For Immediate Release Contact:
Nov. 14, 2006 Joel Brammeier: 773-590-6494
Great Lakes Groups Take Aim at Coast Guard Live Fire Proposal
More than a dozen environmental organizations have joined the Allliance for the Great Lakes in calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to postpone implementation of its live firing plan over the Great Lakes until more research is done.
In a Nov. 13 letter to Coast Guard Cmdr. Gustav Wulfkuhle, the organizations also call for substantial changes to the Coast Guards controversial proposal to establish 34 live fire practice zones on the Great Lakes.
At a time when regional leaders are rallying around a multi-billion-dollar plan to restore the Great Lakes, the Coast Guard the Guardians of our Great Lakes must show leadership to ensure their actions will not result in further degradation, the 15 signatories wrote. The burden of proof is on the Coast Guard to demonstrate that live fire exercises on the Great Lakes are both necessary and safe.
Specifically, the groups which hail from around the Great Lakes region and include civic and energy groups as well -- are calling on the Coast Guard to:
Perform a substantive environmental review of the proposal that fulfills requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Reduce the number of live fire sites to the level necessary for training.
Consider a full spectrum of alternatives.
The organizations take issue with the Coast Guards preliminary conclusion that its proposal should be excluded from the environmental review requirements of NEPA, and urge the Coast Guard to consider a full range of alternatives before implementing any security program on the Great Lakes.
Surely a decision to create 34 zones where long-distance lead ammunition will be fired during boating season on a water body that has been demilitarized for nearly two centuries constitutes a major federal action under the act, the letter states.
Noting that the Great Lakes $5 billion sport fishing industry and the recreational boaters who help support it would be affected by live firing, the groups call for the Coast Guard to include recreational boaters and anglers in a revised plan, and to reduce the number of training sites to a level more agreeable to boaters and anglers.
The organizations also voice concern about the long-term effects of lead deposition in the Great Lakes, a largely closed system in which less than 1 percent of the water is renewed each year.
Citing a brief prepared by the Michigan Environmental Council, the groups note that the Coast Guard firing would discharge to the surface waters of the Great Lake nearly double the amount of lead that is discharged by the entire state of Michigan in a year.
The Coast Guards own analysis of the environmental impact of its live firing provides only a five-year outlook for potential problems; fails to consider the locations of potable water intakes or critical habitat and species; and doesnt account for cumulative regional impacts of lead on organisms at the bottom of the food chain, according to the letter.
With scientists from around the Great Lakes in agreement that the Lakes are at the tipping point of ecosystem meltdown, the signatories urge the Coast Guard to explore lead-reduction strategies -- among them the use of non-lead bullets and on-shore firing simulators, such as those used at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Lake County, Ill.
Some persistent chemicals -- including lead compounds found in bullets -- can enter the food chain at the most basic levels, ending up in humans through the fish we eat and the water we drink, the letter states. Persistent chemicals have been linked to developmental delays in children, attention deficit disorders, impaired immune systems, reproductive disorders, even diabetes and heart disease.
Those signing onto the Alliance letter include: Biodiversity Project; Clean Wisconsin; Friends of Jean Klock Park; Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund; Lake Erie Region Conservancy; Muskegon Save Our Shoreline; Great Lakes Natural Resource Center National Wildlife Federation; Nuclear Energy Information Service; Openlands; Save the Dunes Council; The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay; Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council; Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition; and the League of Women Voters Chicago, Highland Park, Illinois, Indiana.
For more information see www.greatlakes.org
Formed in 1970, the Alliance for the Great Lakes is the oldest citizens Great Lakes organization in North America. Our mission is to conserve and restore the worlds largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife.
Alliance for the Great Lakes