Pallone Voices Concerns for Proposed Seasonal Closure of Shark River Station
at Public Forum
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) gave the following remarks Wednesday evening during a public forum at the Shark River Coast Guard Station in Avon-by-the-Sea. Pallone hosted the forum with Coast Guard representatives to discuss their proposed plan to seasonally close the Shark River Station. Under the Coast Guard's proposal, the station would only remain open each year from one week prior to Memorial Day until September 30. Pallone, who opposes the proposed closure, invited the public to attend the forum and voice their opinions on the potential change.
"Thank you very much for joining me this evening at this forum. I believe that it is very important for the public to play a role in the process as the Coast Guard evaluates its options regarding the Shark River Coast Guard Station. Throughout my tenure as a public official, the Coast Guard has attempted several times to seasonally close this station, and we have been successful in fighting it every time.
"As I have expressed before, I have serious concerns about this plan and how it will affect the safety of boaters and fishermen on the Jersey shore. All of us know the importance of safety for boaters and fishermen and how critical the search and rescue coverage the Coast Guard provides is to the Jersey shore. That is why I can't support this plan to seasonally close the Shark River Coast Guard Station.
"This plan by the Coast Guard to close the Shark River Station from September 30th until one week before Memorial Day is particularly ill-advised because of the rough conditions and poor weather that set in during the winter.
"Fishermen fish throughout the year on the Jersey shore, not just during the summer months. And with the increasingly rough conditions during the winter months, it is important for response time for any search and rescue case to be as immediate as possible. Even adding a few minutes to the response time in these cases could mean the difference between life and death, and we cannot afford to make that concession.
"Fishermen and boaters in this area go out on the water knowing that the Coast Guard is close by and able to quickly respond to any emergency. If this plan were to go forward, these fisherman and boaters would go out on the water without the feeling that there is a safety net looking out for them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is imperative that our fishermen and boaters feel safe and that response times for emergencies on the water be as rapid as possible.
"It is simply not the right time for the Coast Guard to make this move. Development in surrounding areas is leading to increased boating traffic in the Shark River Inlet, the ocean and surrounding waterways. This increased traffic creates the need for around-the-clock search and rescue coverage and proper enforcement of boating safety laws and regulations.
"The Belmar seaport and all areas around the Shark River are experiencing growth. There are more people moving to the area which creates more boating traffic. Additionally, there are future plans for water taxis and increased utilization of the Shark River inlet. Having a year-round presence at the Shark River Station is important to ensure safety on the water as development increases in the area.
"Rapid search and rescue response time is the Coast Guard's most critical mission. In 2006, 13 of the 33 search and rescue cases handled at the Shark River Coast Guard Station occurred during the off season months. These 13 cases are nearly half of the total cases handled at the station.
"If Station Shark River were closed when these cases occurred, response boats would have to travel an additional 6 miles from Station Manasquan which would result in longer response times. We should not be looking to diminish search and rescue coverage on the Jersey shore.
"At Station Shark River, a significant amount of mission time is spent on recreational boating safety. This entails preventing recreational boating accidents by enforcing boating safety laws and regulations. The station works to keep an eye on unsafe boating conditions, including boating under the influence and proper compliance with boat equipment regulations.
"With the large number of recreational fishermen and recreational boaters on the Jersey shore, this aspect of the Coast Guard's mission is vital to safety along the shore. Having this enforcement at the Shark River Inlet significantly increases boating safety in the area for all boaters and fishermen.
"Thank you very much for joining me at this event tonight. I believe it is extremely important for the citizens of the surrounding communities to express their opinions on this matter."