SENATOR WYDEN AND OTHER LAWMAKERS HAVE WON APPROVAL BY THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE OF A ONE YEAR REAUTHORIZATION BUDGET ITEM TO KEEP THE COAST GUARD NEWPORT AIR FACILITY OPERATING FOR ANOTHER YEAR – ‘TIL JANUARY 1, 2016.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT WAS RELAYED THROUGH REP. DAVID GOMBERG’S OFFICE THIS AFTERNOON.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT HAS PROMPTED FEDERAL JUDGE MICHAEL MCSHANE TO POSTPONE A COURT HEARING THURSDAY DEALING WITH AN INJUNCTION AGAINST THE COAST GUARD’S CLOSING OF THE FACILITY DECEMBER 15TH. SO, THERE WILL BE NO FEDERAL COURT HEARING TOMORROW ON THE FISHERMEN’S WIVES INJUNCTION AGAINST THE COAST GUARD. FISHERMEN’S WIVES’ GINNY GOBLIRSCH SAYS THEIR ATTORNEY WILL MAKE SURE THAT THE POSTPONEMENT IS NOT USED FOR “ANY FUNNY BUSINESS” BY THE FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ATTORNEY WHO HAD ALREADY ARRIVED IN EUGENE TO REPRESENT THE COAST GUARD.
FISHERMEN’S WIVES STANDARD BEARER GINNY GOBLIRSCH TOLD NEWS LINCOLN COUNTY THAT WHILE THEY WELCOME THE NEWS OF THE YEAR EXTENSION, THEY ARE STAYING THE COURSE IN COURT TO FORCE THE COAST GUARD TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT AND WHAT’S LEGAL BY MAKING THEM FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS THAT ANY GOVERNMENT AGENCY, CONTEMPLATING A MAJOR CHANGE IN SERVICE LEVELS, MUST DO UNDER THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ACT. AND TO FULFILL THOSE REQUIREMENTS THE COAST GUARD MUST EVALUATE THE IMPACT FROM REMOVING THE HELO FROM THE NEWPORT BASE. THERE ARE ECONOMIC, ENVIRONMENTAL AND PUBLIC SAFETY IMPACTS, GOBLIRSCH SAYS, THAT CANNOT BE DISMISSED OUT OF HAND, NO MATTER HOW HIGH RANKING THE COAST GUARD OFFICIALS ARE WHO ARE TRYING TO DO IT.
Goblirsch said Fishermen’s Wives and the other co-plaintiffs, in an injunction request against the Coast Guard, will still appear in Federal Court in Eugene Thursday afternoon (tomorrow) to make their case to Judge McShane that the Coast Guard must comply with federal law dealing with major changes in service levels by any federal agency – including the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has dismissed the Fishermen’s Wives action claiming the group has no standing in court to make such a request – adding that the Air Facility is a cost burden for the Coast Guard’s overall mission. Top Coast Guard brass claim the six million dollars a year to operate the facility can be better spent elsewhere. The Coast Guard is also proposing to shut down a facility in South Carolina.
Central to the Fishermen’s Wives argument is that the recently adopted nationwide standard of giving the Coast Guard two hours to reach a search and rescue scene is a guarantee that many more lives off the Oregon Coast will be lost. Offshore water temperatures, year round, never warm up enough to prevent death – often occurring from between 15 minutes to an hour regardless of the time of year.
Fishermen’s Wives attorney Michael Haglund told News Lincoln County this afternoon that the passage of the budget action by the House and Senate must still be signed by President Obama, which could take a day or two. Haglund noted that there is the same urgency surrounding Thursday’s hearing in Federal Court against the Coast Guard because the closure of the Newport Facility is set for Midnight Sunday night, Monday morning. Haglund also pointed out that the Coast Guard today filed more pleadings to rebut the Fishermen’s Wives filing of the injunction request.
HERE’S MORE ON TODAY’S HISTORIC EXTENSION OF THE AIR FACILITY’S SERVICE TO NEWPORT AND THE CENTRAL COAST.
Oregon Lawmakers Secure Provision to Keep Newport Coast Guard Air Facility Open until January 2016
Life-Saving Rescue Helicopters Had Been Scheduled for Removal by Dec. 15
Washington, D.C. – Following their repeated calls to ensure the safety of residents in coastal areas, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici today announced the Congress has passed legislation that will keep the U.S. Coast Guard’s air facility at Newport open through the coming year.
The Oregon lawmakers worked to include language in the Coast Guard reauthorization bill that would keep the Coast Guard’s air stations open through January 1, 2016—including the Newport facility. The Senate passed the short-term Coast Guard reauthorization bill earlier today, and the House of Representatives passed it tonight.
“The passage of this bill is a literal lifesaver for our coastal communities,” Merkley said. “It’s essential to the safety of fishermen, recreational boaters, and tourists on our coast that we have lifesaving facilities nearby when the distress call comes. This is a huge win for the safety of our communities and the health of our economy. I’m determined to keep the Newport helicopter right where it belongs: in Newport.”
“It is impossible to understate how critical this air station is not only to the hardworking men and women of Oregon’s fishing industry, but for all coastal visitors and residents,” DeFazio said. “While I’m encouraged that the Oregon delegation was able to keep the lights on for one more year in Newport, clearly we will need to keep up the fight in the coming months in order to ensure a permanent resolution.”
“I know folks often get frustrated with Washington, DC for not getting things done that matter to them,” Schrader said. “But this critical safety issue on our coast is an example of how a community, working with its elected officials can really make a difference, just like we did with NOAA and get something done. I’m proud to be on a team with my colleagues in the House and Senate to make sure this helicopter remains in Newport.”
“The Newport Coast Guard Air Facility is critical to the safety and security of a key region of Oregon’s coastal economy,” Blumenauer said. “Closing this facility will harm Oregon’s tourism, research, and fishing industries and create longer response times in life or death situations.”
While the Coast Guard claims that it would still be able to meet the national standard of a two-hour search-and-rescue response time, local fishermen and Central Coast residents who depend on the rescue helicopters say first-hand experience shows that closure of the base will lengthen response times and threaten the safety of local mariners.
Newport houses National Oceanic and Atmospheric vessels and Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleet, in addition to research vessels from Oregon State University. In response to repeated calls from Oregon lawmakers, the Coast Guard announced it would delay the December 1 closure of the Newport facility until December 15.