Coast Guard encountered more than 1,200 boats during Trump’s 2017 stays


More than 1,200 boaters off Palm Beach County had their day interrupted earlier this year by an encounter with a Coast Guard boat letting them know they’d gotten a little too close to the president of the United States.

As President Trump returned to South Florida on Tuesday evening for the long Thanksgiving weekend, the first of potentially several winter visits, the Coast Guard activated its security zones, which stay in place through late Sunday.

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The security zone is set up around Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club. It includes the Intracoastal Waterway and ocean waters from the southern tip of Everglades Island to the north of the club, to about 1,000 yards south of the Southern Boulevard Bridge over the Intracoastal. It’s used when Trump, a member of his family or another person needing Secret Service protection visits the Palm Beach estate.

The Coast Guard says violations of security zones are punishable by civil fines in excess of $88,000, a criminal penalty of up to $10,000 and up to 12 years in prison.

RELATED: Read more Trump in Palm beach stories

The Coast Guard says it “screened” 1,255 vessels last year during the first three weekends that the president was in Palm Beach. The details were in response to a federal public records inquiry by The Palm Beach Post.

The agency said no vessels were boarded.

A “screening” means a boater would have been contacted by either shouting or by radio, or by the Coast Guard flashing a blue light on the bridge of a Coast Guard vessel, urging the boater to keep going, Lt. Cmdr. Eric Pare told The Post by phone Wednesday from the grounds of Mar-a-Lago.

“There are two Coast Guard boats in that zone 24 hours a day,” Pare said.

“We’re not impeding someone’s transit as long as they continue to move,” he said. He also said some boaters lived near the compound and were permitted to continue home.

Trump was at Mar-a-Lago seven times between February and April of this year.

Air encounters

Encounters in the air during the early 2017 visits were a little more dramatic, with 45 separate aircraft violating air space during Trump stays.

By edict of the Secret Service, any time the president is in town, a package of flight restrictions is in place. They effectively shut down the nearby Lantana airport and impose strict limits at other Palm Beach County airports that include requiring small plane pilots be cleared by authorities at other airports before they fly in.

During Trump’s visit from April 6-9, when he and Chinese President Xi Jinping met, nine violations were reported.

And during Trump’s March 18-19 stay, seven pilots crossed into restricted airspace. One, a small Cessna plane that wasn’t in radio contact, was intercepted by two F-15E aircraft and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, the North American Aerospace Defense Command reported at the time.

Flight restrictions during this Thanksgiving stay are expected again to damage businesses at the Lantana airport.

Palm Beach County aviation managers have said they expect to lose $60,000 in airport revenue from waived rental fees in 2018 to help Lantana airport companies who will be effectively shut down when Trump is in town.

Jonathan Miller, CEO of Stellar Aviation Group, which provides fuel and manages hangars at the airport, said he’s already lost close to a half million dollars from businesses and tenants that bolted since last year’s visits. He said more could leave or even go out of business this year.

On top of that, the county expects to lose as much as $70,000 in general aviation — private plane — fees from Palm Beach International Airport if it repeats last year’s 12 percent drop in general aviation landings and fuel sales during presidential visits, the county said.

RELATED: More President Trump news from The Post



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