Senators Introduce Legislation to Preserve STORIS for Museum

Calling it a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifices of Coast Guard men and women in Alaska, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today introduced legislation to authorize the conveyance of the decommissioned Coast Guard Cutter STORIS for use as a privately-funded museum in Juneau.  Begich was joined by Sen. Lisa Murkowski in co-sponsoring the legislation and Rep.  Don Young is introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

“The Coast Guard’s history in Alaska dates back to the earliest days of the Bering Sea Patrol and LT David Jarvis’ famous 1,500-mile rescue of stranded whalers near Barrow in 1897,” Begich said.  “Since then, the Coast Guard has been closely involved in the growth of Alaska by conducting search and rescues, fishery patrols and our growing maritime industry. This history needs to be remembered and displayed for the public and there is no more fitting tribute than conveyance of STORIS, with its 60 years of service in Alaska, for use as a privately funded museum in Juneau, its former home port and a city that attracts one million visitors annually.”

“With nearly 60 years of service in the Arctic, Bering Sea and waters off of Alaska, I am pleased and honored to again be a co-sponsor for legislation that would seek to return STORIS to Alaska,” Murkowski said.  “The creation of a STORIS museum in Juneau will serve to not only remind Alaskans of the important role that the Coast Guard played in the historical creation of Alaska as a territory but will also serve to highlight the vital role that the Coast Guard continues to play in the safety and security of the Alaskan maritime industry.  The Coast Guard continues to be a valued member of the Alaskan community and I truly believe that this museum will serve as a constant reminder of their ongoing efforts to keep Alaskans and the citizens of the United States safe.”

The USCGC STORIS has a unique 59-year history in Alaska and, when restored with private funding, would make an appropriate venue to memorialize the Coast Guard’s involvement in Alaska’s history.  Built in Toledo, Ohio, STORIS (WMEC-38) was commissioned in 1942 as an ice patrol tender and served in the North Atlantic during World War II.  In 1948, STORIS was reassigned to Juneau, Alaska where she participated in the Bering Sea Patrol and provided medical, dental and judicial services to isolated villages in the far reaches of the territory.

STORIS also assisted in establishing Alaskan LORAN stations, providing supplies for the Cold War-era DEW-Line System and conducting hydrographic surveys in the uncharted waters off the Arctic.  In 1957, STORIS sailed north of Canada to collect hydrographic information in search of a deep draft channel through the Arctic Ocean. Upon reaching the Atlantic, STORIS became the first U.S.-registered vessel to circumnavigate the North American continent.

Upon her return to Alaska later that year, STORIS was reassigned to Kodiak and was converted from a light icebreaker to a medium endurance cutter. With the conversion came a change in mission.  The primary responsibilities of STORIS shifted to enforcing laws and treaties of the domestic and foreign fisheries in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska and STORIS was active in the years leading up to and following passage of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

In the decades that followed, STORIS continued a tradition of excellence in fisheries regulation enforcement, search and rescue and other Coast Guard missions.  In 1975, STORIS provided icebreaking assistance to tugs and barges carrying vital supplies to Prudhoe Bay for the construction of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, STORIS made a port call at Petropavlovsk on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, marking the first entry of a foreign military vessel into the port since 1854 when the British and French attempted to seize it during the Crimean War.

Known as the “Galloping Ghost of the Alaskan Coast,” STORIS served as “Queen of the Fleet”, the oldest active duty vessel in the Coast Guard fleet, from October 1991 until her de-commissioning in February 2007.

“The men and women of the United States Coast Guard have served our nation with Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty for 220 years, serving as our front-line agency for enforcing our laws at sea; protecting our vast coastline, ports, shipping lanes, and the marine environment; saving lives, and providing for homeland security and national defense,” Begich said. “Preserving the USCGC STORIS, which played an important role in the development of Alaska, is an appropriate and fitting tribute to the centuries of Coast Guard service to the United States of America.”