Levin, Stabenow Fight to Retain Muskegon Coast Guard Seasonal Facility and Traverse City Helicopter Fleet to Maintain Boater Safety
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
WASHINGTON – Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow today urged Senate appropriators to reject the administration’s budget proposal to close the Coast Guard’s seasonal air facility in Muskegon and a proposal to reduce the number of helicopters in the Traverse City air station. Both of these proposals, the senators argue, would decrease search and rescue capabilities, leaving boaters at greater risk on Lake Michigan.
The senators’ letter to the appropriations committee follows:
February 29, 2012
The Honorable Mary Landrieu
Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20150
The Honorable Daniel Coats
Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chair Landrieu and Ranking Member Coats:
We write to oppose the proposal in the President’s FY 2013 budget request to close the Coast Guard’s seasonal air facility (AIRFAC) in Muskegon, Michigan. Closing the station would put at risk the large number of boaters on Lake Michigan during the summer. The Muskegon AIRFAC has been in place since 1997 and provides an important safety presence during the heavy boating season on Lake Michigan. We urge you to continue to ensure Lake Michigan has an adequate Coast Guard presence to protect boaters in this very busy region of the country.
From a safety point of view an on-site helicopter can deploy much more quickly than one coming from 120 miles away. The Air Facility Muskegon responded to 182 cases on southern Lake Michigan since 2005.
When it comes to saving lives, time is of the essence. In areas where there is heavy boat traffic as there is on southern Lake Michigan the Coast Guard must be particularly vigilant. According to the Coast Guard, Michigan, with its significant Great Lakes shoreline, has almost a million registered boats. Indiana, with 40 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, has over 200,000 registered boats.
The Coast Guard’s presence at Muskegon was well thought out. After a merit-based evaluation of several sites, the Coast Guarded decided in 1996 to locate an air facility on Lake Michigan at the Muskegon County airport. To accommodate this decision, Muskegon County built at its own expense a new hangar to the exact specifications of the Coast Guard to house the Muskegon air facility and helicopter. When signing this long-term lease the Coast Guard made a commitment to Muskegon County regarding the safety and security of the people of Michigan. The Coast Guard needs to remain in Muskegon.
We are also concerned that the President’s FY 2013 budget request proposes replacing the five H-65 helicopters in Traverse City with only three H-60 helicopters. A minimum of four H-60 helicopters would be required to leave Traverse City with equal coverage and this is the number the President requested in FY 2010 when the upgrade was first proposed. We are concerned that if the President’s proposal is adopted the Traverse City Air Facility will be left dangerously shorthanded.
Lake Michigan’s boaters deserve to be protected through a Coast Guard facility on southern Lake Michigan. We urge you to direct the Coast Guard to maintain its Muskegon AIRFAC and provide the additional H-60 helicopters to Air Station Traverse City. Thank you for your consideration.