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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Dec. 7, 2021

Coast Guard Academy capstone projects impact the fleet 

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Hunter Medley, U.S. Coast Guard Academy External Affairs and Lt.jg. Celia Marzinsky, U.S. Coast Guard TRACEN Yorktown 

Within the nine majors of study at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (CGA), most cadets complete a project-oriented capstone course during the spring semester of their senior year. It is an opportunity for the cadets to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom during their major of study. 

Many of the senior capstone projects are developed from problem statements requested by Coast Guard units thus having the ability to directly improve the Coast Guard’s operational success and mission goals. Recently, a group of CGA Civil Engineering majors conducted a capstone project in stormwater management in conjunction with Training Center (TRACEN) Yorktown, Virginia, that benefits the service as a whole and the surrounding environment. 

From the banks of the York River and Chesapeake Bay Watershed in Yorktown, the group of cadets have found some best practices when it comes to reducing stormwater pollutants at TRACEN Yorktown.  

TRACEN Yorktown must reduce stormwater pollutants by 40% to be in compliance with future milestones of their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to protect the York River and Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The group of civil engineering cadets researched a variety of best management practices (BMPs) to reduce pollutants entering the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  

With the help of their CGA instructors and TRACEN Yorktown’s facility engineering staff, the cadets proposed a three-pronged approach to reduce pollutants and meet the total maximum daily load (TMDL) reduction goals. Their design included the construction of infiltration trenches, bio retention Filterra Units, and a vegetated swale to catch the pollutants before they enter the storm water system, flow into the York River, and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.  

“TRACEN Yorktown has already implemented several practices to reduce stormwater runoff pollution, and the cadet’s project provides a way forward offering innovative solutions to reduce our environmental footprint,” said Cmdr. Kelvin Davis, facility engineer at TRACEN. “As a training center, the BMPs also offer an opportunity to educate staff and students on the treatment of stormwater pollution and emphasizes the Coast Guard mission of environmental stewardship.” 

The capstone project is just another example the Coast Guard is leading the way protecting the environment, and the innovative design included recommendations for future projects and technologies that could be implemented later.  

“What the cadets briefed within this capstone project has provided our design team with potential options to evaluate how we will meet the daily load requirements by 2024,” said Davis. “We commend the cadets and the Academy’s staff for their innovative efforts into solving one of TRACEN Yorktown’s challenging issues.” 

As the Nation’s maritime first responder, executing the Coast Guard’s diverse and far-reaching missions requires adaptability, sustainability, and resilience. The Coast Guard remains vigilant in our commitment to environmental sustainability and conservation.  

Through the years, cadet capstone projects such as this one has greatly benefited the Coast Guard as a whole, providing bright ideas and viable innovative solutions to issues encountered across the fleet. These projects also provide skills and concepts that are needed for the cadets to succeed as officers in the fleet.  

For more information on how to get involved with USCGA capstone projects, please email Dr. Eric J. Page, vice provost for Academic Affairs.