CHICAGO--Gov. George H. Ryan, Mayor Richard M. Daley, U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined the U.S. Coast Guard in committing $6 million for a new state-of-the-art, joint use marine safety and search and rescue station at Navy Pier.
Once completed, the new facility will be used by the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the marine units of the Chicago Police and Fire Departments and the Illinois Conservation Police. The state, city and federal governments will share costs for the project.
Mayor Daley has long been interested in bringing a rescue station back to Chicago. This joint use project was supported early, in the spring of 2001, by U.S. Rep. Biggert. Gov. Ryan said his administration supported Congresswoman Biggert's efforts to promote the station then, but the project took much greater priority after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
"All of us in government began reassessing our priorities after the despicable terrorist attacks," Gov. Ryan said. "We began looking at every possible vulnerability in our infrastructure to ensure we were doing everything possible to protect our citizens.
Projects that were left on the drawing board became more real."
The Governor said the need for a safety, search and rescue station for Chicago became even more acute after the terrorist attacks.
"Mayor Daley has done so much to enhance this lakefront into a world-class tourist destination. We agreed last fall that this jewel needed a greater security investment," Gov. Ryan said.
Since the Coast Guard left the old Navy Pier station last decade, the nearest U.S. Coast Guard resources for Lake Michigan rescues in downtown Chicago are in Burr Ridge, Waukegan, or Calumet Harbor. Those locations, according to the Governor, "are too distant in the event of an emergency."
The project benefited from the strong support and assistance of Senator Durbin and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, (R-IL). With their backing, Congresswoman Biggert was able to secure $2 million in the 2002 fiscal year Coast Guard budget for the Chicago Marine Safety Station. With that commitment from the federal government, the city of Chicago was able to commit for its $2 million share. Gov. Ryan's Illinois FIRST program was able to fund the state's share.
Details regarding space needs and sharing have yet to be finalized. The Coast Guard, the City of Chicago and the state Conservation Police are finalizing an intergovernmental agreement.
Seventy-five percent of Lake Michigan boating traffic occurs in the downtown Chicago area. All three agencies have jurisdiction on Lake Michigan while having different primary responsibilities. In emergencies they will be able to work together to respond.
"I believe this is another example of the kind of cooperation we have seen at all levels of government to improve our homeland security," Gov. Ryan said.