Between July 11 and July 24, more than 40 ECOS participated in Operation Clear Passage on northern Lake Champlain. Clear Passage was a multi-agency operation that combined anti-terrorism and anti-radiological exercises with enforcement of environmental and navigation regulations on the lake. The first phase focused on land-based water quality regulations and involved the inspection of 100 facilities with DEC permits in areas such as petroleum bulk storage, wastewater discharge and lakeside construction projects. At least 119 violations of law or permit requirements were uncovered during those inspections, including felony level offenses.
The second phase involved a three-day, on-water exercise that included staff from DEC, the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, the New York State Police, the New York State Park Police, the New York State Naval Militia, the New York State Intelligence Center, the New York 2nd Civil Support Team, and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office. Partners from Vermont included the Vermont State Police, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Wardens, the Vermont Urban Search and Rescue, and the Vermont Department of Health. Federal agencies participating included the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, along with the Canadian Border Patrol.
A radiation detection exercise was held involving radioactive source material being hidden on non-police vessels in the exercise area to test law enforcement’s ability to detect and respond to radioactive materials in unexpected settings. Patrol activities focused on boater safety and locating marine sanitary systems that were not sealed to prevent illegal discharges of sewage into the lake. Over three days, 151 vessels were boarded and a total of 37 tickets and 70 warnings were issued for a wide range of violations. Eight of the tickets were issued for not having sealed marine sanitation devices on vessels as required by law.
Several rescues also occurred on the lake on the evening of July 23, when a powerful storm hit the area. An ECO 31-foot SAFE boat crewed by ECOs Matt Dorrett, Matt Krug, Dan Malone, and Brent Wilson was completing a patrol assignment as part of Operation Clear Passage south of the City of Plattsburg when the storm struck. Numerous vessels on the lake were making their way to safety while the crew assisted a kayaker and a swimmer traversing Willsboro Bay that were unable to get out of the path of the storm. Shortly after returning the swimmer and kayaker to safe harbor, the patrol vessel responded to a distress call from the 36-foot racing sail boat Odinn. The Odinn had lost its rudder, was unable to start its motor, and was drifting south uncontrollably near Four Brothers Island. Working through 6-foot waves, the patrol boat located the Odinn approximately three miles south of the Four Brothers Islands and two miles from the Vermont coastline. After a quick assessment of the crew of the Odinn to determine that no one was injured, the patrol boat took the Odinn under tow for the two-mile trip to a bay on the New York shore, where it was able to anchor safely to wait out the storm and assess damage to the boat.
Photos: Operation Clear Passage staff on July 23 at Treadwell Bay Marina on Lake Champlain, and ECO Matt Dorrett adjusting the tow line to the Odinn on Lake Champlain courtesy DEC.