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Live ammo on Great Lakes: US plan blindsides boaters - Contact info

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  • binstock@peakpeak.com
    Article follows contact info * * * * Contact Gustav Wulfkuhle, Enforcement Branch, Response Division, 9th Coast Guard District, 216-902-6091. Comments are due
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2006
      Article follows contact info

      * * * *

      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


      August 31, 2006

      Battle lines are being drawn over the Great Lakes and this time, it's not
      a metaphor.

      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
      Sierra Club.

      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
      this year.

      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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