KSFK: U.S. Coast Guard Commandant visits Petersburg

The head of the U.S. Coast Guard, Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz, paid a short visit to Petersburg Aug. 10. Also visiting was the 17th Coast Guard District Commander Rear Admiral Matthew Bell and U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mike Enzi of Wyoming. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

The visit was a short one with little fanfare. The leadership was on the ground for two and half hours, just long enough to tour the town’s two coast guard ships and visit their crew. There were no public meetings announced. But Petersburg’s mayor, Mark Jensen, met with the entourage. He says the Commandant was happy to visit.

“And he thought it was kind of interesting that a commercial fishermen was the mayor and liked the Coast Guard,” Jensen said.

Sometimes, a fishermen’s mission to fish is interrupted by the Coast Guard’s mission to check gear on board. But Jensen says most residents understand the importance of the Coast Guard to the town’s economy and safety on the water.

On twitter, Murkowski wrote that the visit gave her, “the opportunity to highlight the importance of Coast Guard to the community and for the health/safety of its large commercial fishing fleet.”

Senator Enzi traveled in on the same Coast Guard jet as the Commandant. He’s the Chairman of the Senate’s Budget Committee. Jensen says that Murkowski wanted Enzi to see the coast guard first-hand.

“She was trying to show him how important coast guard bases are not only to the municipalities where they are to support the town but for the safety on the water on the area,” Jensen said.

Six new Coast Guard Fast Response Cutters are to be stationed in Alaska and two new patrol boats. The six cutters will be stationed in Kodiak, Seward, Sitka, and Ketchikan. While Sitka’s cutter will be a new addition the others will replace some smaller island class cutters. The Coast Guard is also stationing two patrol boats in Juneau and Petersburg. That replacement will be slightly smaller than Petersburg’s current island-class cutter, Anacapa. But the mission will be the same. They both conduct commercial fishery law enforcement patrols, search and rescue and life-saving missions.

Jensen says he told the visiting group that the community was happy to be getting the Anacapa replaced.

“According to Admiral Bell from Juneau [the new patrol boat] is more suited for the area,” he said. “They’ve got a stern ramp for launching and retrieving their boarding raft. So, three less people than the Anacapa but still a pretty nice presence of Coast Guard people in Petersburg.”

Jensen says he’s glad he made a personal contact with both the Commandant Schultz and Rear Admiral Matthew Bell who was visiting from Juneau. Bell is responsible for Coast Guard operations throughout Alaska, the North Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.

By:  Angela Denning
Source: KSFK