Washington, D.C. – In a continued effort to ensure the safety of residents living and working in coastal areas, members of Congress from South Carolina today joined Oregon lawmakers in calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to keep facilities in Oregon and South Carolina from closing next month.
Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Representatives Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Mark Sanford, R-S.C., and Tom Rice, R-S.C., signed the letter urging the Coast Guard to reverse its abrupt announcement from October that it would close facilities in Newport, Oregon and Charleston, South Carolina. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, also signed the letter.
“We believe that the United States Coast Guard’s decision to close air facilities in Newport, Oregon and Charleston, South Carolina would needlessly endanger mariners in our respective states and we urge you to prevent the Coast Guard from doing so,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
While the Coast Guard claims that it will still be able to meet the national standard of a two-hour search-and-rescue response time, the lawmakers argue that fewer assets could lengthen response times and threaten the safety of local mariners.
“While we strongly support efforts to spend federal dollars more efficiently, we cannot support budget cuts that needlessly jeopardize the lives of our constituents. We therefore urge you to reevaluate the Coast Guard’s decision and to prevent the Coast Guard from closing these air facilities,” they wrote.
In response to previous calls from Oregon and South Carolina lawmakers, the Coast Guard announced it would delay the December 1 closure of the Newport and Charleston facilities until December 15. Newport houses National Oceanic and Atmospheric vessels and Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleet, in addition to research vessels from Oregon State University. Charleston is one of the nation’s busiest cargo ports, and is home to a robust tourism industry as well as large shrimp, crab and oyster fleets.