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Coast Guard probes barge near power plant

By George Hunter / The Detroit News


In the St. Clair River near Port Huron, U.S. Coast Guard officials this morning were investigating whether a barge that floated close to a power plant was a terror theat.

An employee at DTE Energy's St. Clair Power Plant in East China Township called the Coast Guard around midnight after spotting the barge float “unusually close” to the plant, said DTE spokesman John Austerberry.

A resident of the area also called the Coast Guard after seeing the barge accompanied by a smaller boat, said Lt. Greg Fondran of the Coast Guard's 9th District headquarters in Cleveland.

“The resident shined a flashlight at the vessels, and when he did, the smaller boat took off,” Fondran said. “That seemed to be suspicious activity, so he reported it.”

The reports were being treated by federal officials as potential terrorism because the barge floated so close to the power plant, Fondran said. The nation currently is on orange -- or high -- alert.

Fondran said several 55-gallon drums, lashed together, were also seen floating near the St. Clair power plant. He said there was a possible link between the barrels and barge. The contents of the barrels were unknown this morning.

By the time the Coast Guard dispatched a boat to investigate the matter, the barge and barrels had floated onto the Canadian side of the St. Clair River, Fondran said.

“We're working with Canadian authorities to determine exactly what the barge and the barrels are, who the owner of the barge is, and what, if anything, is on board,” Fondran said.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Ontario Provincial Police assisted with the investigation, Fondran said.

Several Coast Guard marine broadcasts said there were reports of people possibly in the water, although there was no evidence of that was found as of early today.

A helicopter from the Coast Guard air station at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township searched the river near Marine City and Algonac; Coast Guard personnel also were sent to the power plant in East China Township to investigate.
 

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It will interesting to find out what was happening after they investigate.
 
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