Lincoln County Counsel Wayne Belmont informed his county commissioners this morning that Federal Judge Michael McShane has put the Coast Guard Helo issue on a very fast track for a decision on whether the helo station at the Newport Airport will be shut down December 15th. Belmont said it’s a very good sign. “I like the position we’re in,” he said.
Judge McShane gave the Coast Guard only until December 5th to respond to the lawsuit/request for preliminary injunction submitted by the Newport Fishermen’s Wives, the City of Newport, the Port of Newport and Lincoln County. Not only that, Judge McShane scheduled a full hearing for December 11th at 1:30pm. Belmont told his commissioners that it’s very possible Judge McShane could approve the injunction at the conclusion of the hearing.
Should Judge McShane approve the injunction, it would take effect immediately. The Coast Guard would then be faced with having to do the mountain of homework they by-passed when they announced the closure back on October 2nd.
During this week’s news conference at Newport City Hall, Attorney Mike Haglund, representing Fishermen’s Wives, Newport, Port of Newport and Lincoln County, said the amount of research and analysis required to deal with legal requirements under Homeland Security and the National Environmental Policy Act could run up to nine months – plenty of time for the congressional delegations of Oregon and South Carolina to restore the Coast Guard’s budget to the point the Newport Helo Base will not be closed – including another facility in South Carolina.
County Commissioner Terry Thompson remarked, “What’s going on here is a basic shift in the Coast Guard’s main mission – going from primarily a search and rescue agency to something else.” It’s not hard to see where Commissioner Thompson was going with his remark – the department that took over the Coast Guard in 2002 has one mission – homeland security. So the ominous question is – has the Department of Homeland Security, completely on its own, without any public review or comment, decided that the Coast Guard will become America’s sea going police rather than an agency with a much broader purpose of providing general public safety. And if that’s the case, all coastal and fishing communities nationwide are basically being told…”You’re on your own.” All done without ANY Congressional, Judicial or Presidential oversight or public hearings.
Thompson added…”This is a very big deal. It goes way beyond Lincoln County.”