Frankfort Coast Guard likely to go seasonal in 2017

TRAVERSE CITY (TNS) — Cold weather means slow times for crews stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Frankfort, but this may be the last winter anyone passes time at the facility.

Crews await calls for ice rescue and other winter water emergencies from their station located at 100 Coast Guard Road for what may be the last off-season the facility is staffed. Officials anticipate final approval of a plan from U.S. Coast Guard headquarters that would change the year-round station into a seasonal facility.

“We are all just anxiously awaiting more news on what the status of this is,” Chief Joe Baxter said. “We had all hoped it would be implemented a little sooner.”

Plans to close the Frankfort station seasonally were announced earlier this year.

The U.S. Coast Guard station in Frankfort, located at 100 Coast Guard Road, may be switched to a seasonal facility in 2017. (Pioneer News Network file photo)

The U.S. Coast Guard station in Frankfort, located at 100 Coast Guard Road, may be switched to a seasonal facility in 2017. (Pioneer News Network file photo)

Baxter and other officials worked from the facility Thursday and they will stay there until next fall, and potentially longer, pending plan consent.

“Our intentions weren’t to implement this this fall,” said Lorne Thomas, chief of external affairs for the Ninth Coast Guard District. “The plan is still a plan. It’s awaiting final approval.”

The plan would relocate the 15 people stationed in Frankfort to the larger Coast Guard facility in Manistee for the fall and winter months and move them back in the spring. The Manistee station would be responsible for covering the Frankfort station’s normal coverage area — from the Arcadia region to just south of Leland.

Baxter said Manistee Coast Guardsmen already have responsibility in the Frankfort coverage area any time waves exceed 6 feet or winds blow harder than 25 knots because of the Frankfort station’s lack of necessary equipment. Equipment also limits crews to responding only to incidents within 10 nautical miles offshore.

Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel said he was concerned with the move that could put more strain on local responders.

“They do the best water rescues, they do the best ice rescues,” he said of the Coast Guard officials stationed in Frankfort. “They will be missed, there is no question about that. We will have to pick up the slack.”

The sheriff’s department uses three boats — one for Lake Michigan, another docked in Crystal Lake and a third officials tow behind their vehicles for use on inland lakes.

Baxter and Thomas pointed to new and modernized equipment — like communications networks that provide pinpoint locations of boats or people in distress, and other equipment — to add to their argument that they can adequately assist emergency responders from Manistee.

“Realizing our capability and technologies, we made the determination that we could do this,” Thomas said.

Several seasonal Coast Guard stations dotting the Great Lakes have proven successful, Thomas said, including Alpena, Holland, Green Bay, and two stations on Lake Ontario, among others.

The colder months are the quietest for the Frankfort station. Baxter said station officials have not responded to a single “person in the water” case between fall and spring during the past two years.

Still, Schendel is apprehensive about the likely change.

“We don’t have the personnel or equipment to make up that,” he said. “We will have to rely on the Traverse City Coast Guard or Manistee.”

avatar

Posted by Tribune News Services

Leave a Reply