2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 12 May 2003 15:07:47 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Navy seeks environmental exemption to operate sonar
Navy seeks environmental exemption to operate sonar
By Samantha Young / Stephens Washington Bureau
May 11, 2003

WASHINGTON - A naval sonar system alleged to have harmed marine mammals
when it was tested off the Big Island could be deployed in larger areas
of the ocean under a Bush administration proposal moving through

While deemed by the Pentagon as harmless technology essential to
national security, the low - frequency sonar deployed five years ago off
the Kona coast has been linked by environmentalists to abnormal behavior
of endangered whales.

Department of Defense officials have been seeking congressional
exemptions from marine protection laws since before a federal court in
San Francisco scaled back the Navy's deployment of the sonar in a
lawsuit brought by environmental groups.

The court ruling, which came in October, gives added reason for Congress
to step in and assist the military, Admiral William Fallon, vice chief
of naval operations, told Congress last month.

"The Navy now finds the deployment and operation of one of our most
important national security assets constrained by a federal court as a
result of litigation that is specifically designed to deny the Navy use
of the system," Fallon said.

The submarine sonar sends out low - frequency signals to detect and
track some 500 foreign quiet - diesel submarines deployed by other
nations. The military says the sonar technology would detect torpedoes
and cruise missiles launched against the United States.

Fallon pointed to scientific reviews by the National Marine Mammal
Service which last year approved the Navy's testing, saying the signals
had negligible affects on sea life.

But Hilo attorney Lanny Sinkin said the Navy's sonar tests in 1998 drove
whales from the Hawaii shores, altered their feeding habits and
disturbed them during their breeding and birthing seasons.

"This technology is too dangerous to be deployed in the marine
environment and we in Hawaii are a future target site for it," said
Sinkin, founder of the Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kurtistown.

Sinkin has gathered accounts from helicopter pilots, tour boats and
whale watchers who reported abnormal behavior among whales during the
Navy's testing. His organization is a party in the San Francisco lawsuit
brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council to prevent the Navy
from deploying the sonar without further environmental studies.

Democratic lawmakers say the military should abide by the same rules
that state, local governments and private citizens must follow.

They argue the Defense Department already has the authority to exempt
itself from environmental laws in times of national security and say the
additional authority could render federal marine protections

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