Matthew W. Sibley, Rear Admiral
U.S. Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Capability
Dear Admiral Sibley,
On behalf of the Talbot County Council, I am writing with the strongest opposition to USCG-2020-0042, Consolidation of Redundant Coast Guard Boat Stations, proposing the consolidation of U.S. Coast Guard Station Oxford located in Oxford, Maryland (“Station Oxford’). The closing of Station Oxford would have a significant impact not only on the Town of Oxford and Talbot County, but on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
The Council believes the closing of Station Oxford would be detrimental to the safety of boaters on the Eastern Shore. Station Oxford plays a pivotal role in the safety of boaters along the waterways from northern Tilghman Island to the Little Choptank River on the eastern side of th Chesapeake Bay, and also over to Chesapeake Beach and south to Calvert Cliffs on the western side. Many jurisdictions within this area do not have fire or police departments with boats capable of responding to an emergency on the water, leaving Station Oxford and the Department of Natural Resources, which is oftentimes otherwise occupied with enforcement activities. It is important to note that all Talbot County fire departments are volunteer based and those departments that have boats capable of responding to emergencies lack the manpower to operate the boats 24 hours a day and the qualified personnel to make water rescues.
Station Oxford provides timely response to any emergency on the water and plays a critical role in educating the public on boater safety. If Station Oxford is closed, the next closest station to most of the areas Station Oxford serves is Station Annapolis. This is a major concern. Station Annapolis is 32 nautical miles from Oxford, 25 nautical miles from St. Michaels, 45 nautical miles from Solomons, 80 nautical miles from Crisfield, and 48 nautical miles from Cambridge. In addition to the distance, Station Annapolis requires the responding crew to travel
across the entire Chesapeake Bay, which can be treacherous at times and require slower boat speeds, resulting in an increased response time.
A response time of greater than an hour is concerning. It is even more concerning when you consider that hypothermia can set in within 45 minutes. Talbot County has more licensed watermen than any other jurisdiction in Maryland, many of whom work in one fishery or another nearly year round, and the loss of a nearby USCG station in Oxford will mean that their lives will be in greater peril. The Eastern Shore is also known for waterfowl hunting during the winter months. Hunters routinely take out large groups on guided boat hunts during the winter. If a guided tour experienced an emergency on the water, the response time would be crucial to the group’s survival. Relying on a boat from Annapolis, in poor winter weather, could easily result in tragedy.
Therefore, the full County Council believes Station Oxford is necessary for the protection of the health and safety of boaters in the area it serves. A replacement of Station Oxford by Station Annapolis will not adequately protect our boaters and we are concerned it will result in an increase of accidents with more detrimental results due to the prolonged response time. Station Oxford is necessary to provide security of the public health and safety and emergency assistance.
Thank you for your consideration to this matter paramount to life and safety.
COUNTY COUNCIL OF TALBOT COUNTY