Fishermen’s Wives are taking a bold legal step to keep the Coast Guard Search and Rescue Helicopter base in Newport open. The Coast Guard recently announced that due to budget constraints the base would close November 30th. Due to the huge outcry from the community and top state officials, the Coast Guard extended the life of the base through December 15th. The Fishermen’s Wives and just about everyone else took the extension gesture as an insult.
After several weeks of little to no progress at changing any minds, Fishermen’s Wives decided to invite major agencies in the community to join with them in filing a lawsuit against the Coast Guard in Federal Court. That lawsuit is expected to be filed in Eugene sometime next week. Fishermen’s Wives hope the action, at the least, will prompt a federal judge in Eugene to halt the Newport base closure long enough to enable Congress to find the money to keep it open.
The basis for the lawsuit will rest partially on a claim that the Coast Guard has made a huge decision with sweeping consequences for the community they are legally required to serve and that such behavior by the Coast Guard is not legal under federal statutes. Other agencies supporting the Fishermen’s Wives legal action are the Lincoln County Commission, the Newport City Council and the Port of Newport.
In the meantime, Oregon’s congressional delegation has partnered-up with the congressional delegation of South Carolina. Both delegations continue to work with federal budget officials to deal with what they call the heart of the Coast Guard’s motivation to not only close air search and rescue operations off Newport but also along the coast of South Carolina. Like Newport, South Carolina’s fishing community, tourism industry and ocean cargo haulers are aghast at the Coast Guard’s sudden pull out.
Both state congressional delegations are trying to get to the bottom of why the Coast Guard’s budget has been cut repeatedly over the past few years prompting today’s public safety crisis. Many federal budget insiders claim it started when the Coast Guard was taken out from under the U.S. Department of the Treasury and placed under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security was rumored by many as gouging the budgets of the its underling agencies – the Federal Transportation Safety Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as the Coast Guard, to fund it’s many notable, but often secret security operations at home and abroad. A number of national news outlets have run articles on the growing anemia of the TSA, FEMA and the Coast Guard, which have all suddenly developed budget problems so severe that their basic missions have been compromised. Recent articles about skyrocketing national flood insurance premiums charged by FEMA appears to be related to Homeland Security’s ever growing “need” for more money. Recent articles have noted that Homeland Security officials have been complaining loudly that they lack the funds to carry out one of its missions – to more properly secure America’s southern border with Mexico. So to close the gap, they’re taking funds from their subordinate agencies – the Coast Guard among them.
Another news story symptomatic of the Coast Guard’s budget problems involved a series of research operations studying the fast changing climate of the Arctic Ocean. The Coast Guard had been providing major support to a number of university operated oceanographic vessels conducting research at the top of the world. But now the Coast Guard, citing budget problems, is withdrawing their vessels and parking them much to the consternation of researchers.
A Fishermen’s Wives spokeswoman said the federal lawsuit papers are still being written and organized but that they expect them to be filed in Federal Court in Eugene next week. At the least it’s expected that their attorney will request that the judge immediately order the Coast Guard to not close the Newport helo base until more fundamental allegations of wrong-doing by the Coast Guard can be articulated and ruled on. It would also give the Oregon and South Carolina congressional delegations more time to work with the Congress to restore the Coast Guard’s budget to where it can continue the life-saving services it was created to provide nearly 225 years ago.
In the meantime, legal and court costs are already drawing down the bank account of Fishermen’s Wives. Those in the community who would like to donate whatever they can are urged to do so. Secure donations can be made by clicking here or by mailing your check to Fishermen’s Wives, P.O. Box 971, Newport, OR 97365.
More to follow…