U. S. Rep. Congressman Rob Wittman (R, 1st District) announced this week that the United States Coast Guard (USCG) will continue to operate Coast Guard Station Milford Haven year-round, reversing a plan to suspend operations during the “off-season” winter months and operating it on a six month seasonal schedule.
Wittman hosted a public hearing in Aug., requesting the Coast Guard to extend the public comment period, as Bay Bulletin reported. As a result of that meeting, USCG extended the comment period from Aug. 3 to Sept. 22 and delayed the final decision.
“This is fantastic, long-awaited news,” said Wittman in a news release this week. “Communities along the Chesapeake Bay successfully joined together to communicate the importance Station Milford Haven has to middle Chesapeake Bay residents.
“Following the public hearing, USCG recognized Station Milford Haven’s importance to the community. In response, they extended the public comment period, a measure usually reserved only for base closures,” said Wittman.
“Throughout my conversations with the Coast Guard, and as they listened to all those who took the time to share their thoughts, they recognized the unique operational and geographic challenges inherent to the central Chesapeake Bay.
“Station Milford Haven’s ability to provide a timely response to any emergency on the water has proven critically important to the safety of residents of the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and western shore of Chesapeake Bay. These waters remain popular throughout the year, with many businesses dependent upon these waters during the winter months,” Wittman explained.
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 off- season responding station.
Station Milford Haven is located adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay in Mathews County, Virginia. Coastal Virginia counties on the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula are home to many recreational and commercial fishermen. During the off-season months, water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay decline far enough for hypothermia to potentially kill within minutes. Had Station Milford Haven suspended operations during these months, the nearest stations
able to respond to emergencies in the area would be approximately 50 miles away. This would potentially leave imperiled mariners without a means of timely rescue, said Wittman.
Middlesex County is on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula and county board of supervisor member Lud Kimbrough of Deltaville, who spearheaded a local drive to keep Milford Haven open year-round, said this week, “on behalf of the thousands of recreational boaters and commercial fishermen who rely on Coast Guard Station Milford Haven in the event of emergency, I want to thank Congressman Wittman for bringing this issue to our attention and ensuring that
our voice was heard, and I also want to thank the hundreds of citizens who reached out to ensure their concerns were communicated. And I also am grateful to the Coast Guard.”