The nautical navigational signal known as LORAN-C will be shut off Feb. 8 nationwide, including at the U.S. Coast Guard base north of Havre. The base, which deals exclusively with the signal and at which five Coast Guard employees are stationed, will be shut down as well, with the personnel restationed at other bases, said Mike Sollosi chief of the office of navigation systems for the Guard. Originally, the LORAN-C signal was a classified navigational program during World War II, Sollosi said. The coastal system became a public signal in 1957 and became a backup system when global GPS, a more accurate system — LORAN-C is only accurate to 500 meters and GPS is accurate to 20 meters — became more and more widely used, he said. Russia and Canada also operate LORAN signals. The Russian system uses a Signal tower in Alaska, and the U.S. and Canada have an agreement for the maintenance of four stations, Sollosi said, but after 6 months of notice, the U.S. plans to sever those agreements. That does not mean that the other two countries will shut off their signals, as well. "They can continue to operate their system as long as they want," Sollosi said. Another navigational system, known as LORAN-A, was shut off in the late 1970s, he added. Civilians use the system, mainly as a backup to GPS, he said. People who rely on the system solely will have to switch to GPS. The system costs $36 million annually to operate, and even with the cost of shutting down the signal, the Coast Guard estimates a savings of $190 million over the next five years because of ceasing the signal, Sollosi said, adding that the money will not be in the Guard's budget. The 162 acres that the base north of Havre occupies is leased from the state, Sollosi said, and after land re-mediation efforts, will be returned. The process can take several years, he said. With the closure of the base, there will be even more minimal Coast Guard presence in Montana, Sollosi said.
LORAN-C signal north of Havre to be shut off
Published: Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
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