LaPUSH — Rescued fishermen, tribal leaders and business owners Monday opposed the proposed U.S. Coast Guard Quillayute River Station closure during the first public session on the measure.
“If you take the Coast Guard out of here, this could become a drug-smuggling haven,”‘ Quileute tribal Vice Chairman Tony Foster said.
Roy Black III of LaPush described several rescues of his fishing vessel, including one off the treacherous bar at the intersection of the Quillayute River and the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s a good thing we had them there,” Black said. “It was a pretty shaky experience, but they pulled us out of there to safety.”
Coast Guard officials have said they are proposing the closure because rescue calls have declined below the agency’s 110-hour annual minimum since 1997.
But the Coast Guard is also facing a $91 million budget shortfall and is cutting back services nationwide. The Quillayute River Station costs approximately $1 million annually to operate.
Monday night’s hearing drew about 100 residents and government officials from the West End. It was the first in a series of four slated this week.
Similar sessions will be in Forks today, Port Townsend on Wednesday, and Port Angeles on Thursday. All meetings feature open sessions from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with formal public comment from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Today’s meeting will be in the new Forks High School commons, 411 S. Spartan Ave., Forks.
The Port Townsend meeting will be at the Pope Marine Building, 540 Water St., Port Townsend.
The Port Angeles hearing is set for the Port Angeles City Council chambers, 321 E. Fifth St., Port Angeles.This full report appears in today’s editions of the Peninsula Daily News, on sale throughout Clallam and Jefferson counties. Or click on “Subscribe” at left to order your copy via U.S. mail.