The Transportation Department is searching for money to rescue the Coast Guard from budget cuts that have forced drastic reductions in the agency's patrols for drug smugglers and the closure of almost 30 stations from Kauai, Hawaii, to Key West, Fla.

But there are not many places to find relief in the department's budget -- which also finances Amtrak, big city mass transit and the Federal Aviation Administration -- and aides on Appropriations committees in both houses of Congress say they've not heard an overwhelming cry to rejuggle the department's accounts just two months after the issue was resolved in last December's budget summit.

"I don't know of a groundswell of opinion in Congress to go back in and cut more deeply these other programs in order to take care of the Coast Guard," said Jerry Bonham, a staff member of the Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee.

Transportation Secretary James H. Burnley IV is expected to deliver to Congress a proposal with roughly $60 million in additional fiscal 1988 funding for the Coast Guard soon after President Reagan's 1989 budget is unveiled later this month.

In the meantime, the Coast Guard has announced that for the rest of 1988, it has slashed its drug and fisheries enforcement patrols by 55 percent.

In addition, the Coast Guard plans to close 11 of its 157 search and rescue stations by March 1, and 14 of 61 marine safety units by March 31.

Plans are also being drafted to decommission two aging polar ice breakers, the Westwind and the Northwind, close the Coast Guard Institute in Oklahoma City and phase out the Coast Guard's Baltimore shipyard, where vessels are repaired and maintained. Reductions and phase-outs will cost the Coast Guard 1,055 workers, mostly through attrition.

Officers assigned to marine safety detachments and offices inspect commercial vessels, investigate marine casualties and monitor pollution regulations. Most of the offices scheduled for closure are manned by one or two staff members, and their workload will be absorbed by larger offices, said Werhner Siems, a Coast Guard spokesman.

"Some other offices will have to cover for those areas," Siems said. "They're going to be farther away and it's going to take them longer to get there."

For example, the Brownsville, Tex., unit, scheduled to close March 31, was opened in the mid-1970s during the off-shore oil boom to relieve some of the workload from a marine unit at Corpus Christi, 130 miles away. Requirements at both offices dropped in the oil slump and now the Corpus Christi station will take over its old workload, Siems said. He said pollution patrols are most likely to suffer with Brownsville's closure.

Likewise, search and rescue operations performed by the nine stations scheduled to close will be taken over by larger units.

The search and rescue station at Eastport, Maine, has a low caseload and has previously been targeted for closure. Between 1982 and 1986, the station averaged 21 cases annually, saved no lives and prevented $238,000 in boating property from being lost, Siems said.

Announcement of the impending cuts touched off a flurry of activity in districts that will lose Coast Guard services. Plans to close an air station at Lake Tahoe were abandoned after Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) complained. The air station in Chicago was substituted instead. Then it was scrapped after Rep. John Edward Porter (R-Ill.) objected. Rep. Mike Lowry (D-Wash.) is raising objections to reductions in fisheries patrols, especially after a report late last month that Japanese fishing ships were sighted fishing illegally inside U.S. waters off the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

The Coast Guard's money woes began when Congress divided the Transportation Department's budget pie differently than the department proposed. Some of the Coast Guard's budget request went to fund Amtrak, which had been eliminated in the administration's budget, and mass transit, which had been reduced.

When Congress emerged from budget negotiations in December, the Coast Guard wound up with $105 million less than it wanted for 1988, said Adm. Paul A. Yost Jr., the Coast Guard commandant.

The problem is made worse by the fact that the cuts will save only an estimated $6 million because fiscal 1988, which began Oct. 1, is already a third over.

"There is no plan to reconstitute these patrols for the remainder of the year with the amount of money that the administration is planning to reprogram," Yost said.

Yost said he is drawing up a second list of reductions to be announced later this year that will "cut into the muscle and bone of the Coast Guard" unless the agency gets some funding help soon.

Yost declined to describe the kinds of cuts on his second list.

Rep. Robert W. Davis (R-Mich.), ranking Republican on the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Coast Guard subcommittee, plans to request a $105 million supplemental appropriation to restore full funding to the Coast Guard.

"It is not going to be popular because of the budget summit agreement," said K.C. Bell, an aide on the subcommittee staff. "We have decided we think it's an emergency."

Yost said plans such as Davis' would enable the Coast Guard to reconstitute the drug and fisheries patrols and prevent the station closures.

"But that is not the administration's position and I can't support that as commandant of the Coast Guard," he said. "The administration isn't asking for the $100 million."

According to congressional figures, the Coast Guard received about $1.91 billion in 1987, which included $39 million as one-time funding for drug enforcement. In 1988, the Coast Guard received $1.89 billion.

"It's obvious they're short some money, but I don't see them short $105 million," said a staff aide on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. "It's not been a good year for the Coast Guard, but I don't think they're going to blow away either."

"The Coast Guard takes, percentage-wise, a lesser hit than does Amtrak and mass transit," said Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.).

The Coast Guard says its costs rose for 1988 because it had to absorb a mandated military salary increase, the addition of a dental program to Coast Guard employee benefits, and the decline of the dollar, which raised the cost of acquiring spare parts for airplanes and ships from overseas.

"This agency returns more for the government than any other agency," Yost said. "All we want to do is our job, and we want enough money to do it."

--------------- THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD ------------

----- Facilities The Coast Guard is Scheduled to Close ----- LOCATION--------------------------------------------EMPLOYEES AFFECTED ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Units Institute, Oklahoma City ...............................25 Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore ............................75 Three regional boating standards units .................25 -------------------------------------------------------------------- Marine Safety Detachments Morehead City, N.C. ......................................1 Evansville, Ind. .........................................4 Decatur, Ala. ............................................4 Peoria, Ill. .............................................4 Marietta, Ohio ...........................................4 Anacortes, Wash. .........................................1 Brownsville, Tex. .......................................11 Bucksport, Maine..........................................4 Cape Cod, Mass............................................3 Key West, Fla. ...........................................1 Port Ponce, P.R. .........................................4 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Port Safety Detachments Albany, N.Y. ..............................................3 New London, Conn. .........................................6 ------------------------------------------------------------------ Stations Shark River, N.J. ........................................10 Eastport, Maine ...........................................8 Block Island, R.I. ........................................9 Ashtabula, Ohio ..........................................16 North Superior, Minn. .....................................4 Lake Tahoe, Calif. ........................................9 Kennewick, Wash. .........................................10 Kauai, Hawaii .............................................6 Mare Island, Calif. ......................................20 Discontinued Patrols Coquille River, Ore. ......................................6 Rogue River, Ore. .........................................2 Klamath River, Calif. .....................................6

S0URCE: Coast Guard Commandant's Bulletin