Maritime Officials Work Together After Coast Guard Cuts at Eaton’s Neck Station

Town, village and county agencies are working together to patrol the waters off Huntington because the Coast Guard has reduced personnel at the Eaton’s Neck station.

Huntington senior harbormaster Fred Uvena said this week that the reduction in operations at the Eaton’s Neck station, confirmed by the Coast Guard, means that the town is working more closely with fire departments, village maritime officers, and county personnel to ensure water safety.

The Coast Guard, citing an “unprecedented shortage” of personnel, said that Eaton’s Neck and other stations would respond to search and rescue emergencies during the reduced hours that the stations are staffed.

“While Station Eaton’s Neck will be unable to provide 24-hour search and rescue support from their location,” the Coast Guard said, “They will still be available for search and rescue during their scheduled operations and can be diverted to for search and rescue operations when emergencies arise. While there will be fewer patrols in the area, Station Eaton’s Neck will continue to conduct operations throughout their area of responsibility.”

The Coast Guard said that the temporary changes in operations at certain types of locations and units will prioritize manning at units with primary search and rescue responsibilities and coverage. This plan prioritizes lifesaving missions, national security, and protection of the Marine Transportation System and maintains standards for SAR response.

Similar cutbacks, which the Coat Guard described as temporary,  will also affect the stations at Jones Beach and Kings Point.

Uvena said that a huge increase in the number of vessels on the water since the end of the Covid-19 epidemic–including kayakers and canoes, as well as boats of all sizes and capabilities–means the waters off Huntington are busier than ever.

“Our savior is our fire departments,” Uvena said. “Right now, from May to September, we really are in good shape.  We  run shifts from 7 a.m.-1 am.  We cover a lot of ground now, 60 square miles of shorefront. The county (marine bureau) is running in our area, and so are the fire departments and incorporated villages.

“Our problem is early spring and late fall because at that point, especially early spring when people start commissioning boats, their vessels break down, start taking on water. It’s really early spring, and the water temperatures are still very low. That’s a major issue for us.”
The town department operates with five fulltime people though adds 14 parttimers during the summer season. Uvena said the Eaton’s Neck station used to have 33 people and that is now down to 8.
Not one to miss a chance to remind people to take safety precautions on the water, Uvena said that guests on boats shouldn’t be reluctant to ask if life jackets are available for them, and ask where they are, before heading out onto the water.

 

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