WASHINGTON – The Potomac and Anacostia rivers of the District of Columbia will be closed to all water traffic for eight hours Tuesday evening as a security measure for President Obama’s State of the Union speech, the Coast Guard announced Wednesday.
From 4 p.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 24, the Coast Guard will cordon off the waters of the Potomac River from the Francis Scott Key Bridge between Washington, D.C., and Rosslyn, Va., to the 51st minute of the 38th degree of latitude north, near Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. The Anacostia River, which divides the southeastern quadrant of the city, will also be closed as far north as the 11th Street Bridges.
Although the “security zone” will not extend beyond the District, it will impact Maryland by blocking the upper segment of the navigable Potomac River.
Spokesmen for the Coast Guard and the Secret Service described the action as standard procedure during major events in the Washington, D.C., area, including the State of the Union.
“We’ve been doing this for the last several years,” said Max Milien, a spokesman for the Secret Service. “This is nothing new.”
According to Milien, the federal government first began establishing security restrictions around the District of Columbia during the State of the Union as a standard practice in 1998.
“Any kind of a national-type event that happens in the National Capital Region, they usually establish some kind of security zone for it,” Nathan Henise, a spokesman for the Coast Guard in Maryland, said of the federal government. “They’re establishing the security zone around the area to make sure nothing happens during the State of the Union address.”
The impact on Maryland shipping is expected to be minimal. According to the communications director for the Port of Baltimore, Richard Scher, the port does not regularly handle cargo shipped down the Potomac River, which is navigable nearly as far as Little Falls in southern Montgomery County.
“We don’t have any cargo services that come through the Potomac or Anacostia,” said Scher. “This will not impact the Port of Baltimore.”