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Agencies Will Announce NDGPS Decision in Federal Register Notice

The three agencies responsible for the fate of the Nationwide Differential Global Positioning System (NDGPS) will post their decision in the Federal Register as soon as it is signed by all representatives, Capt. Scott Smith, Coast Guard Chief of Navigation Systems told IDR on January 18. Representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been analyzing comments received in response to their August 18, 2015 announcement that they intended to shut the system down.

The Notice will appear by the end of January.

As of the deadline of November 16, 168 comments had been entered, a number on behalf of larger groups and organizations such as professional harbor pilot associations, U.S. Federal Agencies and even the Canadian Coast Guard, which depend on the precise positioning provided by the system, especially in areas with limited ability to maneuver.

Other comments were from Corps of Engineers survey sections, which depend on the system for their ongoing channel surveys, equipment manufacturers stating that they are providing receivers to customers who regularly use the system, and Park Service employees who use the sub-meter accuracy of the system to precisely locate archeological finds.

When the Federal Register notice was posted in August, the navigation industry was not immediately aware of it.

Lou Nash is president of Measutronics, which sells GPS receivers and other equipment to the dredging and navigation industry.

He said, “In late August, after seeing brief reference to the proposed shut down in an online news article, I followed the article’s link to Federal Registry Docket DOTOST-2015-0105-0001. The proposed January 2016 shut down date cited in the document then came across as very definitive and much more pronounced than the rumors had been as of that time. I was taken off-guard by the extent of the shut down as proposed and realized it would have a huge detrimental effect on what I perceive as an enormous, nation-wide user base.”

He formed a round table in early September with six representatives of captain and pilot associations, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers technology managers, dredging and heavy civil marine contractors, and a GNSS receiver manufacturer’s representative. They agreed on a number of key points:

• The proposed DGPS Site Shutdown, as detailed in the Federal Register document, was not well known within the respective user communities represented by the round table members;

• The national DGPS system had become a “utility” to its broad user base, perhaps to the point of being taken for granted, but nonetheless, heavily relied upon for the accuracy and reliability it provides;

• While other supplementary and even complimentary technologies are available, none has been tested to the extent required for immediate implementation by the user base represented by the working group;

• A “flip of the switch” shut down as proposed on 16 January would be detrimental to not only the groups represented by the round table members but a much larger user base throughout the nation;

• The round table members, as leaders within their respective industries, would work to create sufficient user base feedback to the Federal Register entry.

Members of these groups began posting their responses on the Federal Register site, and by the deadline on November 16, the 168 comments provided the agencies with a good cross section of opinions on which to base their decision on the continuing operation of the beacon system.

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