Federal Register Proposal

Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers
33 CFR Part 334

Department of Air Force, Wisconsin Air National Guard Danger Zone, R-6903, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin

AGENCY: United States Army Corps of Engineers, DoD.

ACTION: Notice of <STRONG>proposed</STRONG> rulemaking and request for comments.

SUMMARY: The U.S. Corps of Engineers is proposing regulations to reestablish a Danger Zone in Lake Michigan offshore from Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. These regulations will enable the Wisconsin Air
National Guard (WiANG) to ensure the safety of fishermen and mariners in the vicinity of a live fire exercise area, which is located off the Wisconsin shoreline in Lake Michigan from Manitowoc to Port Washington, Wisconsin. The regulations are necessary to protect fishermen and mariners from potentially hazardous conditions which may exist as a result of WiANG's use of the area.

DATES: Written comments must be submitted on or before April 10, 2002.

ADDRESSES: U. S Army Corps of Engineers, ATTN: CECW-OR, 441 G Street, NW., Washington, DC 20314-1000.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Frank Torbett, Headquarters Regulatory Branch, Washington, D.C. at (202) 761-4618, or Mr. Howard J. Ecklund, Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, Regulatory Branch, at
(262) 547-4171.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to its authorities in Section 7 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1917 (40 Stat. 266; 33 U.S.C. 1) and Chapter XIX, of the Army Appropriations Act of 1919 (40 Stat. 892; 33
U.S.C. 3) the Corps proposes to amend the restricted area regulations in 33 CFR part 334 by adding section 334.845 which establishes a danger zone in Lake Michigan offshore from Manitowoc and Sheboygan Counties, Wisconsin. The public currently has unrestricted access to the waters of Lake Michigan in close proximity to WiANG's exercise area. To better protect fishermen and mariners, the WiANG has requested the Corps of Engineers establish this danger zone that will enable the WiANG to continue to use this area to maintain its combat mission readiness.

Procedural Requirements

a. Review under Executive Order 12866

This <STRONG>proposed</STRONG> rule is issued with respect to a military function of the<STRONG>Defense</STRONG> Department and the provisions of Executive Order 12866 do not apply.

b. Review under the Regulatory Flexibility Act

These <STRONG>proposed</STRONG> rules have been reviewed under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (Public Law 96-354) which requires the preparation of a regulatory flexibility analysis for any regulation that will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities
(i.e., small businesses and small Governments). The Corps expects that the economic impact of the reestablishment of this danger zone would have practically no impact on the public, no anticipated navigational hazard or interference with existing waterway traffic and accordingly, certifies that this proposal if adopted, will have no significant economic impact on small entities.

c. Review under the National Environmental Policy Act

An environmental assessment has been prepared for this action. We have concluded, based on the minor nature of the <STRONG>proposed</STRONG> danger zone regulations, that this action, if adopted, will not have a significant impact to the quality of the human environment, and preparation of an
environmental impact statement is not required. The environmental assessment may be reviewed at the District office listed at the end of FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT paragraph above.

d. Unfunded Mandates Act

This <STRONG>proposed</STRONG> rule does not impose an enforceable duty among the private sector and, therefore, it is not a Federal private sector mandate and it is not subject to the requirements of either Section 202 or Section 205 of the Unfunded Mandates Act. We have also found under
Section 203 of the Act, that small Governments will not be significantly and uniquely affected by this rulemaking.

List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 334

Danger zones, Marine safety, Navigation (water), Restricted areas,
Waterways.
For the reasons set out in the preamble, the Corps proposes to
amend 33 CFR part 334, as follows:

PART 334--DANGER ZONE AND RESTRICTED AREA REGULATIONS

1. The authority citation for 33 CFR part 334 continues to read as follows:

Authority: 40 Stat. 266 (33 U.S.C. 1) and 40 Stat. 892 (33 U.S.C. 3).

2. Section 334.845 would be added to read as follows:

Sec. 334.845 Wisconsin Air National Guard, Volk Field military exercise area located in Lake Michigan offshore from Manitowoc and Sheboygan Counties; Danger Zone.

(a) The area. The waters within an area beginning at a point at latitude 43 deg.19'00" N., longitude 87 deg.41'00" W.; to latitude 44 deg.05'30" N, longitude 87 deg.29'45" W.; to latitude 44 deg.02'00"
N., longitude 87 deg.02'30" W.; to latitude 43 deg.15'30" N., longitude 87 deg.14'00" W.; thence to the point of beginning.
(b) The regulation. (1) All vessels entering the danger zone shall proceed across the area by the most direct route and without unnecessary delay.
(2) No vessel or craft of any size shall lie-to or anchor in the danger zone at any time other than a vessel operated by or for the U.S. Coast Guard, local, State, or Federal law enforcement agencies.
(c) Enforcement. The regulation in this section shall be enforced by the Commanding Officer, Volk Field, WI and/or persons or agencies as he/she may designate.

Dated: February 26, 2002.
Lawrence A. Lang,
Deputy, Operations Division, Directorate of Civil Works.
[FR Doc. 02-5655 Filed 3-8-02; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3710-92-P


Corps responds to Lake Michigan danger zone concerns

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers web site, April 25, 2002

SAINT PAUL, MINN. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, regrets the confusion caused by comments made to the media yesterday, regarding the reestablishment of a danger zone in Lake Michigan offshore from Manitowoc, Wis., and Sheboygan, Wis.

Military aircraft have not released ordnance of any kind in this zone in more than 10 years.

The Corps is not proposing any changes to the area, as was printed by the local media. Rather, the Corps is going through the administrative process to document what already exists. This area has been designated as a military danger zone since before World War II. According to Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, public affairs officer for the Wisconsin National Guard, it is occasionally used for military training, including air combat tactics and supersonic flights by fighter aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration has the restricted military airspace marked on its Green Bay aeronautical navigation charts. However, a corresponding surface zone, which is required to be associated with the restricted airspace was inadvertently omitted from nautical navigation charts for the area. A Wisconsin Air National Guard airspace management officer requested the Corps go through the administrative procedures necessary to correctly reflect this designation and to provide mariners the same information as aviators.

The designation of this zone on the charts would not prohibit commercial fisherman, recreational boaters or ferry services from using these waters. Donovan predicted the surface area would not be used more than one or two days a year, if at all. He said public notice would be given prior to any training exercises and, if it were used at all, only a small portion of the zone would be restricted.

Under Section 7 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, the Corps must complete the public notification process of reestablishing a danger zone, even though the Air Guard never relinquished control of the area, to put it back on the nautical navigation charts. As part of this process, the Corps will accept public feedback before making any decisions. "The process is there to ensure all those affected by this decision have the opportunity to have their concerns heard," said Corps' spokeswoman Shannon Bauer. "A decision will not be made until all concerns have been raised and heard."

The public is encouraged to provide input by calling Frank Torbett, USACE headquarters regulatory branch in Washington, D.C., at 202-761-4618, or Howard Ecklund at the Corps' Waukesha office at 262-547-4171.

The deadline to submit comments has been extended from May 1 to May 15.

# # #

Reporters: For more information on Air Guard proposed operations in the danger zone, call Lt. Col. Tim Donovan at 608-242-3050. For more information on safety procedures by the U.S. Coast Guard, call their District 9 public affairs office in Cleveland at 216-902-6020.


Danger zone’ threatens fishers

Manitowoc Herald times Reporter, April 24, 2002

BY PAT PANKRATZ
Herald Times Reporter

MANITOWOC — A commercial fisherman Tuesday said creation of a so-called ‘danger zone’ for military exercises, covering a large section of Lake Michigan, would devastate his business.

 

The Wisconsin Air National Guard wants to re-establish a section of Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Port Washington as a military exercise area. It is generally 15 miles wide and from six to 9 miles off-shore, and was used for air maneuvers in World War II, when a military camp operated near Haven in Sheboygan County.

 

 

Suzie Q Fish Co. of Two Rivers president Mike LeClair said about 80 percent of the chubs and smelt his trawlers harvest come from the area.

 

 

Proposed rules published recently in the Federal Register by the Army Corps of Engineers dictate that “all vessels entering the danger zone shall proceed across the area by the most direct route and without unnecessary delay.”

 

For LeClair, that means no anchoring of boats or pulling in hundreds of fish at a time in his company’s large commercial nets.

 

“It’s going to put a tremendous economic burden on us,” he said.

 

The Guard wants to use the area two or three times per year for exercises at times when national security is a greater concern, according to Howard Ecklund, an ecologist with the Corps of Engineers.

 

The Coast Guard would issue advance information about the training exercises, but those who rely on the lake for a living, including Manitowoc Marina manager Jack Culley, are worried.

 

“The concern I have is public perception,” Culley said. “Why would you leave your boat here at Manitowoc Marina knowing there’s an area right off shore where they drop bombs periodically, when you could take your boat some place else where they don’t drop bombs?”

 

He said national security is a worthy motive but that the Air National Guard should choose another location to train.

 

“In the 1940s it was one thing to use the lake,” Culley said. “How many people were using Lake Michigan for recreational purposes versus now in 2002? There’s no comparison.”

 

The concerns are not shared by the Corps of Engineers, which reviewed the proposal and found that it, “will have no significant impact on small entities,” according to information published in the March 11 Federal Register.

 

LeClair said the Corps should hold public hearings in the affected communities, instead of merely publishing a notice in the relatively obscure Register.

 

“I wouldn’t even know where to get the Federal Register,” he said. “It was kept very quiet, that’s what bothers me.”

 

Charter fishing boats also would be prohibited from anchoring or trolling in the restricted area. Roy Berres, president of the Northeast Wisconsin Great Lakes Sport Fishing organization, said he just learned of the proposed restriction and hasn’t yet heard complaints from members of the group.

 

See ZONE, A3

 

“I’m sure it will be a topic of conversation at our upcoming meetings,” Berres said.

 

Sport fishing is a $12 million industry in Manitowoc County, according to the latest annual figures.

 

An original April 10 deadline for comments about the proposal has been extended to April 30.

 

Those interested can write to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Branch, St. Paul District, Corps of Engineers, Room 101, 1617 E. Racine Ave., Waukesha, Wis., 53186-6875; or people can call Ecklund at his Waukesha office: (414) 547-4171.

 

Ecklund will also speak at 9 a.m. Saturday to the Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs at the Sheboygan Outboard Club, 723 N. Water St., Sheboygan.

 

Pat Pankratz 920-686-2138; ppankratz@smgpo.gannett.com


Proposed 'danger zone' would deter fishing boats

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 25, 2002

 

By DON BEHM, JEFF COLE and DAN BENSON
of the Journal Sentinel staff

Last Updated: April 24, 2002

The federal government is proposing "danger zone" restrictions that could have a dramatic impact on commercial fishing in Lake Michigan in an unused bombing practice area for the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

11767Regulation
 
Graphic/Bob Veierstahler
Bombing area
 

 

 

The proposal, issued March 11, allows public comment through Tuesday. But few elected public officials at any level - federal, state and local - had information about the matter. State environmental regulators, too, had been kept in the dark.

Two or three times a year, Air National Guard jets drop non-explosive canisters and flares as they storm across a wide swath of the lake, according to Howard Ecklund, project manager for permits with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Waukesha. The public has not been aware of the activity, he said.

So the Corps proposes to re-establish a "danger zone" in a large area of the lake between Port Washington and Manitowoc - just six miles offshore at one point - saying it is necessary for public safety and would have little economic impact.

But the head of the Wisconsin National Guard said Wednesday that area isn't even used for bombing exercises.

And the news blindsided commercial anglers.

"The proposed zone overlies the southern chub, whitefish and smelt trawling zones," said Philip Moy, a fisheries specialist with the Sea Grant Institute.

Commercial anglers are limited by state regulations to certain areas. "They cannot simply move to another area to fish," Moy said.

The danger zone also encompasses a fish refuge and fisheries research areas, Moy said in a letter to the Corps' regional office in St. Paul, Minn.

"The mid-lake reefs refuge was established to protect stocked lake trout and to provide these and other Great Lakes fishes an area for spawning," Moy said.

Full-time ban

The regulation - which appeared only in the Federal Register and was not shared directly with public officials - would bar commercial fishing vessels from dropping anchor, or slowing down to drop nets, anywhere in the area "at any time."The regulation also states: "All vessels entering the danger zone shall proceed across the area by the most direct route and without unnecessary delay."

"Obviously, it poses a burden on our members," said Scott Stenger, lobbyist for the 45-member Wisconsin Commercial Fisheries Association. "This is an area where they make their living. There a lot of whitefish and chub in that area."

The proposed zone extends from Port Washington to Manitowoc, along a line that runs about six miles east of Sheboygan, 10 miles east of Port Washington and seven miles east of Manitowoc. And from that line the zone extends to about the middle of the lake, forming a large rectangle.

Ecklund, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said the state Air National Guard base at Volk Field in Monroe County would be required to alert the public of scheduled bombing runs only by publishing an announcement in the U.S. Coast Guard's weekly "Notice to Mariners."

Licensed commercial captains - such as the skippers of commercial fishing trawlers and charter boats - presumably read the publication, Ecklund said.

Asked whether recreational boaters would be told of upcoming practice runs, Ecklund said that those boat owners would be aware of the activity only if they read the weekly notice.

"Presumably, the Air National Guard pilots do reconnaissance of the area and they wouldn't operate where boats are," Ecklund said. "That is why the danger zone is such a large area, so that the planes can move off somewhere else to avoid boats."

Robert Sorrell, a U.S. Coast Guard chief warrant officer in Milwaukee who said he first heard of the proposal last week, said military activity in the area would put the Coast Guard into action.

"We would have to set up a safety zone around the perimeter of this operation to make sure that vessels would stay clear of the area," he said.

Ecklund said that when he discovered that the danger zone was no longer printed on nautical charts, he contacted the Air National Guard headquarters in Madison. "They confirmed that it was still used two or three times a year," he said.

For that reason, he proposed the regulation.

"This zone has been used on a continuing basis since World War II," he said. "For some reason or other, everyone involved stopped reminding the public of this activity. So we're letting the public know that something is out there."

But the top National Guard official in Wisconsin said he knew of no such use of the zone.

"I am totally unaware of this and no one on my staff knows about this," said Maj. Gen. James G. Blaney, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard and Air National Guard.

"If this were true, I would know about it," said Blaney.

Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, a spokesman for the air guard, said Wednesday night that no explosives or other objects have been dropped in the area for at least 10 years. "There are no plans at this time to drop any material."

The lack of information created confusion and concern in lakeshore communities.

Sheboygan Mayor James R. Schramm said he hopes to learn more at a public forum to be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Sheboygan Outboard Club, 732 N. Water St.

A spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources said late Wednesday afternoon that a reporter's telephone call was the first time he had heard about the proposal, and the DNR has deep concerns.

"We're generally pretty astute on these kinds of things, and we didn't see this one coming," Franc Fennessy, the DNR deputy secretary, said in a telephone interview from Madison.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said his office first heard of the proposal Wednesday, "and we were a little surprised about what they want to do, and that we weren't given more information earlier."

Sensenbrenner will send out a letter to the Wisconsin Air National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers "to express his concerns about the proposal, and it will be done soon," said Raj Bharwani, the congressman's press secretary.

Lawrence Sussman of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report


Under political fire, Corps makes apology for danger zone confusion

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 26, 2002

By DON BEHM, JESSICA MCBRIDE and LAWRENCE SUSSMAN
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: April 25, 2002

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an apology Thursday after a day of pointed criticism from state and federal officials over vaguely described plans to reinstate a National Guard "live fire exercise area" in Lake Michigan.

11824'Danger zone'
 
How To Comment
 
The public comment period on the danger zone designation has been extended to May 15.
For information, or to submit a comment, call Howard Ecklund at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permit office in Waukesha at (262) 547-4171.
Comments also can be forwarded to Frank Torbett, of the Corps of Engineers' headquarters regulatory branch in Washington, D.C., by calling (202) 761-4618.
 
Quotable
 
I view this as a breach of faith in going behind the backs of Wisconsin officials.
 
- Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner,
R-Wis.
 
Related Coverage
 
Nichols: Fishermen face new job hazard: Incoming!
Background: Proposed 'danger zone' would deter fishing boats

 

The Corps, which said it was only trying to restore to nautical charts a long-standingmilitary danger zone in Lake Michigan, said Thursday that there would be no dropping of bombs or firing of missiles by Wisconsin Air National Guard planes in that space.

And commercial anglers and other boaters would be rarely inconvenienced, officials said.

The danger zone, which begins only a few miles offshore and extends from Port Washington to Manitowoc, simply identifies an Air National Guard training area, the Corps of Engineers assured in a statement.

That clarification came Thursday evening after a full day of fact-finding by the Corps' St. Paul, Minn., regional office and too late to deflect harsh criticism from elected officials.

U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he was "absolutely outraged" by the lack of information.

And U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Green Bay) called the situation "very disturbing" and "bizarre."

The request to print the danger zone on Lake Michigan nautical maps came directly from Volk Field, a Wisconsin Air National Guard base near New Lisbon in Juneau County, said Frank Torbett, a program analyst with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington, D.C.

Master Sgt. Bill Milem at Volk Field was even pressing the Corps to publish the danger zone notice in the Federal Register earlier this year, Torbett said.

Milem was said to be on vacation the remainder of the week and unavailable for comment.

Sensenbrenner and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) are scheduled to meet in Washington next week with Major General James G. Blaney, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard and Air National Guard.

"I'm sure that Congressman Petri and I will have the welcoming committee out there for him," Sensenbrenner said.

Blaney has been working behind the scenes to locate Blackhawk helicopters at the West Bend Airport, Sensenbrenner said, "and if there is a way to get everybody in eastern Wisconsin opposed to them, that's what this is."

Sensenbrenner said Blaney "isn't bashful in letting us know what he wants. But I view this as a breach of faith in going behind the backs of Wisconsin officials."

Among the officials doing some serious damage control Thursday was Lt. Col Tim Donovan, a public affairs officer for the Wisconsin National Guard. He said the Guard had no intention of dropping objects, other than flares, from its aircraft in the future.

"It is occasionally used for military training, including air combat tactics and supersonic flights by fighter aircraft," Donovan said. "Military aircraft have not released ordnance in this zone in more than 10 years," Donovan said.

In its Thursday statement, the Corps of Engineers attempted to clarify the impact of such a danger zone designation on commercial fishing trawlers, charter boats and recreational boaters.

Though a notice published March 11 in the Federal Register said that no boats could anchor or drift "at any time" in the zone, the Corps explained that boating restrictions would be in place only when military aircraft were flying over the area.

"The restrictions apply only when the danger zone is activated," said Shannon Bauer, a spokeswoman for the Corps of Engineers' St. Paul, Minn., office.

Because the notice did not say that directly, representatives of commercial fishing boats and recreational fishing clubs had opposed the danger zone designation.

Confusion was escalated by comments from Maj. Brendan Smith of the Air National Guard in Thursday's Ozaukee Press, a weekly newspaper in Port Washington, in which he described special operations by Blackhawk helicopters shooting at floating targets "or special-ops guys" firing M-16s.

"If we have helicopters doing gunnery exercises, an M-60 has a ricochet danger area of about five miles, so we wouldn't need to restrict an area much larger than that," Smith was quoted as saying. "But if we have F-16s doing bombing, then we'd probably restrict the entire area."

In regards to Smith's comments, Petri said:

"We didn't even know they wanted a redesignation of the area, but Blackhawk helicopters and special things ricocheting? It sounds like someone's going to a movie."

Petri said he doubted there were any serious plans to do practice bombing in the lake, adding that the National Guard "seemed at the highest levels unaware of it, it's not something high on their agenda."

Donovan, who learned about Smith's comments from a reporter, speculated that he was speaking about hypothetical situations. "That is not what the Wisconsin Air National Guard has in mind."

The furor also had the attention of Gov. Scott McCallum.

"We have been - the state of Wisconsin has been - in contact with the Army Corps of Engineers throughout the day," said Tim Roby, the governor's spokesman.

"We have voiced our strong displeasure with this process, and the governor is very concerned about the effects and impact on commercial fishing, recreational boating and general public safety, so we will be forwarding our concerns onto the Corps in a formal letter."

Roby said McCallum was unavailable to comment directly because he was at an event in Madison.

Howard Ecklund, project manager for permits with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Waukesha, will discuss the danger zone at a meeting Saturday of the Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sport Fishing Clubs.

While the meeting is open to the public, no one other than club members will be allowed to speak or ask questions, said club President Louie Kowieski.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the Sheboygan Outboard Club, 732 N. Water St. in Sheboygan.

Dan Benson of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report


Fishermen face new job hazard: Incoming!

Milwaukee journal Sentinel, April 26, 2002 by Mike Nichols

 

Fishermen out on Lake Michigan might be forgiven for wearing pith helmets aboard their trawlers for the next few weeks.

If somebody from the Army Corps of Engineers suggested the sky was falling - no matter what he told me in the very next breath - I guess I'd take that a little more seriously than Chicken Little, too.

And someone pretty clearly gave some indication that there might be reason to duck and cover.

Then again, at this point, I think I'd listen mostly to Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, who almost went ballistic himself when he discovered what the Air National Guard at least appeared to be up to.

Other than 5,000 or 10,000 feet.

"F," I assume by the way, still stands for Frank - although, judging from the congressman's reaction to the bomb that was dropped on him this week it might also stand for what he seems to be saying: FUBAR.

(That's an old military term that can't be adequately explained within the confines of this family-friendly space but translates roughly into "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.")

Here's the deal

In case you missed it, the Corps recently - quietly - proposed federal regulations that would ensure the "safety of fishermen and mariners in the vicinity of a live fire exercise area" covering over a thousand square miles of Lake Michigan off the coasts of Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties.

That's a lot of water - even more, probably, than leaks though the roof of Miller Park on an average day.

Everyone's a patriot nowadays, so I guess there are some fishermen and probably quite a few others - given full and open disclosure - who might be OK with the idea of an occasional exercise.

Mostly, though, I suspect it's just the fish who are happy.

Turns out they knew about as much as anyone about the plans.

Given that, few are biting.

Some Air National Guard leaders this week basically denied that they had plans to strafe chub boats rather than Saddam Hussein - or drop much of anything into even unoccupied areas of the lake. So it may well be a tempest in a teapot.

Then again, a different military man was quoted as telling a local paper that although "we don't have any specific plans for immediate use of the area . . . it's a zone where Black Hawk helicopters could shoot at floating targets or special ops guys could board practice targets and fire their M-16s."

Sounds like more than just squirt guns.

Promises, promises

At this point, I don't know whether fisherman are working in a "danger zone" or a "twilight zone." But as long as we're on the subject of tempests, permit me to help create one.

Sensenbrenner seems pretty darned sure that the military promised a long, long time ago not to use the lake for target practice. If there are compelling reasons to change course now, as he points out, there are better ways to go about it.

Also, while most Americans have relatively little compunction about what is being dropped elsewhere in the world right now, the reference to a "live fire exercise" dredges up memories of what was once, well, dredged up.

That includes, about 10 years ago, a live Sidewinder missile.

Sheboygan police recovered it on a beach eight days after it was placed there by some fishermen who had pulled it up in their nets. And, it was reported at the time, more than 270 of them had been fired into the lake between 1950 and 1970 - along with various other missiles bombs and ordnance.

Fishermen aren't sissies. But they aren't the enemy either. So it was sort of nice to see the Corps assure everyone at the end of the day that - when it comes right down to it - boaters and fishermen will not have to steer clear. The area won't be used "more than one or two days a year, if at all."

Even so, given all the confusion, I think I'll remain a landlubber for a while.


Danger Zone' threatens fishers

Herald Times Reporter, April 26

 

MANITOWOC — A commercial fisherman Tuesday said creation of a so-called ‘danger zone’ for military exercises, covering a large section of Lake Michigan, would devastate his business.

 

The Wisconsin Air National Guard wants to re-establish a section of Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Port Washington as a military exercise area. It is generally 15 miles wide and from six to 9 miles off-shore, and was used for air maneuvers in World War II, when a military camp operated near Haven in Sheboygan County.  Suzie Q Fish Co. of Two Rivers President Mike LeClair said about 80 % of the chubs and smelt his trawlers harvest come from the area.

 

Proposed rules published recently in the Federal Register by the Army Corps of Engineers dictate that “all vessels entering the danger zone shall proceed across the area by the most direct route and without unnecessary delay.” For LeClair, that means no anchoring of boats or pulling in hundreds of fish at a time in his company’s large commercial nets. “It’s going to put a tremendous economic burden on us,” he said.

 

The Guard wants to use the area two or three times a year for exercises at times when national security is a greater concern, according to Howard Ecklund, an ecologist with the Corps of Engineers. The Coast Guard would issue advance information about the training exercises, but those who rely on the lake for a living, including Manitowoc Marina manager Jack Culley, are worried. “The concern I have is public perception,” Culley said. “Why would you leave your boat here at Manitowoc Marina knowing there’s an area right off shore where they drop bombs periodically, when you could take your boat some place else where they don’t drop bombs?”

 

He said national security is a worthy motive but that the Air National Guard should choose another location to train. “In the 1940s it was one thing to use the lake,” Culley said. “How many people were using Lake Michigan for recreational purposes versus now in 2002? There’s no comparison.”

 

The concerns are not shared by the Corps of Engineers, which reviewed the proposal and found that it, “will have no significant impact on small entities,” according to information published in the March 11 Federal Register.  LeClair said the Corps should hold public hearings in the affected communities, instead of merely publishing a notice in the relatively obscure Register.  “I wouldn’t even know where to get the Federal Register,” he said. “It was kept very quiet, that’s what bothers me.”

 

Charter fishing boats also would be prohibited from anchoring or trolling in the restricted area. Roy Berres, president of the Northeast Wisconsin Great Lakes Sport Fishing organization, said he just learned of the proposed restriction and hasn’t yet heard complaints from members of the group.  “I’m sure it will be a topic of conversation at our upcoming meetings,” Berres said.

 

Sport fishing is a $12 million industry in Manitowoc County, according to the latest annual figures.

 

An original April 10 deadline for comments about the proposal has been extended to April 30. Those interested can write to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Branch, St. Paul District, Corps of Engineers, Room 101, 1617 E. Racine Ave., Waukesha, Wis, 53186-6875; or people can call Ecklund at his Waukesha office: (414) 547-4171.

 

Ecklund will also speak at 9 a.m. Saturday to the Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sports Fishing Clubs at the Sheboygan Outboard Club, 723 N. Water St., Sheboygan.