WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following their repeated calls to ensure the safety of residents in coastal areas, Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Representatives Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici announced December 10th that 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.
In a letter last month, the Oregon lawmakers, along with South Carolina Senators Tim Scott, R-S.C. and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Representatives Mark Sanford, R-S.C., and Tom Rice, R-S.C., and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., urged the Department of Homeland Security to reverse the Coast Guard’s decision. This letter came on the heels of a letter that Oregon lawmakers sent to the Commandant of the Coast Guard urging him to keep the helicopter in Newport.
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. (Source: Senator Jeff Merkley Press Release Dec.10, 2014)