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Story by: Spc. Jimmy Allen Bedgood - 42nd Infantry Division
Dated: Tue, Jul 29, 2008
ROUSES POINT, New York-The New York Naval Militia are assisting state, federal and local law enforcement agencies with security at the US/Canadian boarder at Lake Champlain.
Master Chief Michael Clark and Petty Officer 1st Class Donald Heart of the Naval Militia are working with Swanton Sector Border Patrol Agents and Customs and Boarder Protection Officers in Rouses Point at Lake Champlain.
Their joint mission-called “Operation Lake Champlain”-serves to secure the once still waters, now troubled by the uncertainty of high-volume boater traffic.
This former passageway for warships and military cargo throughout the Revolutionary War is now a haven for water sport enthusiasts. During summer months Lake Champlain has more than 200 boats reporting each day and about 30 boats reporting every hour during peak times.
Officials believe this makes Lake Champlain an area of security concerns. In the past operational effectiveness and situational awareness was limited. Officials hope beefing up security will discourage smuggling and other illegal activities from happening.
Border Patrol Officials have set up a temporary-inspection dock near the abandoned Fort Montgomery in Rouses Point at Lake Champlain Previously three-private marinas served as inspection docks.
“The boaters are used to going to one of the three marinas,” said Mark Henry, a spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Swanton Sector
Clark and Heart man a 34-foot Patrol Boat 330 to direct Canadian Boaters entering the US to an inspection dock. Once at the inspection dock boaters undergo a thorough inquest by Border Patrol Officials.
“I am particularly pleased with the role the Naval Militia is playing,” said Henry.
“You have to look at it from a macro point,” said Henry. He says the Naval Militia’s support frees Border patrol agents up to secure other parts of the Lake and land. “If one area is weak smugglers will go to that area.”
The Naval Militia has been assisting Border Patrol Agents during missions since 1978. An increase in boat traffic led to the replacement of an old swing bridge in the late 80s. The new bridge allows boaters from Canada entering the US through the Richelieu River and drivers traveling to and from Vermont and New York State to travel simultaneously-without stopping.
“It’s getting busier and busier,” said Clark, who has been with the Militia for 27 years.
In the past “agents have broken up drug runs and illegal- immigrant smuggling,” said Heart.
Vermont’s U.S. attorney announced last fall that two illegal-immigrant smuggling rings-one based in Montreal, the other based in Toronto-had been disbanded after they had smuggled hundreds of Asians and Latin Americans into the U.S. It hasn’t been concluded that the illegal immigrants were smuggled in through Lake Champlain.
Since beefing up security Border Patrol Officials reported a 22-percent increase in violent incidents during the first nine months of the current fiscal year.
“They’re getting frustrated (because) they’re being denied entry,” said Henry.
Border Patrol Officials say their goal is to provide 100% physical inspections of small vessels arriving into Lake Champlain. They believe Mission Lake Champlain will bring about complete operational control and situational awareness.
Mission Lake Champlain began July 3rd and ends August 31st.