US Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congress-man Pete Stauber sent a letter on September 18 to Admiral Linda Fagan, Commandant of the US Coast Guard, with questions about the process and reasons for closing the North Superior Coast Guard station last fall. They asked the Admiral to respond by October 6.
In their letter to the Admiral, Klobuchar and Stauber wrote, “While we understand the consolidation may optimize operations at other USCG stations, we are concerned that the closure of the station in Grand Marais may lengthen emergency response times and pose a risk to overall maritime safety during emergencies on the North Shore.”
State Senator Grant Hauschild (Dist 3) who represents the arrowhead region has sought the assistance of the federal legislators since the closure took place last fall.
Referring to the Klobuchar/Stauber letter, Hauschild said, “This is a small but critical step in bringing transparency to this issue.”
Having this letter go public will help bring objective data and insight to help state and local officials fill in the gaps in maritime safety left by the closure.
The letter asked for answers to questions about the criteria used to find the station redundant and what resources and support the USCG provided to local law enforcement as they took on first responder responsibility. They also asked about plans to ensure vessel inspections are available to boaters and the plans for the facility that now sits vacant at Artist Point.
Thanks to the efforts of Hauschild, the Minnesota Legislature stepped up this last session with funding for the Cook County Sheriff’s office and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to provide for safety on Lake Superior.
“This request for information shows that Minnesota is not just crying wolf,” Hauschild said.
Despite his satisfaction with the joint efforts of the Band and sheriff, Hauschild would like to see the Coast Guard station reopened in the near future.
In 1920, Congress authorized a Coast Guard Station in Cook County on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. Construction began on the harbor front in Grand Marais in 1928, and the station opened the following year. Local contractor Ed Nunstedt won the contract for the station’s construction.
The station was intended to aid those who traveled, worked, and recreated on the tempestuous inland sea. Over the years, Coast Guard personnel have rescued and recovered hundreds of fishermen, boat crews and passengers, and recreational boaters from the lake.
In 1918, Grand Marais was considered the center of the North Shore fishing industry, with 126 licensed fishermen. As the fishing industry contracted over the years, State Highway 61 was built and improved. The last shipment of logs rafted out of the harbor in 1972, and the station was closed for the first time.
For several years, Auxiliary volunteers operated the station in the summer months. The Coast Guard returned in 1988 with two crew members on site from May through October.
In 2021, the Coast Guard said the station averaged only one case yearly.
The North Superior Station covered the area from Taconite Harbor to Canada’s border, including Isle Royale. It was consolidated with the Duluth station following the 2022 season.