Citizens sound off on Coast Guard closure of air rescue base in Newport. Public meeting with Congressman Kurt Schrader and other congressional staffs set for October 20, 5:30pm at OCCC, Newport.
Former Newport Port Commission President Ginny Goblirsch, accompanied by Fishermen’s Wives member Jennifer Stevenson, among others, made it clear to the Lincoln County Commission Wednesday, that the Oregon Coast will not tolerate a permanent Coast Guard pull out its air rescue helicopter from the Newport Airport.
Goblirsch said there have been efforts in the past to close down the Newport facility but they have been thwarted by overwhelming evidence that the helo is absolutely vital to save and protect lives along the Oregon Coast. Goblirsch and County Commissioner Terry Thompson, himself a commercial fisherman, both emphasized that whoever came up with the most recent closure idea doesn’t “get it” about marine conditions off the Pacific Northwest. Thompson said the Coast Guard’s boasting about still having one hour response times to the scene of people overboard, would amount to a body recovery operation because without survival suits, especially aboard recreation and charter boats, ocean temperatures are so low that death comes within 15 minutes. Thompson said the warm waters off Florida allows a victim to survive a very long time while waiting to be rescued. Not so in the Pacific Northwest. He said the Coast Guard brass in Washington DC needs to come to grips with that.
Fishermen’s Wives member Jennifer Stevenson reminded the commissioners that the Fishermen’s Wives played a big part in establishing the Newport Coast Guard Air Rescue operations af Newport. Goblirsch said it was established by a community groundswell of support along with firm guidance from nine-term Oregon Congressman Les Aucoin. Goblirsch said the Coast Guard helo service is needed now, more than ever, what with the growth in commercial, charter and recreation fishing fleets based in or near Yaquina Bay. Add to that the growth of marine science and other oceanographic endeavors including NOAA being recently re-located to Newport, Goblirsch said the Coast Guard should be ramping up service levels, not eliminating them. Commissioner Bill Hall added that it’s not just those who go to sea that rely on the helos but also surfers, rock climbers and other visitors to the Oregon Coast who are routinely rescued.
The commissioners sent a proclamation to the Coast Guard that the Coast Guard Search and Rescue facility at the Newport Airport is simply too important to be shut down. Others lamented that there seems to be a trend to reduce the number of Coast Guard rescue aircraft along American coastlines. The Coast Guard claims that with more accurate positioning electronics being read by satellites overhead and with upgraded helo navigational equipment, response times are being reduced. But again, as Commission Chair Terry Thompson reminded the meeting, a helo racing to the scene of a man overboard, or an overturned boat, does no good if those in the water have been dead for 45 minutes by the time the helo gets there.
Goblirsch reminded everyone to sign a protest petition which can be found on the Fishermen’s Wives Facebook page. Just Click here.
Meanwhile Oregon’s Congressional Delegation, including Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, have sent a very strongly worded letter to the Coast Guard brass in Washington DC imploring them to reconsider their decision to shut down the Coast Guard’s Newport helo base at the end of next month.
And Newport City Councilor Dean Sawyer is reporting that a public meeting has been set up that will be hosted by the Port of Newport, Lincoln County and the City of Newport on Monday October 20th. It will be attended by Congressman Kurt Schrader along with representatives from U.S. Senators Merkley and Wyden and the USCG. The meeting is to give the public an opportunity to provide testimony against the closure and to have the Coast Guard answer questions. The meeting will be held Monday, October 20th, at 5:30pm at the Newport Campus of Oregon Coast Community College.