A reallocation of resources by the US Coast Guard sector in Lake Michigan shut down Wilmette Harbor station for most of the year.
In September, the local station was returned to service as a seasonal base to be open only during the summer months, while its officers and resources move about 40 miles north of Kenosha Station in Wisconsin, according to Lieutenant Phillip Gurtler, head of public affairs for the area.
Gurtler said the decision was made after Coast Guard analysts reviewed case data and concluded the change provided the most coverage in the area.
The team from Wilmette station have already moved to Kenosha station, and Gurtler said no job losses have occurred.
Wilmette Harbor Station opened in 1931 at 10 Harbor Drive inside Gillson Park. It replaced an Evanston station run by students from Northwestern University. The station is part of the US Coast Guard District 9, which covers the Great Lakes, and falls under the Lake Michigan sector, which oversees 18 units.
With the change, the southwestern waters of Lake Michigan are served by year-round stations in Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Chicago at Calumet Harbor, near the Indiana border; and seasonal stations in Wilmette and the middle of Chicago at DuSable Harbor, near Navy Pier.
According to his web page, Wilmette Harbor station responds to between 90 and 100 cases each year, the majority of which occur in the summer, Gurtler said.
The U.S. Coast Guard did not provide response data to The Record at the time of publication.
Another reason Wilmette was chosen for decommissioning is the limited capacities of the station.
Wilmette harbor could not house an average Coast Guard vessel, which Gurtler says is 45 feet long and has more efficient offshore capabilities. The small boat is 29 feet tall and is not intended for missions more than 10 miles from shore.
New Coast Guard station formats, according to Gurtler, will provide lower response times locally for events occurring more than 10 miles offshore, as an average boat will come from Kenosha, instead of Milwaukee or Calumet Harbor. .
However, near shore rescue efforts during the winter months will see longer response times for the area near Wilmette Harbor and shorter times for the area near Kenosha.
Chief Petty Officer Eric Wieczorek, who had commanded the Wilmette Port Station since 2020, officially resumed the Kenosha operation after a ceremony on September 17, according to a Kenosha News report.
Great Lakes Coast Guard stations primarily provide search and rescue and maritime law enforcement services.
Each May, Station Wilmette Harbor hosts an open house to educate the community on the responsibilities of the station. In 2019, during the government shutdown, the community raised over $ 4,000 to support the station’s 20+ active members.
The Wilmette Fire Department assists the local Coast Guard with water search and rescue, especially underwater rescues, Chief Brian Lambel said. Organizations often coordinate their efforts during an emergency water incident.
Lambel said the Coast Guard change caused him to rework the lakeside department’s response plan, which is still ongoing.
Wilmette Harbor Station is supported by Flotilla 39-6, a division of Auxiliary Division 39 of the United States Coast Guard. Volunteers provide education and public navigation safety.
Division 39 Commander Shawn Michael Landa does not expect the change to affect the community and has said the station’s main responsibilities during the winter months are ice rescues and preparation for the summer season.
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