Despite the realities of a post- 9/1 1 world and the need to stand ready in the face of terrorist threats, the U.S. Coast Guard made the right decision to withdraw current plans for 34 live-fire training zones in the Great Lakes, including a zone that had been proposed in Western New York on Lake Ontario.
Concern over the Coast Guard plans came from Rep. Louise Slaughter, State Sen. George Maziarz, the Great Lakes Boating Federation, more than 80 mayors and more than a dozen environmental groups. All asked for an end or substantial changes to the plans.
Permanent zones for Lake Ontario, including a 33-square-mile training site about three to five miles offshore between Youngstown and Wilson, would have been used two to three times a year for live-fire training with high-powered machine guns. Although boating traffic would have been restricted during the training, there were valid objections from the tourism industry and those involved in recreational water sports. There were good questions, for example, about the effectiveness of Coast Guard ship-to-shore announcements of training activities.
There were 24 live-fire exercises earlier this year before public outcry forced suspension. Enhanced border protection in the post- 9/1 1 era provides good reason for Coast Guard live-fire exercises. There still may be ways to reconcile such training needs with strong enough safeguards for boating and tourism, but that needs far more open and cooperative effort than this first shot at the problem offered.