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A duck hunter and his Labrador retriever stranded on the marshes of Indian River Bay in November called the local fire company for help.

But the firefighters realized they didn't have the equipment to reach the man, and they called in the Coast Guard.

That same month, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer was lowered into the water off Lewes to help two boaters who had run aground in a 40-foot sailboat, Margaritaville.

And in September 2012, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, on its last crossing of the night from Cape May to Lewes, came upon a 65-year-old man who was struggling to hold onto the side of his capsized kayak near the entrance to Delaware Bay. He'd been in the water for two hours. He, too, was rescued by the Coast Guard.

“Luckily he was wearing his life jacket,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Herman Kaiser, a Station Cape May crewmember and coxswain on the case. “That’s probably what saved his life.”

The Coast Guard handled 16,456 search and rescue missions in 2015, the most recent year data was available. The agency saved 3,536 lives. Of those missions, 169 lives were lost and 330 people were unaccounted for.

Now, President Donald Trump wants to cut more than $1 billion from its budget.

Next to Dover Air Force Base and the Delaware National Guard, the Coast Guard has a key military presence in the state, providing search and rescue, marine casualty and pollution response, port security and more. The Delaware River and Bay is one of the largest commercial oil ports in North America, and the Coast Guard responds to dozens of oil spills.

In addition, the agency operates stations out of Lewes and Indian River Inlet, and when temperatures get very cold, the Coast Guard sends in ice breakers both to the Delaware and other shipping rivers such as the Nanticoke and nearby Wicomico River in Maryland.

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Trump, in his proposed budget, would increase military spending by $54 billion, but the Coast Guard's budget would be cut 12 percent, or $1.3 billion.

The proposal didn't sit well with Delaware's congressional delegation.

"To pay for his wall (on the border with Mexico), the Trump administration wants to gut the budgets of two agencies on the front lines of the effort to protect our homeland and keep Americans safe, hacking … the Coast Guard’s budget and … the Transportation Security Administration’s budget," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

"That just doesn’t make any sense. The Coast Guard provides helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and fast boats for our southern border that are vital to interdicting drugs headed for our communities. And TSA deploys teams of agents to patrol our airports and mass transit hubs for suspicious activity, looking to prevent attacks like the one we saw in Brussels. If President Trump thinks he can better secure our land, air and sea borders by cutting funds to the Coast Guard and TSA, he’s got another thing coming."

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del, in an email Saturday night, said "I am adamantly opposed to any budget cuts facing the United States Coast Guard. These proposed cuts to the USCG budget to pay for the border wall will expose our shores to smuggling and increase threats to our nation's security. These reductions would also lead to loss of maritime jobs and capacity to help with environmental disasters."

He pledged to use his role on the Appropriations Committee "to defend against these proposed budget cuts."

Twenty-three other senators signed a letter to John M. Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, urging that the Coast Guard budget be restored in the proposal.

Like Carper and Coons, they raised security concerns.

“Without the operational platforms, resources, and personnel to carry out these missions, the Coast Guard will be unable to adequately secure our maritime borders,” they wrote in their letter.

The Coast Guard's budget "has suffered a steady decline since 2010," resulting in negative impacts to its missions and infrastructure, the letter said. The Coast Guard's acquisition budget decreased by 40 percent between 2010 and 2015, but Congress restored that funding in 2016.

Despite an aging fleet of cutters and patrol boats, the Coast Guard in 2016 "prevented a record breaking 416,000 pounds of illegal drugs worth nearly $5.6 billion from entering the United States," according to the letter.

The proposed canceling of the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team "would significantly reduce the Coast Guard's ability to conduct port security, anti-terrorism force protection, and maritime infrastructure protection operations," the letter said.

Cuts to the Coast Guard "would directly contradict the priorities articulated by the Trump Administration, in particular the President's priorities regarding enhanced maritime security needs and desire to invest in our nation's military," it said.

The agency has 41,700 active-duty personnel. The Coast Guard operates out of the Department of Homeland Security.

Contact Molly Murray at (302) 463-3334 or mmurray@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @MollyMurraytnj.

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