Live ammo on Great Lakes: US plan blindsides boaters - Contact info
- Article follows contact info
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Contact Gustav Wulfkuhle, Enforcement Branch, Response Division, 9th Coast
Guard District, 216-902-6091. Comments are due today (Thursday). You also
can contact your member of Congress:
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat; 202-224-6221; e-mail to
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Democrat; 202-224-4822;
Other senators may be reached by name through the Capitol switchboard,
To contact House members: By name at 202-225-3121.
To send e-mail: Constituents can send e-mail to their representative by
going to http://www.house.gov/writerep.
Live ammo on Great Lakes: U.S. plan blindsides boaters
BY TINA LAM
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
August 31, 2006
Battle lines are being drawn over the Great Lakes and this time, it's not
The U.S. Coast Guard is creating 34 permanent zones over open water a few
miles from the Great Lakes shoreline where crews can have occasional
target practice with machine guns, rifles and small 9mm guns.
The Coast Guard says it needs to train crews for anything from smugglers
to terrorist attacks on commercial ships.
Some of the live-fire zones are in the paths of ferries, recreational
boaters and anglers. Environmental groups, which want to know whether lead
casings will end up in the lake, say the Coast Guard should hold hearings.
The plan was announced in the Federal Register on Aug. 1 and the period
for public comment ends today. As part of the Department of Homeland
Security, the Coast Guard is not required to seek comment, hold public
hearings or produce an environmental impact study.
"The Coast Guard has provided remarkably little information about their
proposal," said Anne Woiwode, director of the Michigan chapter of the
Margo Marks, general manager of the Beaver Island Boat Co., was surprised
to hear Wednesday that the ferries her company runs from April until late
December go through one of the live-fire zones. The zone is between
Charlevoix and Harbor Springs about midway to Beaver Island.
Marks was even more surprised to hear that the public comment period ends
today. "I'll have to try to get something in quick," she said late
Car ferries that operate in summer from Ludington and Muskegon to
Wisconsin also would be in live-fire zones.
The Coast Guard doesn't plan to use the zones often, said Petty Officer
Robert Lanier, a spokesman for the Guard's 9th District, in Cleveland,
which made the proposal.
He expects each zone to be in action two or three times a year for one or
two days each, about 6 hours per day. However, the rule proposed in the
Federal Register has no limits on when the zones can be used.
Lanier said the Guard would publish notices in the Federal Register when a
zone is to be used, but it was not clear when exercises would begin. The
agency also will try to notify marinas, the media and boaters via marine
If boats wander into a live-fire zone, the Coast Guard will stop firing
and give them time to leave the zone, Lanier said.
Bob Bokram, harbormaster at the Harbor Springs marina, said most boats
that use his marina are small and don't have or use marine radios. "Most
people communicate by cell phone," he said.
The zones are not far from some of Michiganders' favorite recreational
spots and are in areas crisscrossed often by pleasure, charter and fishing
boats: off Cedar Point, New Buffalo, Grand Haven, Frankfort, Grand Marais,
Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie and the Keweenaw Peninsula, among others. The
zones are mostly near Coast Guard stations.
The machine guns on the cutters can fire 600 rounds per minute. The Coast
Guard hired consultants and concluded that no damage would occur to the
The Michigan Environmental Council isn't so sure. If the data aren't
available to the public, there is no way to determine whether that claim
is accurate, the council said in comments to the Guard. Federal law
prohibits hunters from using lead shot because it's toxic to waterfowl,
the council said.
Cmdr. Gustav Wulfkuhle of the 9th District's enforcement division said the
ammunition that will be used in the live-fire exercises is lead inside a
copper jacket, about the size of a 1/3 -ounce lead fishing weight.
"Where we will be shooting, 5 miles offshore, the water is deep," he said.
"We won't be shooting in marshes, so waterfowl can't pick it up."
Wulfkuhle said few fish feed on the bottom.
He said the Coast Guard has no plans to extend the public comment period
or to hold hearings.
He said if errors had occurred in drawing the zones so that they cross
ferry routes, adjustments could be made. "There's no reason to put the
public at risk," he said.
A treaty between Canada and the United States dating to 1817 allowed only
cannons to safeguard the Great Lakes. Both countries recently
reinterpreted the treaty to allow more modern weapons by considering them
weapons of law enforcement, not war, according to Canadian news reports
Lanier said the machine guns were added to Coast Guard cutters in 2004.
The Coast Guard has used the lakes for practice before, including near
Charlevoix and Sault Ste. Marie.
"Those were temporary zones," he said. "These would be permanent."
George Freeman, who runs fishing charters out of Ludington, said he and
other Lake Michigan charter captains are concerned. One of the zones is in
waters where he regularly fishes between Pentwater and Ludington.
"I know they need to have a place to shoot," he said. "We could go
elsewhere, but we need to be able to go where the fish are."
Contact TINA LAM at 313-222-6421 or tlam@.... Staff writer
Dawson Bell contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.
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