HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
October 8, 2014
Rear Admiral R.T. Gromlich
Thirteenth Coast Guard District
915 Second Ave, Room 3590
Seattle, WA 98174
Dear Admiral Gromlich,
I was quite disturbed to receive your letter of October 2, 2014, announcing the closure of USCG Air Station Newport, Oregon and transfer of its MH-65 Dolphin helicopter 95 miles south to North Bend, Oregon effective November 30, 2014.
Let me say this succinctly: I believe this decision will cost lives on the central Oregon coast.
Consolidating aircraft to North Bend will increase response times to Newport, Waldport, or Depoe Bay by nearly an hour. Sending aircraft to Pacific City from Astoria will double the current flight distance. And reducing the overall complement of helicopters and crew along the Oregon coast will spread USCG resources dangerously thin during peak weather conditions or natural disasters.
Explaining that we have the ability to meet national SAR response standards is at best, disingenuous. I’m sure you understand that marine safety depends on the ability of the Coast Guard to respond to local conditions, not national standards. What holds in southern California or the Gulf of Mexico is laughable in the cold, turbulent waters off Oregon.
I am also disturbed that this decision was announced with no prior notice or public discussion. In April, we were informed that the matter would not be reconsidered until late 2015. Your actions have now undermined the administrative credibility of the USCG in our local maritime community and with elected decision-makers. Given such a dramatic and unexpected change, how can we trust your word in the future?
Forty times this year, Newport helicopters have responded to distress calls. In at least five cases, they have saved lives. I urge you to reconsider this decision which will certainly place future lives in further jeopardy.
Rep. David Gomberg