coast Guard is proposing steps to shut down all boat traffic on parts of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan downtown between May 16-24.

The first of the four zones is centered at Burnham Harbor and extends in a two thousand yard radius into the lake.

The second zone would cover another 2,000-yard radius from the mouth of the Chicago River out into the lake.

A third zone would close the Chicago River from the mouth to Wolf Point,

And the fourth from roughly Chicago on the north branch to Loomis on the south.

For yacht yard owner Grant Crowley, whose customers use some of the harbors in those zones, the uncertainty is frustrating.

"The 5,000 boats the Chicago Park District harbors hold basically move from their boat yards to their harbors in the month of May and this would be removing eight or nine days," said Grant Crowley."

But the Coast Guard claims the waterways would not be closed for long periods of time.

With so many restrictions on the waterways, tour boat companies and businesses that thrive on boat traffic could lose eight days of revenue.

"We're trying to balance their needs to where we can implement the correct security measures that will have minimum impact on commerce and the waterway users," said Commander Jerry Davenport.

The Coast Guard says it's already met with several waterway businesses, including those at Navy Pier, and will continue to work with them to ensure as little interruptions as possible.

That's news to folks like Crowley who has to answer to customers still waiting for specific guidelines.

"The default is to just wait until the end of may to put their boat in and give up 2-3 weeks of boating," he said.

The Coast Guard is welcoming public comment on these proposals now until April 5.