PLATTSBURGH Enhanced driver licenses are now available through Departments of Motor Vehicles across the state, with local leaders and representatives hoping it will be a boon to border fluidity. Garry F. Douglas, president of the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce, welcomed a small crowd to a ceremony at the Department of Motor Vehicles in downtown Plattsburgh Tuesday morning, marking the launch of enhanced driver license availability. Douglas called the occasion an historic milestone in the economy of the North Country that has been part of a process to develop border crossings such as the Champlain-Lacolle Port of Entry into ports of excellence. There is nothing more important to the economy of this region than maximizing fluidity at the border of people and goods, said Douglas. The availability of the EDL as a form of documentation for crossing land borders to Canada and Mexico extends the range of options for people, said Douglas, which include passports, passport cards and NEXUS cards. The need for the development of EDLs came as a result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which was the result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act enacted by Congress in 2004. WHTI, to which it is commonly referred, will require all United States citizens wanting to cross the border to Canada or Mexico to carry a passport or other form of single-document proof of citizenship and identity as early as June 1, 2009. The need for more secure border crossings was emphasized following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said Douglas. The seventh anniversary of the attacks was commemorated last week, serving as a timely reminder the nation needs increased security measures such as this, he said. We are a common community in which there is an invisible line which is the border, but that doesnt define us as a community, said Douglas. It merely is a border we have to deal with and certainly we understand we have to deal with it better than we used to in this changing world. The way the new license works is simple, said Steven Bronson, acting Champlain Port of Entry director. The card emits a radio frequency identification signal, or RFID, as a vehicle approaches a port of entry. The information is received by a secure network terminal and is ready for review by a border guard before the vehicle has even pulled up to the booth. Bronson said the technology is far superior to previous technology, though he recognizes concerns have been raised about its security. There is no cause for concern, he said. Its not personal information being sent out for just anyone to read, explained Bronson. Its an ID number that only [the Department of Homeland Security] can use in our database to verify the persons identification. The border officials understand and welcome the new technology, Bronson said, adding that all passenger lanes at the Champlain and Rouses Point ports of entry are equipped to read the cards. This is just an addition to what has already been offered, said Clinton County Clerk John H. Zurlo. He added the EDL can replace a regular New York State driver license, though anyone who does not want an EDL can continue to renew their regular driver licenses. However, Douglas said, Our belief is, for people in the North Country, the EDL is going to be the document of choice. The cost of an EDL is $40 for a person with a current NYS driver license. Those needing to renew their license may do so with an EDL at a cost of $80. New EDLs will be good for as long as regular driver licenses a period of eight years. Applications may be picked up at the DMV office; applicants must have proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate; two proofs of state residency such as a utility bill and lease agreement; proof of identity such as a driver licenses or non-driver ID card; and a Social Security Card. The estimated amount of time it will take to receive an enhanced driver license is expected to be the same as it takes to receive a current New York State driver license or non-driver photo ID card, which is approximately two weeks from the date the application is processed. For more information regarding enhanced driver licenses or other documentation available for crossing the border, contact the Clinton County Clerks office at 565-4700 or visit www.nydmv.state.ny.us/edl.htm.