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The Ninth Coast Guard District Public Affairs Office has announced that the Great Lakes Live-Fire Proposal was withdrawn. The text of the press release follows:
Date: December 18, 2006
Contact: Ninth Coast Guard District Public Affairs Office
COAST GUARD WITHDRAWS GREAT LAKES
CLEVELAND - The U.S. Coast Guard announced today its decision to withdraw the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish 34 safety zones for live-fire training on the Great Lakes. The decision follows internal review, meetings with many community leaders, as well as nine public meetings, and numerous comments from the public and their elected representatives.
"The Coast Guard appreciates the thoughtful comments we received and we will work with the public to ensure the Coast Guard can meet any threat to public safety or security. We are committed to addressing the concerns that training be safe, preserve the diverse uses of the Lakes, and protect the environment," said Rear Adm. John E. Crowley, Jr., commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District.
"As a native son of the region I take the Coast Guard's role as guardians of the Great Lakes very seriously. The Great Lakes are one of the nation's most precious resources. The current NPRM is unsatisfactory and I will take the time to get this right. We will not conduct live-fire training on the Great Lakes to satisfy non-emergency training requirements unless we publish a rule, and I intend to reconsider the number, frequency of use, and location of water training areas as well as other concerns raised by the public. I am also committed to pursuing environmentally-friendly alternatives to the lead ammunition we currently use."
The U.S. Coast Guard, Ninth District, is proposing to establish 34 live fire "safety zones" throughout all 5 Great Lakes, covering more than 2,300 square miles of Great Lakes waters. Within these proposed zones, several times a year Coast Guard personnel would conduct live fire training exercises, with rounds fired from lightweight automatic weapons.
According to the plan, the public would be warned of these training exercises through broadcasts on marine band radio, and an "observer" would be employed to monitor the safety zone.
Lead from ammunnition will enter the Great Lakes, and it is a well known fact that there is no level of lead contamination that is safe for humans or wildlife. Lead is a persistent toxic substance; the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement calls for zero discharge of persistent toxic substances. Therefore, this plan is in direct violation of an international agreement between the United States and Canada.
While national security is important, it seems a better use of our national resources to send Coast Guard personnel to designated military training areas where live fire already occurs. There are too many environmental and safety risks in this plan. Not all boaters listen to the marine band radio every time they head out onto the water -- small boaters may not even have a marine band radio. And miscommunications between the U.S. and Canada have already been documented in previous safety issues. There is no room for error in this plan. The Great Lakes, which hold the world's largest supply of fresh water, should not be a firing range.
Public comment on this plan is open until November 13, 2006. Please send your comments, and also write your representatives in local, state, and federal government.
The US Coast Guard has announced that they will be holding public meetings on the issue.
October 16: Duluth, MN
The USCG has also started a webpage on the issue: http://www.uscgd9safetyzones.com
Following is detailed information on this issue from Great Lakes United:
Comment by November 13, 2006
The United States Coast Guard, Ninth District, is proposing to conduct live fire training throughout the Great Lakes. Great Lakes United has serious concerns that gunfire exercises on the Great Lakes will put the safety of the public and the environment at risk, and urges comment into this serious issue. Please note: this alert does not question whether Coast Guard personnel should be trained to handle weapons, rather whether significant portions of the Great Lakes should be designated for live fire military training.
You can view maps identifying the location of the live fire safety zones:
Though the Coast Guard ensures that the public will be alerted during such training exercises, and that there is no elevated environmental risk, Great Lakes United has the following serious concerns:
Live fire safety concerns:
·Communicating with boaters who do not monitor the maritime channel before their voyage.
Environmental and economic concerns:
·The Great Lakes already suffer from high levels of pollution. Lead from ammunition will enter the water. Despite the Coast Guards environmental consulting reports, its common knowledge that there is no quantity of exposure to lead that is deemed safe for humans or wildlife.
How to comment/ More information:
You can access the Federal Register posting, maps, and more information on the Coast Guards website at: http://piersystem.com/go/doctype/443/2934/
Why is Great Lakes United concerned about failed communications?
The U.S. and Canada have had a long history of collaboration and largely successful communications across both domestic and international borders in the Great Lakes region. However, we have seen on numerous occasions that communications can fail. When dealing with live gunfire, there is no room for even a single communications failure. Just a few examples of serious and potentially life-threatening failed communications that come to mind:
For more maps of the proposed firing ranges: http://www.great-lakes.org/cg_firing_ranges.html
Public Comment Submitted by John and Ann Mahan:
We strongly object to the U.S. Coast Guard conducting live ammunition training drills on the Great Lakes on the basis of both water safety issues and pollution risks. For more than 25 years, we have specialized in the Great Lakes as writers and photographers and have done 3 books on the Great Lakes. We have spent a great deal of time on the water in a variety of craft, and are familiar with issues facing these lakes. Over the years we have watched lead come under increasing scrutiny as a persistent toxic substance, be removed from products, and banned from birdshot because of its dangers to life in the system.
The live ammunition is lead-based and will introduce a persistent toxic substance into the lakes. This is in direct contradiction to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement -- an international agreement between the United States and Canada -- which calls for zero discharge of persistent toxic chemicals. While public health officials try to track down sources of lead poisoning in our children, the U.S. Coast Guard should not be introducing lead into waters that comprise 20 per cent of the world's supply of freshwater.
The Coast Guard plans to warn boaters of the training exercises by VHF radio announcements, but we know that not all boaters (especially small boaters and paddlers) have VHF radios, and boaters do not always listen to them before venturing out on brief trips, or have them on all the time. The assumption that these warnings will keep people safe is just that: an assumption. Recreational boaters should not have to watch out for live-fire on these lakes, to be constantly on guard against being shot by our own government. How ironic that boaters on the Great Lakes may be at greater risk of being harmed by the Coast Guard than by terrorists. It is a valid question as to whether or not large caliber machine guns on a few Coast Guard boats is any effective deterrent or protection against terrorists.
These exercises are being touted as necessary to protect the public, but putting lead into the world's largest freshwater drinking supply and risking injury to boaters is not protecting us. The Great Lakes support a population of more than 33 million people in two countries. What will the future health costs be when increased lead is introduced into the Great Lakes? What will the cleanup costs be? There is no question that defense is important, but the U.S. Coast Guard should go to existing non-freshwater training bases for live-fire training exercises.