Replace the Buckthorn? Doubtful
Government agencies are constantly planning future budgets because each dollar they get has to pass through several filters and rankings before they actually get their funding. Not all agencies are created equally when it comes to getting the money for the items they think are important.
Unfortunately, the budgets are often set more by political expediency than actual needs. For instance, for years, infrastructure maintenance within the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for refuges has fallen so far behind minimum levels parts of them have had to be closed, in a few instances, whole facilities have been abandoned. Do you think if a senator wants a new desk for one of her aides or new carpet in his or her office it’s ever denied ?
Now, the U.S. Coast Guard wants to retire the oldest cutter it operates on the Great Lakes – the 57-year-old cutter, Buckthorn. The Buckthorn is decades older than most Navy ships (and even older than most other Coast Guard boats.) Will it make the cut or be a budget cut?
The budget request the USCG is making states: The annual maintenance costs are rising rapidly, it breaks down frequently, and the smallest repair can cause the cutter to remain out of operation for periods of 30 to 45 days. The Buckthorn was in drydock in Escanaba for three months in 2020 for planned maintenance work. Additionally, ol’ Buck has poor living conditions for the crewmen assigned to it.
Note I said “crewmen.” The living conditions on board don’t meet current standards for allowing female crewmembers on board.
Sure, upgrades, refits, repairs can keep a “legacy vessel” afloat, but the Coast Guard argues replacing the aging cutter will be more cost-effective over time than continuing to operate and maintain it. It will also allow the USCG it to continue to perform the Buckthorn’s chief responsibility, that being maintaining nearly 200 navigational buoys and markers from Whitefish Point on Lake Superior through the St. Marys River connecting Lake Huron to Lake Superior as far as Cedarville, Mich.