From Congressman Peter DeFazio
Transportation Committee passes bipartisan Coast Guard bill
Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) pushed for committee passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015, legislation that would keep the Newport air facility open indefinitely. Due to budget cuts, the Coast Guard threatened in 2014 to close the Newport air facility– which handles half of the emergency response calls on the Central Oregon Coast. The legislation permanently extends the prohibition on closing the Newport facility.
“It is impossible to understate how critical having helicopters nearby is to Oregon’s fishing industry, coastal visitors and residents. Last year, the Oregon Delegation was able to step in and we prevented an immediate closure of the Newport air facility. Today’s legislation would keep this critical air station—which handles half the emergency calls on the Central Oregon Coast—open indefinitely. Kurt and I will work hard to push this legislation through the process until it is signed by the President,” said DeFazio.
“The stationing of a United States’ Coast Guard helicopter in Newport is essential to protecting the lives of our commercial fishermen, recreational tourists, and community along the Oregon coast. This legislation will maintain the current number of Coast Guard rescue helicopters in Coos Bay and Newport deployed for years to come. I am proud to partner with Congressman DeFazio to get this solution in place and provide our coastal community with certainty about the future of the search and rescue helicopters so critical public safety in the region,” said Schrader.
The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1987) authorizes Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission funding levels for two years, and includes provisions to improve Coast Guard mission effectiveness, help modernize the Service’s aging vessels and other assets, and reform U.S. maritime transportation laws. The bill was introduced by Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), along with Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Ranking Member John Garamendi (D-CA).
Newport is home to one of Oregon’s three deep draft ports, the state’s largest grossing commercial fishing fleet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Operations Center, Oregon State University research personnel and vessels, and a robust recreational and sport fishing industry that is critical to the local economy.
DeFazio and the Oregon delegation successfully passed legislation last year that delayed the closure and keeps the U.S. Coast Guard’s air facility at Newport open through January 2016. However, additional Congressional action was necessary to keep an air facility in Newport in 2016 and beyond.