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Coast Guard stands down

Dec. 20 - The Coast Guard said this week it will withdraw its proposal to create 34 permanent security zones on the Great Lakes to be used for firearms training exercises.

The proposal, originally announced this summer, drew heavy criticism from boaters, anglers, environmentalists and politicians from the Great Lakes region. The agency held nine public hearing sessions throughout the region and received nearly 1,000 comments.

“The news that the Coast Guard has now withdrawn its live-fire training program in the Great Lakes is good news for the people of northern Michigan and for all residents of the Great Lakes region,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) says in a statement.

The Coast Guard proposed the security zones, also called water training areas, so its personnel could conduct live-fire weapons training exercises on the water using machine guns. The agency said the training was necessary so its personnel could be properly trained in case of a terrorist attack.

“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,” John E. Crowley Jr., commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District, says in a press release. “We are committed to addressing the concerns that training be safe, preserve the diverse uses of the Lakes, and protect the environment.”

“We understand the need of the Coast Guard to be in a top state of readiness, but they must respect the public’s concern for safety and the environment,” says Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) in a statement. “I hope that by taking a step back, the Coast Guard will be able to move forward with an alternative that will allow them the training they need and satisfy the public’s concerns."

Jason Fell