The U.S. Coast Guard said
it was withdrawing plans to periodically close 2,500 square miles of the Great Lakes for live machine-gun firing exercises, the AP reported.
The plan had been criticized by several U.S. and Canadian mayors, business leaders and environmentalists who said it could be unsafe and disruptive. Environmentalists also said they worried about the consequences of lead ammunition being deposited in the Great Lakes.
The proposal included creating four firing ranges on Lake Erie
— a move opposed by some who feared that it would threaten commercial fishing and boating. .
During several public hearings in the region, Coast Guard officials said the training exercises were vital to its homeland security and law enforcement missions
. The plan called for crews to shoot at floating targets with M240-B automatic rifles aboard cutters, rescue boats and other vessels.
Each of the 34 safety zones on lakes Superior, Michigan
, Huron, Erie and Ontario would
have been closed to private vessels for four-hour spans about four to eight times a year. Exercises wou
ld have taken place in each zone two or three times a year. The proposal followed the Coast Guard’s decision to mount automatic weapons on about 150 Great Lakes vessels