Alaska Coast Guard escapes fuel crunch -- for now

Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2000

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- High oil prices haven't affected Coast Guard operations in Alaska as much as in other parts of the country, but officials say some cutbacks may be on the horizon.

Higher-than-expected prices have prompted cuts to Coast Guard patrols along the coast of Texas and elsewhere. But Rear Adm. Thomas Barrett said the agency's Alaska operations haven't felt the pinch yet because they dip into a large pool of government-purchased fuel.

''We appear to get more of our fuel through the defense fuel support agency which levels out the prices a bit for us,'' Barrett told KRBD in Ketchikan. ''Eventually the squeeze on the budget will impact up here as well.''

Barrett said search and rescue mission would be the last cut.

''If we have to cut back operations ... you'll see reductions in our fisheries patrols, our presence out along the maritime boundary with Russia, law enforcement patrols. it will effect our preventative actions and our law enforcement actions in Alaska,'' Barrett said.

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski said the increase in oil prices exceeded the estimates Coast Guard officials used to figure their budget for this year. He said an emergency increase may be in order.

''It's a reflection in their operational capability,'' Murkowski said. ''I would hope we could justify a supplemental to ensure they could continue their mission.''

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