The federal Office of Management and Budget’s proposed budget is calling for a $1.3 billion cut in funding to the U.S. Coast Guard to help pay for President Trump’s multi-million dollar plan for a border wall and illegal immigration, but local Coast Guard officials say it’s too early to tell what the impacts of any cuts might be.
The OMB is proposing to cut the Coast Guard’s budget by 14 percent, from $9.1 billion to about $7.8 billion nationwide.
“All this is still pretty new; the specifics haven’t made it all the way around,” said Coast Guard Station Chetco River Operations Petty Officer Bryan Ballenger. “It’s so new, we’re not even in that mindset yet.”
Oregon’s Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced Thursday they have joined a bipartisan group of 23 senators to urge OMB’s Director Mick Mulvaney to refrain from making the cuts.
“The budget cut would also have a dramatic effect on Coast Guard members and their families,” Merkley said. “The Coast Guard has struggled to keep pace with the other armed services when it comes to family and support services such as education and training, childcare and on-base support facilities such as commissaries and housing.”
He added, “And families in rural areas often do not have adequate health-care access and investments in family-support services nationwide have been far below acceptable levels.”
The senators noted that such a cut contradicts the president’s plans to bolster the military, and ramifications would be detrimental to the nation’s security. The Coast Guard is one branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, operating under Homeland Security.
Local Coast Guard
The Chetco station at the Port of Brookings Harbor was established in 1961 as part of the North Bend Sector, which keeps watch of 220 miles of coastline in six stations between here and Depoe Bay, south of Newport, and east to Interstate 5. The Chetco district encompasses an area of 50 nautical miles offshore from Cape Blanco south to Crescent City.
Their duties include rough water rescues, maritime environmental protection, commercial fishing vessel safety regulations and law enforcement.
The 42 men and women based in Harbor use a 29-foot response boat and two 47-foot motor lifeboats that can operate in 30-foot seas, 20-foot surf and 50-knot winds.
Here, the Coast Guard is greatly relied upon for everything from boat inspections to ocean rescues — and are lauded when citizens watch them at work.
“We’re one of the biggest supporters of the marine and fishing industry,” Ballenger said. “We play a vital role in keeping a whole economic industry safe and running, make sure people are following laws and being good stewards with our resources.”
Station Chetco River is search and rescue-driven, first taking care of the commercial fleet, and then the recreational boating public.
“This winter, with the weather and all the rain we had, we’ve had some unique situations,” Ballenger said, citing opening day of the crab season when about a dozen fishing vessels went to work in turbulent seas. “We were at ‘action’ stage; the (river) gauge was at 18 feet. We had to make the call to shut down the port for one day, and help them all get across this narrow bar, make sure each one came in safe.”
Station Chetco River was instrumental in the responses to two plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean since July last year, as well.
Coast Guard helicopters from North Bend were put in the air, too, to assist in the search for a 72-year-old mushroom hunter who’d become lost in the woods this winter, and another late last year involving a man and his son who were hunting and became lost.
The son was rescued, but his father has yet to be found and presumed dead.