“Our organization applauds and thanks Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Congressman Peter DeFazio for their unceasing efforts to keep our life-saving helicopter air facility here in Newport. Our representatives have continued to fight on our behalf in Washington , D.C. to keep this critical station open,” said Taunette Dixon, President of Newport Fishermen’s Wives. “ We agree with Congressman DeFazio when he says: ‘It is impossible to overstate how critical having search and rescue helicopters nearby is to Oregon’s fishing industry, coastal visitors and residents.’ Senators Wyden and Merkley have had our back every step of the way, stating that they won’t stop fighting until we have a permanent solution to keep this essential rescue station open.”
The recently passed U.S. Coast Guard Act of 2018 provides for numerous safeguards before an air facility may be closed anywhere in the country. The language , made permanent in the bill, requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide advance notice to affected communities, notify the Congressional Delegations, hold public hearings , provide reports to Congress, and prohibits any closure before 18 months after initial notice to Congress.
“This bill isn’t a permanent solution or specific protection for the Newport Helo,” said Dixon. “We have to remain vigilant. But the new rules are a significant improvement on the previous situation where we almost lost our life-saving air facility without any notice or due process.”
“We also thank our local governments, such as the leadership of the City of Newport, Lincoln County and the Port of Newport for their continued support,” Dixon said. “Most importantly, we recognize and are so grateful for the contributions and support from thousands of individual Oregonians, including schoolchildren, who continue to fight to Save the Helo.”
Section 319 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, at pages 93-95, provides that in order for the Coast Guard to close or reduce the area of operations or personnel at an air facility , the Secretary (of Homeland Security) shall:
1) Provide opportunities for public comment, including the convening of public meetings in communities in the area of responsibility of the air facility with regard to the proposed closure or cessation of operations at the air facility
2) Prior to convening a public meeting , the Secretary shall notify each congressional office representing any portion of the area of responsibility of the air station that is the subject to such public meeting of the schedule and location of such public meeting;
3) Submit to the Congress a proposal for such closure, cessation, or reduction in operations along with the budget of the President submitted to Congress that includes—
a) a discussion of the determination made by the Secretary and
b) a report summarizing the public comments received by the Secretary
Additionally, the bill provides that The Secretary may not close, cease operations, or significantly reduce personnel and use of a Coast Guard air facility for which a written notice (of proposed closure or reduction in service) is provided until a period of 18 months, beginning on the date on which such notice provided, has elapsed.