Coast Guard Studies St. George as Possible Port of Refuge

Friday, December 14 2012

A provision in the recently passed Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill hones in on the strategic importance of the Pribilof island of St. George. The community’s harbor is the only one in the Bering Sea that’s ice-free year-round, and with vessel traffic increasing in the Arctic, Mayor Pat Pletnikoff says the community needs to be ready for the possibility of maritime disasters.

“And so we are trying to get ahead of the curve a little bit and see if we can get our government to take a look the Central Bering Sea and look a little bit closer at St. George to see whether or not it might become a designated harbor of refuge.”

Currently, there are no emergency response resources positioned in the Bering Sea. The closest port of refuge is Dutch Harbor, which is a full 24 hours away from St. George by boat. The provision in the Coast Guard bill doesn’t appropriate any money for upgrades to existing facilities in St. George, but Pletnikoff says it’s good just to be on the Coast Guard’s radar. The State of Alaska and St. George are already collaborating on some upgrades to the harbor. Pletnikoff says the increased federal interest could help propel those forward.

“If we can get the Coast Guard to piggyback with the state of Alaska on this project, perhaps we can address two serious issues in one bold stroke.”

A report on the Coast Guard’s findings is due back to Congress next year.

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