The U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) is proposing to reduce USCG Station Milford Haven near Gwynn’s Island, Va., from a small boat year-round station to a seasonal operation base, open only six months a year.
U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st District) hosted a public meeting on Aug. 2 at Piankatank Ruritans Club in Mathews County, Va., where about 100 people attended and voiced opposition to USCG’s proposal.
The outcome of that meeting resulted in USCG officials extending the public comment deadline from Aug. 3 to Sept. 22, reported Wittman. The Coast Guard will accept public comments from concerned individuals submitted via regulations.gov (type in “Consolidation of Redundant Coast Guard Boat Station”). However, the site still stated on Aug. 22 that the deadline is Aug. 3.
The proposed seasonal closure would be during the “off-season” cold weather months. Seasonal bases are normally open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, said Coast Guard officials. “Folks along the coast of the Chesapeake Bay know our waters are the lifeblood of our communities,” said Wittman. “Those out on the water during the coldest months of the year must have a reliable source of timely rescue, should they find themselves in an emergency situation.
“During months in which hypothermia can kill within minutes, this requirement becomes all the more essential,” said Wittman. “I thank the Coast Guard for listening to the voices of concerned Virginians in the First District, and urge them to reconsider their proposed suspension of operations. I will continue to fight to protect the safety of watermen, boaters, sportsmen and everyone else whose way of life depends on the safety of the waterways.”
At the Aug. 2 meeting, Capt. Jennifer Stockwell, deputy commander of Sector Virginia, USCG, said that Stations St. Inigoes, Crisfield, Wachapreague, Cape Charles and Portsmouth are all within 50 miles of Station Milford Haven. “It’s hard to say exactly how long response times are, but our fast response boats are capable of going 40 knots (46 miles per hour).”
She also said that the downgrade, if made final, would allow USCG to pool assets, personnel and resources and that the Coast Guard “looked into redundancies in the area and thought there was a need to find efficiencies.” Wittman said the other stations are across the Bay on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland or right at 50 miles away from Station Milford Haven. “When water temperature is below 50 degrees, your time to survive is extraordinarily short,” he said.
The Middlesex and Lancaster County boards of supervisors have both approved resolutions in August requesting that USCG keep Station Milford Haven open year-round.