Nov 18 2014

Bipartisan, Bicoastal Group of Lawmakers Calls on Coast Guard to Keep Facilities Open

WASHINGTON - In a continued effort to ensure the safety of residents living and working in coastal areas, members of Congress from Oregon today joined South Carolina lawmakers in calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to keep facilities in South Carolina and Oregon from closing next month.

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), and Representatives Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina), Tom Rice (R-South Carolina), Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon), Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) signed the letter urging the Coast Guard to reverse its abrupt announcement from October that it would close facilities in Charleston, South Carolina and Newport, Oregon. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, also signed the letter.

"We believe that the United States Coast Guard's decision to close air facilities in Newport, Oregon and Charleston, South Carolina would needlessly endanger mariners in our respective states and we urge you to prevent the Coast Guard from doing so," the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

While the Coast Guard claims that it will still be able to meet the national standard of a two-hour search-and-rescue response time, the lawmakers argue that fewer assets could lengthen response times and threaten the safety of local mariners.

"While we strongly support efforts to spend federal dollars more efficiently, we cannot support budget cuts that needlessly jeopardize the lives of our constituents. We therefore urge you to reevaluate the Coast Guard's decision and to prevent the Coast Guard from closing these air facilities," they wrote.

In response to previous calls from South Carolina and Oregon lawmakers, the Coast Guard announced it would delay the December 1 closure of the Charleston and Newport facilities until December 15. Charleston is one of the nation's busiest cargo ports and is home to a robust tourism industry as well as large shrimp, crab and oyster fleets. Newport houses National Oceanic and Atmospheric vessels and Oregon's largest commercial fishing fleet, in addition to research vessels from Oregon State University.