Durbin: Effort To Prevent Waukegan Helicopter Station From Closing Moves Forward In Senate

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that he secured a legislative provision that will prevent the closure of the Waukegan-based Coast Guard helicopter station in the 2011 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Durbin is a member, earlier today.


“The Coast Guard helicopters stationed in Waukegan are critical to the safety of Illinoisans who use the Great Lakes for both recreation and business,” said Durbin. “Moving the station to Michigan would more than double the time needed to respond to emergencies near Chicago. I am committed to seeing that this provision is approved by the full Senate and signed into law.”


Recently, the Coast Guard proposed the relocation of the helicopter crews operating at Coast Guard Air Facility (AIRFAC) Waukegan and Muskegon, Michigan to the Traverse City Station to Air Station Traverse City in Michigan. While the proposal would require Congressional approval before relocation, Senator Durbin’s provision would ensure that both crews will continue operating at both the Waukegan and Muskegon facilities.


In an April 5 letter to Durbin asking for his assistance, the Executive Director of the Waukegan Port District, Duncan Henderson, stressed the importance of maintaining the Coast Guard helicopters at the Port of Waukegan by saying: “The increased response time for the Coast Guard to fly a rescue helicopter from Traverse City, Michigan to the Chicago area could mean life or death. I would point to an incident in 2008 where a charter fishing boat was swamped and sunk in a storm. The Coast Guard helicopters rapid response rescued five fishermen and the boat Captain from Lake Michigan.”