Sen. Hansen: Keep Coast Guard helicopter unit in Muskegon

LANSING — Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, plans to introduce a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to reject a proposal to eliminate the search and rescue U.S. Coast Guard helicopter unit in Muskegon County.

“As a former first responder, I know firsthand that time is of the essence when it comes to saving lives,” Hansen said. “With the heavy boat traffic on Lake Michigan, having a Coast Guard helicopter unit nearby is paramount to public safety.”

Hansen served as a first responder (emergency medical technician and firefighter) for 20 years.

The next closest stations for west Michigan are in Chicago (115 miles south) and Traverse City (113 miles north). The president’s proposal to close the Muskegon unit also calls for reducing the number of helicopters in the Traverse City air station.

Since 2005, the Muskegon Coast search and rescue team has responded to 182 cases on southern Lake Michigan. The team also responds to homeland security situations, and being only 250 miles from Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, the helicopter units provide additional support necessary to protect national borders.

At 307 miles long and 118 miles wide, Lake Michigan is the second largest of the Great Lakes. More than 950,000 recreational vessels are registered in Michigan and an estimated 182,000 recreational boaters (from multiple states) operate on Lake Michigan at some time during the year.

Additionally, between May and September, the S.S. Badger car ferry and the Lake Express car ferry each make two daily trips across the lake ferrying hundreds of passengers on each voyage.

“Michigan is known far and wide as the ‘Great Lakes State.’ Boaters from across the country travel here to take in our state’s natural beauty,” Hansen said. “With such a high number of recreational boaters, we need the Muskegon unit and the Traverse City facility. I strongly urge Congress to do what is in the best interest of public safety and reject this proposal.”