The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed H.R. 2518, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017, which includes language from Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) that will keep the Newport air facility open permanently.
“It is impossible to understate how critical this air station is, not only to the hardworking men and women of Oregon’s fishing industry, but for all coastal visitors and residents. The provision I secured in the Coast Guard Authorization Act will keep the critical Newport Air Station open and helicopter operations serving the Oregon Coast permanently. This is a major victory for Oregon’s coastal communities. This legislation also guarantees that the Coast Guard has the resources and assets necessary to protect our ports, waterways, and coastal communities, and respond to disasters or emergencies affecting our mariners, fishermen, and the general public,” said DeFazio.
The legislation authorizes the Coast Guard for two years at increased funding levels–a total of $9.3 billion in fiscal year 2018 and $9.5 billion in fiscal year 2019. These funding levels would help to backfill budget cuts imposed through the Budget Control Act, and provide a measure of budget certainty for the next two years. Of these amounts, nearly $7.3 and $7.5 billion is authorized, respectively, to support Coast Guard operations. The bill authorizes $1.94 billion in each fiscal year for acquisitions, construction and improvements. In addition, the bill provides for end-of-year strength of 43,000 active duty personnel and maintains existing military training student loads.
DeFazio was a key negotiator and co-sponsor of the bipartisan legislation.
COAST GUARD BACKGROUND
Due to budget cuts, the Coast Guard threatened in 2014 to close the Newport air facility, which handles half of the emergency response calls on the Central Oregon Coast. In 2015, members of the Oregon Delegation secured a prohibition on the closure of any Coast Guard facility, including the Newport air facility, for two years until January 1, 2018. H.R. 2518includes a provision to guarantee that the Newport air facility will stay open and serve Oregon’s coastal communities into the future.
Newport is home to one of Oregon’s three deep draft ports, the state’s largest grossing commercial fishing fleet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Operations Center, Oregon State University research personnel and vessels, and a robust recreational and sport fishing industry that is critical to the local economy.