The U.S. Coast Guard announced in August that it had identified a few locations in the Great Lakes where it wanted to practice shooting things to better protect the homeland. It already does this on occassion, but since it wanted to make the zones permanently available, it began a process for public comment (each time it uses a zone now, the Guard temporary designates it for the exercise), with the environmental review open as a part of that. When there was a public and political outcry in late August about the inadequate opportunity people had to comment – due in part to the fact that most people didn’t learn about the notion until a few days before the end of the comment period – the public comment deadline was extended two month. Most people took this to think that the Coast Guard would hold off from conducting its live fire training. Apparently those people were wrong….
The Coast Guard conducted a live-fire exercise off of the shore of Two Harbors on Tuesday. Suffice to say, many folks aren’t too happy that the Coast Guard never bothered to mention that it would keep going with their temporary-zone exercises while awaiting the permanent designation; despite the fact that all of the media attention was just two weeks ago.
Environmentally, the main issue cited seems to be the use of lead bullets for the trainings. According to various articles and editorials in the Duluth News Tribune, the guns used would fire up to 600 rounds per minute. The environmental impact statement indicates that there will be no increased risk from the contamination, but I’ll also point out that, according to the executive summary, the assesment does not take into account any site specific information (such as previous contamination in the lake sediment or waste from past military trainings or dumping).
Click this link for the full environmental review (460kb PDF).
This is a link for the map showing the training zones.
There are a number of ways to provide public comments, with a list nicely compiled by the Duluth News Tribune. November 13 is the comment deadline.