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April 07, 2010

After Oklahoma Congressional Interest, Coast Guard Clarifies Lake Texoma Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a March 24, 2010 meeting with U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area Commander, Vice Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr., responsible for the execution of all Coast Guard operations east of the Rocky Mountains and the President’s nominee to serve as the Coast Guard’s 24th Commandant, provided written clarification of the Coast Guard’s plans for Lake Texoma saying the Coast Guard is “not planning to conduct discretionary surge or random boarding enforcement operations of UPV [uninspected passenger vessel] on Lake Texoma.”  Members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation welcome the letter as clarification that the Coast Guard will focus their efforts on education and outreach, casualty investigation, and operations that are based on specific and credible evidence of violations.   

The letter follows a series of meetings in which Inhofe, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), U.S. Rep. Dan Boren (OK-2), and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (OK-4) have each expressed concern over the Coast Guard’s activities regarding licensing issues for fishing guides on the lake. The delegation has specifically raised concerns about the costs and burdens that Coast Guard licensing requirements will place on uninspected passenger vessel operators carrying passengers for hire on Lake Texoma. The lake, considered "navigable waters" by current federal statute because of its location between two states, is under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard.   In response, the Coast Guard has pledged to work with the congressional delegation and the appropriate Oklahoma state agencies to develop a sensible way forward that meets the Coast Guard’s safety and security requirements while minimizing the financial and administrative burdens associated with operators obtaining an uninspected passenger vessel license. 

“I appreciate Vice Admiral Papp taking the time to discuss my concerns related to the Coast Guard’s activities at Lake Texoma,” Inhofe said.  “This letter is a welcome follow up that indicates that the Coast Guard will not engage in efforts that will only threaten the fishing tourism industry on the lake.  With state enforcement already taking place, the Coast Guard’s decision allows safe operations to continue without undue federal involvement.”

Cole said, “I'm pleased with the Coast Guard's decision to return to common sense regulatory policy on Lake Texoma.  Now fishing guides can continue to operate safely without burdensome new requirements that could hurt the fishing tourism industry.” 

Boren said, “Senators Inhofe and Coburn, as well as Congressman Cole and myself, continue to work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to make certain that the livelihood of fishing guides on Lake Texoma is not interrupted or threatened.  I’m pleased that the Coast Guard will take a limited role this season and will allow local and state law enforcement, agencies that have long maintained a full enforcement presence on the lake, to continue their public safety operations.  Fishing tourism is critical to this region, and everyone involved in this issue is working toward a safe and successful season.”


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