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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stricter rules for navy submarines

Judge Imposes Stricter Rules on Navy to Protect Marine Life

Published: January 5, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has ordered the Navy to adopt stringent new safeguards intended to improve protection of whales and dolphins during its sonar training exercises off Southern California.
The ruling, issued Thursday by Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, orders the Navy to limit its use of medium-range sonar to an area beyond 12 nautical miles from shore. Closer to the shore, marine mammals have exhibited frenzied and disoriented behavior during the emissions of sonar blasts as part of the Navy’s practice missions.
Judge Cooper’s order also outlined safeguards, which include a monitoring session one hour before a military exercise to detect the presence of marine mammals, the use of trained aerial lookouts throughout exercises and a mandatory sonar shutdown when mammals are spotted within 2,200 yards of training maneuvers.
The ruling stems from a long-running legal battle between environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Navy, which has argued that mid-frequency sonar is vital to the training of submarine seamen and other crews who now face a new generation of quiet submarines that cannot be detected by traditional passive sonar waves.

A spokesman at the Pentagon said Friday that the Navy was reviewing the judge’s ruling to determine its next move, which could include an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Despite the care the court took in crafting its order,” said the spokesman, Cmdr. Jeff Davis of the Navy, “we do not believe it struck the right balance between national security and environmental concerns.”
The Navy, Commander Davis said, remains especially concerned over the larger safety buffer zone now offered to protect marine mammals. Additionally, he said, Navy experts worry that some restrictions may make it difficult to adequately train submarine crews in certain underwater warfare techniques.
A senior lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Joel Reynolds, said the order established a precedent for court cases in other jurisdictions, although it applied only to a specific set of military exercises used in Southern California.
“Although the court’s order recognizes the Navy’s need to train with sonar for our national defense,” Mr. Reynolds said, “this is the most significant environmental mitigation that a federal court has ever ordered the U.S. Navy to adopt in its training with mid-frequency sonar.”

My comment: We often talk here for the environmenatal issues in EU, so I thought it would be a nice for a change to see how this is done in USA. I like the direction it's going. I don't see how training of seamen involve the national security. Yes, on an abstract level, yes, but on more practical-they'll just have to be more careful when they are in the open sea. I hope that verdict stays.

1 comment:

Denitsa said...

IT'S not quite full speed ahead and damn the whales, but this week President Bush has given the US navy special dispensation to use sonar in training exercises off the southern California coast, in spite of restrictions imposed by a district court judge to protect marine mammals.

At issue are mid-frequency sonars, which have been linked to whale strandings and deaths, but which the navy considers essential for spotting ultra-quiet diesel-powered submarines. Earlier this month, Judge Florence-Marie Cooper imposed restrictions on sonar training missions in a case filed by the National Resources Defense Council and the California Coastal Commission.

Navy officials appealed to President Bush, who last week exempted the training exercises because of their importance to national security. At the same time, the administration's Council on Environmental Quality allowed the navy to operate without an environmental impact statement. The judge temporarily dropped the two restrictions the navy considered most troublesome - to shut down sonars when marine mammals come within 2 kilometres of the transmitters, and when conditions allow sonar pulses to travel long distances.
So much about US showing us how to do it.


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