Congress on Wednesday passed legislation funding the Coast Guard for another year and included a provision authorizing the refurbishment of the Seattle-based Polar Sea icebreaker if it is a cost-efficient option.
Without the Polar Sea, the United States has only two operational icebreakers. Refurbishing the vessel could take five years and involve some 300 workers, according to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
The legislation also requires the Coast Guard to develop a five-year plan for the maritime Arctic.
Cantwell said the legislation will “ensure the Coast Guard is ready to meet America’s rising challenges in the Arctic and protect our economic interests.”
The bill, which is now headed to President Obama for a signature, also would improve family services for the Coast Guard, and give small-boat fishermen another three years of an exemption on some vessel discharges now regulated by the EPA.
The bill includes language to transfer a Gig Harbor sand spit from the Coast Guard to the city of Gig Harbor for recreational use, according to Cantwell.