Durbin Urges Coast Guard Commitment to Keeping Helicopter Mission in Waukegan
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today urged the Coast Guard to commit to keeping the Coast Guard helicopter station in Waukegan, Illinois. Last week, Durbin 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 which was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member.
"I have worked with the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee to deny this proposal and would encourage you to work with me and the Committee as you decide the future Coast Guard mission in Waukegan,” Durbin wrote. “Moving a rescue helicopter to Traverse City will increase the time it will take to respond to emergencies in the Chicagoland area. Maintaining this capability close to Chicago keeps rescue response times short and can save lives of Lake Michigan boaters.”
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 Senator Durbin’s provision would ensure that crews will continue operating at both the Waukegan and Muskegon facilities, a public commitment from the Coast Guard would reinforce that effort and ensure that local community concerns would be addressed in any future plans.
“The Waukegan Port District, operating the Waukegan Harbor and Waukegan Airport, is committed to the safety and security of the Chicagoland maritime and aviation public,” said Duncan Henderson, Executive Director of the Waukegan Port District. “We are most grateful of Senator Durbin’s assistance in maintaining the U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter in the Waukegan area. The presence of this helicopter assures the rapid response of the United States Coast Guard in this major metropolitan area.”
Text of the letter appears below:
Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr.
U.S. Coast Guard
2100 2nd St SW
Washington, DC 20593
Dear Commandant Papp:
I am writing regarding the Coast Guard’s proposal to relocate the rescue helicopter stationed in Waukegan, Illinois. As you know, the Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposed to close the Coast Guard Air Facility located in Waukegan and move the helicopter stationed there to Traverse City, Michigan. I have worked with the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee to deny this proposal and would encourage you to work with me and the Committee as you decide the future Coast Guard mission in Waukegan.
The Chicago metropolitan area is home to significant recreational and commercial boat traffic. The Port of Waukegan, for example, serves U.S. and Canadian vessels brining in over 600,000 tons of products to Illinois each year. Thousands of recreational and charter vessels also use Lake Michigan every summer. Moving a rescue helicopter to Traverse City will increase the time it will take to respond to emergencies in the Chicagoland area. Maintaining this capability close to Chicago keeps rescue response times short and can save lives of Lake Michigan boaters.
The Senate Appropriations Committee recognized the importance of the helicopter stationed in Waukegan in their Committee Report accompanying the FY 11 Homeland Security Appropriations bill when they wrote, “The helicopters stationed at the air facilities in Muskegon, Michigan, and Waukegan, Illinois, are critical to the safety of Great Lakes mariners and recreational users. The Coast Guard is to work with the Committee on the future missions of these air facilities.”
I urge you to consider the Senate Appropriations Committee direction this year and retain the helicopter mission currently in place at Waukegan. I look forward to working with you as you develop the future role of U.S. Coast Guard helicopters in Illinois. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Richard J. Durbin
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