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Opinion Pieces by Rob

USCG Station Milford Haven should remain staffed all year

For over 50 years, Coast Guard Station Milford Haven has protected life and commerce throughout the waterways of the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and the middle Chesapeake Bay. All that could change if the Coast Guard’s budget plan to downgrade their presence in the region isn’t stopped.

Recently, the Coast Guard announced plans to reduce operations out of Mathews County, a decision that could prove deadly. The proposal would end the current year-round Coast Guard presence at Milford Haven. If implemented, the station would only be manned half the year. Shifting to only summertime operations would significantly increase emergency response times and undermine safety in the region during the remainder of the year.  

We all know that these critical waterways are popular throughout the year – and have been for generations – these waters are the lifeblood and livelihood of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. Many marine businesses, fishermen, waterfowl hunters, watermen, and recreational boaters travel these waterways, even during the cold winter months.

Without a year-round local presence on the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, Coast Guard Station Portsmouth, which is a two-hour boat trip away, would now become the responding station. When the rivers’ and Bay’s water are cold, accidents can turn deadly in minutes.  Like you, I know family, friends, and neighbors on the water every day of the year. Boating accidents, hypothermia, and injuries on the water are common enough that the people of the middle Bay deserve a full-time Coast Guard presence in our community.  Also, the justification that the Coast Guard could maintain coverage with newer and faster boats doesn’t appear to take into consideration the shallow draft areas unique to the rivers and inlets in our area.

Some number crunching, faceless bureaucrat analyst in Washington, D.C. has looked at a few spreadsheets and decided that reducing operations at Milford Haven makes sense. For those of us who live on the water, we know that this decision is the wrong one.  That is why I have personally spoken with Coast Guard leadership and will meet with the Commandant to share the anger and frustration I feel that this decision would cause by endangering the lives of our neighbors. Coast Guard Station Milford Haven serves a critical role and should remain staffed all year and not be downgraded to a small part-time station. I also feel strongly that the Coast Guard needs to hear your concerns. I have invited and the Coast Guard will come listen to the voices in our community at a planned public hearing (soon to be announced). They need to sit face-to-face with the waterman, the boater, the duck hunter, and those in the community whose lives and livelihoods are tied to the water.

I have dedicated my life in public service to representing my constituents’ needs and interests to the best of my ability. While we can disagree on certain policies, I’ll always stand up and fight for you against the faceless bureaucracy that only sees numbers and not individuals. That is why I have fought alongside with Mathews County to restore aids to navigation and to continue advocating for dredging silting in Davis Creek and other similar projects across the region. That is why I will continue to make sure your voice is heard.

I am committed to getting real results for the First District. I've made it a top priority to ensure the health and safety of our waterways. I’ve worked across the aisle to make sure we preserve and clean up the Chesapeake and maintain our precious traditions and way of life. We’ve made great progress. During the difficult days of the pandemic, I know that many of you rekindled a passion for the outdoors and took great joy in spending time on the water; fishing or boating with family. For those of us who live in the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and Middle Bay, the water is a part of our lives. We make a living from the Bay’s bountiful natural resources and live to ply her beautiful waters. I will strive to make sure the federal government doesn’t make it harder or riskier.