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Coast Guard recruits volunteers

On a two-part mission, Lt. Cmdr. Andre Billeaudeaux of the U.S. Coast Guard came to the peninsula to check on two programs, one that's his job and the other, his brainchild.

Billeaudeaux, director of the Coast Guard Auxiliary District 13, developed what auxiliarists call "the eyes and ears of the Coast Guard," the Citizen's Action Network.

It allows local residents living on or near shorelines to keep a close lookout for any suspicious and/or dangerous marine activity.

They act as a community watch, looking together with the aid of a control center in Seattle.

"In the Coast Guard, some of us only serve an area for two, maybe four years, so we can't match the knowledge of local homeowners," Billeaudeaux said.

The latest local CAN involvement was more than a year ago on July 19, 2008.

Lee Bowen of Sequim saw a man canoeing a mile offshore from

3 Crabs Road. Bowen phoned Dick Halsaver, CAN coordinator for Sequim and Port Townsend, and informed him that the boater had not made any progress and wanted to know if he should call 9-1-1 or the Coast Guard watch center at Group/Air Station in Port Angeles.

Halsaver had Bowen call the station and a boat was dispatched to assist the boater.

"This is the most visible example of success in the CAN program here so far," Halsaver said.

He phoned Bowen back, letting him know that the boater was safe.

"If I have any questions, Dick is very quick and the Coast Guard has been very responsive," Bowen said.

"It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for cameras along the shoreline, but to have people like Lee makes this so much easier," Billeaudeaux said.

"It's just looking. It doesn't take much," Bowen said.



History of Citizen's

Action Network

In the mid- to late 1990s, the Internet and technology boom enriched a lot of people, who in turn bought boats, Billeaudeaux said.

These inexperienced boaters then went to sea but got into trouble easily and often.

Because of the high number of incidents, Coast Guardsmen and women were overworked and fatigued, which resulted in more accidents occurring.

This led Billeaudeaux to start the Citizen's Action Network.

Now in its 10th year, it has more than 350 volunteers who live in British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

"After 2001 and after the London train bombings in 2005, (CAN) took on a new significance," Billeaudeaux said.

CAN does not receive any government money, but Billeaudeaux is optimistic the program will receive funding eventually.

He said its Web site, www.citizensactionnetwork.net, receives 500 visitors a week from around the world after a natural disaster such as a tsunami.

"People respond after a disaster by looking for solutions," he said.

"The global response is amazing."

Billeaudeaux said if CAN received funding from the Coast Guard, they would further train volunteers, provide equipment and spread the program beyond the Northwest.

"There is enough interest to see it spread - there is a lot of interest," said Peter Raiswell, chief of staff for Coast Guard Auxiliary District 13.

Locally, there are about 60 CAN members.

Anyone living or working within a reasonable distance of water is eligible, as are

business owners.

"If you have a strategic view, you might want to

put it to use for their

program," Billeaudeaux said.



Local Auxiliary

Sequim/Port Angeles Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 42 has 90 members, five boats and one airplane.

Billeaudeaux said the auxiliary and CAN "go hand-in-hand" because of their likenesses.

Half of the local CAN membership is auxiliary members.

"Most people have an interest in protecting the shoreline," Halsaver said.

"We encourage people to look out for those illegally fishing, stealing logs, marine incidents and a number of things."

Flotilla 42's auxiliary

meetings are at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave., Sequim. The next meeting is Sept. 17.

Those interested in joining the Sequim/Port Angeles Coast Guard Auxiliary can contact Dick Halsaver at 683-3994 or qteq@olypen.com.

Go online to visit Citizen's Action Network and download an application at www.citizensactionnetwork.net/ or www.uscg.mil/d13/can/.



Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.



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