The mouth of the Columbia is one of world’s great maritime entryways and corridors. A decision by the U.S. Coast Gard to station two of its brand new 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutters here is an acknowledgment of our estuary’s strategic and practical importance.

This has long been Coast Guard country. The U.S. Life-Saving Service, one of the USCG’s parent agencies, established a station at Cape Disappointment in 1873, one of its first. Coast Guard presence here has expanded time after time in the subsequent 144 years, most recently with relocation of sector headquarters from Portland.

The cutters, at a combined cost of around $150 million, will greatly enhance security and safety along the Pacific Northwest coast and beyond. With an operational range of 2,500 miles and a top sustained speed of about 35 mph, these cutters will be able to respond wherever needed in record time.

At a time when maritime commerce is expanding, security threats becoming more worrisome and other missions becoming more complex, these cutters will catch the Coast Guard up with the 21st century. Always among our nation’s most competent and well-respected agencies, the USCG will make good use of these long-needed assets.

For our area, the cutters will help guarantee continuing vitality of Columbia River shipping and other, more localized economic sectors like commercial fishing. They will even play an important role in the tourism industry by ensuring the safety of Astoria’s robust cruise-ship business. They will even be tourist attractions in their own right. Curious onlookers will gather wherever the cutters end up being moored and they will add to the fascinating panorama of passing vessels on the river.

Each of the new cutters will require two officers and 20 crew — presumably along with additional shore-based support staff. These added paychecks will reverberate around our communities in countless positive ways.

It is worth noting that this welcome development also will put more pressure on local housing stock and add more motor vehicles to crowded streets and highways. Their grateful neighbors will appreciate whatever the Coast Guard can do to help address these needs.

The Coast Guard’s decision is a big win for Astoria and all the towns of the Columbia and adjacent Pacific shoreline. We appreciate it and offer our continuing thanks for all the Coast Guard does on our behalf.

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