News Releases

Murray Holds First Hearing as Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee

Jun 13 2001

Maritime Safety, Coast Guard Readiness, and Fisheries Enforcement Examined

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) held her first hearing as Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee to examine Coast Guard operations in the Pacific Northwest. Murray called on Kenneth Mead, the Department of Transportation Inspector General and Admiral Jim Loy, the Coast Guard Commandant, to provide testimony to assess the Coast Guard's recent work in ensuring safety and environmental protection both nationwide and in the Pacific Northwest.

"The Coast Guard is absolutely critical to the lives and livelihood of the people in my state," said Murray. "We depend on the Coast Guard to perform its missions every day and to perform them flawlessly every time."

Murray noted a critical shortage in staff for search and rescue and surf stations. She also disclosed that experienced crew members at search and rescue stations are working average work weeks of 84 hours while 68 hours is standard. With workloads falling on a diminishing number of qualified individuals, retention rates are also declining. These conditions not only put a strain on Coast Guard crews, but have led to disturbing declines in the success of search and rescue missions.

"There is one mission that we all expect the Coast Guard to be able to perform consistently and completely. I'm talking, of course, about search and rescue," said Murray. "Increasingly, however, the Coast Guard is not as prepared as it should be in handling this core mission. And the shortfall is especially bad in my part of the country."

The Coast Guard has a national goal of saving 93 percent of mariners in imminent danger. In the Pacific Northwest, the Coast Guard's rate was only 80 percent last year. Murray questioned why there has been no increase in Coast Guard assets despite a dramatic increase in waterborne activity in the Pacific Northwest.

Murray also examined the reduction of fisheries enforcement efforts in favor of other priorities and the impact of these cuts on over-fished species.

She is currently serving as Chair of the Subcommittee while awaiting the reorganization of the Senate. Murray used the hearing to assess the maritime needs of the Pacific Northwest and the Coast Guard nationwide to ensure the budget the subcommittee develops for Fiscal Year 2002 will meet those needs.