From Coast Congressman Kurt Schrader:
Washington, D.C. –. Today, Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) applauded the House 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. Last year, the Oregon congressional delegation was successful in passing a one year prohibition on closing the Newport facility and this legislation makes that prohibition permanent, by making it part of the baseline federal budget.
Now that the House has passed the measure, it now heads to the Senate where quick passage is expected.
“It is impossible to understate how critical having helicopters nearby is to Oregon’s fishing industry, coastal visitors and residents. Today’s legislation would keep this critical air station—which handles half the emergency calls on the Central Oregon Coast—open indefinitely. We hope the Senate takes up this legislation as soon as possible,” said Congressman DeFazio.
“This is a true victory for the Newport and Coos Bay communities. With the passage of this bill, we are now able to give our coastal community more certainty about the future of their search and rescue capabilities,” said Congressman Schrader. “I appreciate Congressman DeFazio’s efforts to get this bill through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and I’m hopeful my colleagues in the Senate will take up and pass this legislation to ensure the continued safety of our commercial fishermen, recreational tourists and community members.”
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.
Reached at home, Newport Fishermen’s Wives’ Ginny Golblirsch said she’s elated at the news that the House Resolution was passed and is now headed for the Senate where it’s also expected to pass. Goblirsch said the same good news applies to the folks in Charleston South Carolina who were also in line for a Coast Guard Station closure of their own. She said the House Resolution prohibits any Coast Guard facility closure of any sort through the end of 2017, “kinda like what part of the word NO don’t they understand?” she said.
She said despite the good news and the relief to the community that things have gone well for the Newport Helo Station, there still remains the original issue – the Coast Guard’s policies on Cold Water Rescues. Goblirsch says the Coast Guard still refuses to acknowledge the difference between warm water and cold water conditions. She said their standards for warm water rescues includes a two hour response window that they claim is “reasonable.” “Here on the coast, anything longer than 20 minutes begins to turn into a body retrieval operation. We have to change their minds and their policies.”