The wives of fishermen from Oregon's largest commercial fleet are suing to stop the Coast Guard from closing its rescue helicopter station in Newport, a seaport town about 100 miles southwest of Portland.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Eugene, argues that closing the Newport Air Station would violate the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which prohibits the Coast Guard from cutting back its mission.
The Coast Guard has said budget cuts led to the closing and that it will cover the central Oregon coast from the Astoria and North Bend stations. The lawsuit said that will add an hour to the time for a helicopter to reach a stricken vessel, which could be the difference between life and death in cold Pacific waters.
The Coast Guard said closing the station will save an estimated $6 million.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Newport Fishermen's Wives Inc., the city of Newport, Lincoln County and the Port of Newport, counters that the deaths of three fishermen from hypothermia after their boat sank off Newport in 1985 led to the establishment of the Newport base, according to an Associated Press report in The Statesman Journal.
Chief Warrant Officer Chad Saylor said the Coast Guard will let the legal system determine the validity of the assertions.