Monday, October 16, 2006

The New York Times opens a can of old, dead worms: The arming of the Great Lakes

The American Paper of Record has picked up on a story that's been around for some time now.

For the first time, Coast Guard officials want to mount machine guns routinely on their cutters and small boats here and around all five of the Great Lakes as part of a program addressing the threats of terrorism after Sept. 11.
Uh... yeah. So the New York Times is just now becoming aware that the US Coast Guard is establishing live-fire exercise areas in the Great Lakes. That was covered back here - from Canadian public sources.

And, there are some interesting things in the New York Times article. (All emphasis mine)

Many here in Grand Haven, a town whose history is so lovingly intertwined with the Coast Guard that it holds an annual festival celebrating the service branch, say they think of Coast Guard members mainly as the rugged sailors who race off to search for and save troubled boaters. But even here, in a town that calls itself “Coast Guard City U.S.A.,” some say the thought of members firing machine guns anywhere near these waters strikes them as dangerous to ordinary boaters, potentially damaging to the Great Lakes’ ecosystem and, frankly, a somewhat surprising place to be bracing for terrorists.

“You know exactly what’s going to happen with this,” said Bob Foster, 58, who said he spends every chance he gets on the waters here. “Some boater is going to inadvertently drive through the live fire zone and get blown out of the water.”
So... the local boaters, tour operators and captains think this could get a little dangerous. In all honesty, there is some truth to that belief. Any live firing has the potential to go wrong. That isn't normally the case, but I understand niggling fear. And, these are the Great Lakes users on the US side.

Carole Loftis, the owner of Snug Harbor, a popular restaurant with windows on the water, said that although she certainly carried concerns, like most Americans, about terrorism, drunken boating seemed a more frequent threat around here. “This seems a little like overkill,” Ms. Loftis said of the shooting plans.
Sounds like a lovely place. Clearly terrorism hasn't had the sobering effect on boaters that it's had on some people. Don't they know it's a war?

“When I heard, I thought it was something from The Onion newspaper or an Internet hoax,” said Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, Ontario, which sits beside Lake Huron, where 6 of the 34 live fire zones are planned. “This whole thing was done way below the radar.”
It was done pretty quietly, but if I can point out this article, not from the Onion and not from errant blogger but, from the CBC. Dated 15 March, 2006, this was the headline:

U.S. puts machine-guns on Great Lakes coast guard vessels
Kind of gives the mothercorp a whole new aura, doesn't it? There's more from the NYT:

Herb Bergson, the mayor of Duluth, got a telephone call in September from a resident who said she was listening to her marine scanner, heard talk of shooting on Lake Superior and wanted the mayor to explain what was going on.

“I didn’t know what to tell her,” Mr. Bergson said. “I was caught just flat-footed. No one told me, and they should have.”

Didn't anybody read this out of the US Federal Register dated August 1, 2006?

SUMMARY: The Coast Guard proposes to establish safety zones throughout the Great Lakes. These zones are intended to restrict vessels from portions of the Great Lakes during live fire gun exercises that will be conducted by Coast Guard cutters and small boats. These safety zones are necessary to protect the public from the hazards associated with the firing of weapons.

DATES: Comments and related materials must reach the Coast Guard on or before August 31, 2006.
We did.

It doesn't matter whether you object or not because this also appeared in the Federal Register of that day:

We expect the economic impact of this proposed rule to be so minimal that a full Regulatory Evaluation is unnecessary. The Coast Guard's use of these safety zones will be periodic in nature and will likely not exceed two or three one-day events per year. Moreover, these safety zones will only be enforced during time the safety zone is actually in use. Furthermore, these safety zones are located in places known not to be heavily used by the boating public. Hence, this determination is based on the minimal amount of time that vessels will be restricted from the proposed zones and that the zones are located in areas which vessels can easily transit around. The Coast Guard expects insignificant adverse impact to mariners from the activation of these zones.
Repeat after me: Done deal.

The US Coast Guard has suddenly decided to hold public hearings.... and the New York Times decided to look at something other than their collective navels.

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