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Small Crew With Army Corps Of Engineers Helps Keep Bay Clean And Safe

SAN FRANCISCO BAY (KPIX 5) -- A small group with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is on a mission to keep the Bay safe, which sometimes involves highly-specialized operations with the U.S. Coast Guard.

At the crack of dawn, Captain Kixon Meyer and his crew are out on the water, aboard a vessel named the John A.B. Dillard, Jr. Meyer is a civilian member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on a mission to keep the San Francisco Bay safe.

"I've been doing it for 12 years," he told KPIX 5. "I like it because every day is different."

Typically, he and his crew are out collecting debris and navigational hazards out of the water.

Army Corps of Engineers Bay Crew
Captain Kixon Meyer of the Army Corps Engineers as he pilots the John A.B. Dillard, Jr. on San Francisco Bay. (CBS)

"We collect navigational hazards out of the navigational channels throughout the San Francisco Bay and its tributaries," he said. "Anything that would foul a prop that would be on a ferry."

But on Wednesday, their morning involved a different task: helicopter ops, with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The joint-training exercise was a simulation of a scenario where the Coast Guard would deploy a helicopter for a search and rescue, and work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vessel on the water.

"What they're going to do - they're going to lower things down to us. Today it'll be a basket. They'll practice hovering over the top of us and making a safe transfer of the basket. We'll facilitate that on our end by making sure the basket or wire doesn't get wrapped around anything on deck," he said. "I was in the Coast Guard for 23 years and that helicopter absolutely has to know how to do its job in any kind of conditions they find themselves in. That will save somebody's life."

Once the training exercise concluded, it was back to business as usual aboard the John Dillard.

The crew took a call for debris removal that brought them to the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco, where they removed a large piece of wood from the busy waterway.

"It looked to me like a plank from a fendering system on an old dock," Meyer said.

They plucked it out of the water with the large crane that is equipped to the vessel, and it quickly became the latest addition to a growing pile of junk they've pulled out of the Bay.

Meyer takes pride in the work his crew does, and thinks the Bay is better off because of their hard work.

"It would be more hazardous to transit through, I know that for sure. It wouldn't be as pretty, that is for sure. It wouldn't be such a fun place to hang out if we didn't clean it up once in a while," he said. "If you see something out there and it looks like a navigational hazard, get ahold of the U.S. Coast Guard any way you can, and we'll go pick it up for you."

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