USCG has plans for live fire zones on Great Lakes

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The U.S. Coast Guard is giving the public an extra 60 days to comment on a proposal to establish 34 permanent zones on the Great Lakes where the it plans to conduct target practice with live ammunition, The Associated Press reported in a story on the Chicago Tribune’s Web site today.

Some of the zones are near recreational spots and areas crisscrossed often by pleasure, charter and fishing boats, such as Grand Haven, Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie and the Keweenaw Peninsula, according to the story.

Crew members would fire at floating targets from cutters and small boats using machine guns, rifles and small 9 mm guns, said Chief Petty Officer Robert Lanier, spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 9th District in Cleveland.

Some marina managers and charter boat captains have voiced concern about the plan, AP reported.

“If they do this during the fishing season, I think it would be a recipe for problems,” said Jim Fenner, president of the Ludington Charter Boat Association.

Before a drill began, the Coast Guard would issue alerts on recreational marine band radio and the news media. Notices would be posted at marinas in the area.

Also, safety officials would monitor the drill and watch for boaters.

But many boaters don’t have marine radios and others don’t listen to channels the Coast Guard uses to broadcast information, Brian Torresen, a sailor and service manager at Torresen Marina in Muskegon, told AP.

The comment period was to expire Thursday. But Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., said the Guard had agreed to extend it.

“I was surprised to learn of the Coast Guard’s plans to create firearms training zones on Lake Michigan and am disappointed that it did not do more to inform the public,” Hoekstra told AP yesterday. “I am optimistic that that the extension will provide people with more of an opportunity to express their concerns and to learn more about the proposal.”

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