Niagara Gazette — YOUNGSTOWN — The large white house sitting back on the carefully groomed yard affords a sweeping view of the Niagara River and the western end of Lake Ontario.
It’s the U.S. Coast Guard-Station Niagara, standing sentinel over a vital section of the inland sea known as the Great Lakes. The basic mission here — search and rescue — includes 22 active duty personnel, plus four reservists, working 48 hours on and 48 hours off. They also focus on law enforcement, homeland security and marine safety.
Their jurisdiction covers the 13-mile stretch of the lower Niagara River, between Youngstown and the Whirlpool, and the Lake Ontario area bordering Niagara County, east toward Orleans County.
“Our biggest thing is educating the boating public,” said 1st Class Petty Officer Andrew S. Thompson, a 13-year veteran of the service who has spent 31/2 years at Station Niagara. “In our inspections we’re also concerned that boaters have the proper gear, the approved life jackets for every person on board, flares and other equipment as required on the specific vessel that we’re checking.”
While all-volunteer U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary-Flotilla 3-1 is not empowered to issue summonses for violations, it can assist with the inspections, pointing out to boaters what they need to comply with regulations.
Thompson added: “The the 45-member auxiliary is a great organization that has been a tremendous help to us. Not only are they quick to help us — they have their own boats — but they even show up on Thanksgiving and other special days to cook a meal for our personnel. We can’t thank them enough for what they do.”
In addition to their own patrols and the numerous calls during the prime season, the Coast Guard here often works in conjunction with the Canadian Coast Guard that operates out of Hamilton, Ont., and the Olcott, Wilson, Youngstown and Lewiston volunteer fire companies that have marine units as well.