The Coast Guard has announced that the Newport Coast Guard Air Rescue Operations will cease as of November 30. The Coast Guard motorlifeboat station in Yaquina Bay is NOT affected.
Oregon Coast state Representative David Gomberg said he was under the assumption that the closure would not happen until the end of 2015 and so the sudden announcement Thursday took him by surprise. Gomberg said that Senator Ron Wyden had earlier indicated that the closure would not happen at all.
Wyden’s reaction to today’s news should prove interesting since Wyden chairs one of the most powerful committees in the Senate – Finance.
Gomberg said the Coast Guard reasoned that helicopters stationed at Astoria are significantly faster so rescue capabilities would not be substantially affected. The Coast Guard also said that radio locator beacons aboard commercial fishing and other vessels makes locating mariners in distress a lot easier and therefore quicker.
Newport City Councilor Dean Sawyer, himself a pilot and active in Newport Airport issues, said he expects a full court press by Oregon’s congressional delegation to reverse the decision.
County Commission Chairman Terry Thompson, a commercial fisherman, said that despite what the Coast Guard says, if we learn from history, there will probably be lost lives because of delayed response times from Astoria and Coos Bay. “That Coast Guard helicopter from Newport has saved lives. Anyone overboard in our cold coastal waters often has only minutes to survive. Any delay puts those fishermen at dire risk.”
Senator Ron Wyden’s office tells News Lincoln County that Wyden is on the phone to the rest of Oregon’s Congressional Delegation to create a united front against the closure of the Newport Coast Guard helicopter base at the Newport Airport. His aides say he’s very concerned about the announcement that says the last day of Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue will be November 30th. Wyden is the chair of the Senate’s powerful Finance Committee.
Meanwhile the Newport Fishermen’s Wives have launched a Facebook campaign to gather petition signatures as an act of solidarity to opposed the closure of the chopper operation. Those who would like to sign the petition can do so by simply clicking here.