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Alaska Editorial: We're ready already

Posted: July 18, 2011 - 6:18pm

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Ketchikan will welcome the Chandeleur with open arms.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced the 110-foot cutter will be transferred to Ketchikan from Miami after it completes a nine-month refit.

The Chandeleur will handle search and rescue, fisheries enforcement, law enforcement and environmental protection throughout Southeast Alaska.

The Chandeleur comes in the wake of the departure of the Acushnet, a 213-foot cutter that had been homeported in Ketchikan before it was decommissioned and sold earlier this year. The Acushnet also operated in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean.

The Chandeleur, which is named after a chain of uninhabited barrier islands located off the Louisiana coast, signals the Coast Guard’s commitment to Ketchikan and Alaska, and to providing search, rescue and law enforcement — in particular for the region.

The cutter, with its 20-member crew, is accustomed to operating off the coast of Miami, where it has proven itself at search and rescue. It often participated in the rescue of Cuban migrants who attempted to raft to the United States and in impeding drug trafficking into this country.

In Alaska it will be involved primarily in the rescue of commercial fishermen and recreational boaters and in law enforcement.

It is expected to be joined by two new 145-foot fast-response cutters, which will be based in Ketchikan by 2015.

Together, the three cutters will be integral to rebuilding the Coast Guard’s high profile in Alaska, particularly Ketchikan after the economic loss of the Acushnet, not to mention its greater capabilities related to its size and the size of its crew.

It’s likely that Alaska will continue to experience an increase in the Coast Guard presence as competition for the maritime resources intensifies and new parts of the Arctic region open to exploration and development. Activity there is only anticipated to increase, and with it will be the necessity of the Coast Guard.

In the meantime, Ketchikan looks forward to the arrival of the Chandeleur and its crew, all of whom will be welcomed grandly. Crew members and their families will become our new neighbors and friends. They will frequent our businesses and enroll their children in our schools. They will attend our churches and become coaches for kids’ sports.

Our community has long enjoyed the presence and participation of the Coast Guard and through the years cherished the friendships made with its members, some of whom later settled here and made a second career out of serving Ketchikan on land, not by sea.

The Chandeleur will arrive in about nine months, with new mechanical, hull and electrical equipment.

Ketchikan is ready.

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