The Coast Guard has published a final rule to permanently establish a Regulated Navigation Area (RNA) on waters of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal in New Orleans to protect floodwalls and levees from possible storm damage caused by moored barges and vessels, and to prevent flooding in the New Orleans area that could result from that storm damage.

Without this RNA, when navigational structures within the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System are to be closed because of an approaching storm, the Coast Guard would have to individually order each vessel within the subject area to depart or to comply with specific mooring arrangements. Issuing individual orders places a significant administrative burden on the Coast Guard during a time when important pre-storm preparations must also be made. By creating this rule, the Coast Guard is informing the public in advance of the restrictions and requirements for vessels in the area during periods of enforcement, enabling vessel and facility operators to make seasonal plans and arrangements for RNA evacuation and thus eliminating the need for individual Captain of the Port (COTP) Orders.

An additional purpose of this RNA is to aid the Coast Guard in the early identification of vessels that may not depart the RNA when required. Under PWSA, the Coast Guard has no authority to take possession of, and move these vessels during emergency periods such as the approach of a hurricane. Rather, Coast Guard enforcement is limited to imposing civil or criminal penalties on anyone who fails to comply with the requirements of an order or regulation issued under PWSA. Therefore early identification of vessels that may be unwilling to depart the area, or are unable to remain safely moored within the area during a storm, is extremely important and will provide the Coast Guard time to consider alternatives and work with interagency authorities and vessel and facility representatives to appropriately resolve the problem well in advance of a storm.

The RNA comes into effect immediately.

Read more in the Federal Register:  79 Fed. Reg. 21129