Wyden, Merkley, Schrader, DeFazio, Blumenauer and Bonamici to Coast Guard: Keep Newport Air Facility Open Through Crabbing Season
First Responders Need More Time To Plan for Emergencies; Lawmakers Vow to Use Time To Fight for Long-Term Alternative
Washington, D.C. – Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined today with Oregon Representatives Kurt Schrader, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici to call on the U.S. Coast Guard to hold off on its abrupt decision to shut down its Newport Air Facility and to keep open this important piece of the coastal safety net through the busy crabbing season.
The Coast Guard with little notice announced this month that it plans to close the Newport Air Facility by December 1. At a community meeting earlier this week in Newport, residents voiced their strong objection to that sudden decision and its life-and-death impact.
“The lack of notice has harmed the ability of local emergency response services to prepare plans that do not rely on the USCG helicopter’s presence in Newport. First-responders need the opportunity to evaluate what they will need to do to protect the public and what risk their operations run with the USCG helicopters stationed further away,” Oregon lawmakers wrote in a letter to Admiral Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard.
The lawmakers noted that commercial fisherman, steep terrain loggers, and recreationalists working in the treacherous waters and cliffs along the Oregon Coast all depend on the nearby Coast Guard helicopter.
And they asked the Coast Guard for a six-month delay in its decision to close the Newport facility.
“While we continue to believe that you should permanently reverse this decision per our letter of October 8—and while we will continue working to keep these assets in Newport—we urge you, at a minimum, to delay its implementation until after Newport’s coming crabbing season,” the lawmakers wrote, calling the short notice of the closure ”unacceptable.”
“Our goal remains keeping a USCG helicopter in Newport permanently,” they concluded, “and we hope that a delay will provide us an opportunity to continue working with the USCG to make that a reality."