MUSKEGON — In a press release Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard says it will be limiting response operations at Coast Guard Station Muskegon to three days a week during the summer.
The Coast Guard says it will rely on Station Grand Haven for the rest of the time.
Representatives with the U.S. Coast Guard, City of Muskegon and Muskegon County response agencies met in Muskegon recently to discuss a Coast Guard proposal "to optimize its response capabilities by adjusting how it operates Coast Guard Station Muskegon."
Under the proposed plan, Station Muskegon will remain staffed with response crews Friday through Sunday during the summer months, and will operate and respond from its parent unit in Grand Haven on other days. Station Grand Haven is 12 nautical miles away.
"It's important to keep in mind that Muskegon is not losing people or boats, and this is not a cost-saving initiative," said Capt. Amy Cocanour, commander of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, based in Milwaukee. "We're planning to make a few adjustments that make the most sense so we can provide an even higher level of response than we have right now. Our crews will still be on the water in Muskegon ready to respond to emergencies and enforce laws and regulations."
Built into the plan is flexibility for the seasonal station to begin operating in early spring or into late fall when necessary, and to resume operations if needed during special events.
The Muskegon facility will continue to be occupied year-round by 11 Coast Guard members responsible for maintaining aids-to-navigation along Lake Michigan's eastern coastline.
Separating the search-and-rescue and aids-to-navigation functions and personnel allows more specialization and proficiency and is the method used by the Coast Guard in most areas of the country. It is similar to having separate police and fire departments.
These changes are designed to allow the Coast Guard to better staff, train and equip the boats and crews continuing to serve the Muskegon area.
Station Muskegon's search-and-rescue operations will be fully staffed this summer, and the proposed changes will be put into effect in the fall.
"Safety of the public, commercial mariners and Coast Guard personnel is our top priority," said Master Chief Petty Officer Donald Miterko, Station Muskegon's officer in charge. "We're very fortunate to have a fantastic relationship with our response partners in Muskegon, and it's great that we'll still be working alongside them daily to ensure the continued safety and security of this community."
The Muskegon County Sheriff's Department Marine Unit will continue to work in conjunction with Coast Guard Station Muskegon to provide law enforcement and search-and-rescue operations, according to Sheriff Dean Roesler.
"Muskegon County's Marine Unit works closely with the Coast Guard to keep our waters safe in all seasons and conditions, and assist in on-water law enforcement operations," Roesler said. "We're committed to our partnership with the Coast Guard to work together for the safety of boaters, recreational users and fishermen in Muskegon County."
City of Muskegon Public Safety Director Jeffrey Lewis added, "The Muskegon Police and Fire departments have had a longstanding relationship with Station Muskegon and the Coast Guard, participating in a variety of water and ice training exercises and enforcement of marine laws, and we expect that relationship to continue with this realignment."