Newport Scheduled To Lose Its Rescue Helicopter
The Port of Newport plans to expand, yet an important safety service is scheduled to be eliminated. Newport's Coast Guard air facility, including its rescue helicopter station, is slated to close at the end of November.
Once the Newport facility closes, the closest rescue helicopters will be in North Bend, 60 minutes away by air. Captain Todd Trimpert is Commander at the North Bend station. He says the government is under pressure to allocate their resources more effectively:
Trimpert: "The Coast Guard sector here has five MH-65 aircraft. Two of those aircraft will be reassigned elsewhere in the United States. So the people associated with each of those aircraft, and there are 12 people with each aircraft, will be transferred to other locations in the United States."
While it may save money, many Newport area residents are concerned the cuts will endanger lives. Ginny Goblirsch is a member of the Newport Fisherman's Wives. She was instrumental in getting the rescue helicopter to Newport in 1986, after a series of tragic cold-water deaths.
Goblirsch: "I think it's clear that they weren't adequately briefed at the D.C. level about conditions here … and to illustrate that fact they have set the closure for the opening day of our Dungeness crab fishery. No sane person would do that."
The Dungeness crab fishery is considered the deadliest on the West Coast.
Kevin Greenwood, the general manager of the Port of Newport, says he heard about the closure last week. He says his is one of the busiest fishing ports on Oregon's coast, and it's growing:
Greenwood: "The port will begin international log shipments this time next year in 2015. And we are actively recruiting small cruise ships that will have as many as 750 tourists on board."
In addition, Greenwood says the Port of Toledo is building a new shipyard that will bring hundreds of vessels to the bay.
Greenwood says the Port of Newport is sending a letter to elected officials and the Department of Homeland Security to emphasize the importance of the facility. Also, residents have started an online petition and have gathered over 5,000 signatures. They hope Congress will reverse the decision.