The U.S. Navy held a scoping hearing in Eureka on March 22 to solicit comments on its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on training and testing activities from Puget Sound to the Humboldt-Mendocino County line. Training and testing activities include the use of high- and medium-intensity sonar and underwater explosions that are known to harm and kill protected marine mammals, including Southern resident killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, grey whales, dolphins, and porpoises, as well as marbled murrelets and numerous commercial fish species. Sonar can cause head and brain trauma, disrupt feeding and other vital behavior, and cause a wide range of species to panic and flee.
Critics say the Navy’s current EIS fails to avoid biologic hotspots, migration routes, and other sensitive areas. Whales will only protected from the impacts of sonar when they are visually observed, rather than complete avoidance of areas where whales are known to be present. By the Navy's own estimates, even 300 miles from the source, sonic waves can retain an intensity of 140 decibels—a hundred times more intense than the level known to alter the behavior of large whales.
The Navy’s mid-frequency sonar has been implicated in mass strandings of marine mammals. In 2004, during war games near Hawaii, the Navy’s sonar was implicated in a mass beaching of up to 200 melon-headed whales in Hanalei Bay.
Cumulative effects of other military training, sonar used in shipping navigation, and other man-made noise also need to be considered.
Public comments are due April 27, and will be considered in the draft EIS, which is expected in the fall of 2013.
Written comments should be sent to:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest
ATTN: Mrs. Kimberly Kler – NWTT Project Manager
1101 Tautog Circle
Silverdale, WA 98315-1100
Online comments can submitted at http://nwtteis.com/GetInvolved/OnlineCommentForm.aspx.
For more info, visit the Navy’s website at https://nwtteis.com/.