A public comment period for the US Navy's use of sonar for Atlantic Fleet training exercises off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is in full swing. The Navy has prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement laying out four options for continued use of sonar, with a preferred option of not changing anything in its use of mid- and high-frequency active sonar and improved extended echo ranging. The other options would alter the location and timing of sonar use in various ways.
A recent court decision in which a federal judge set numerous parameters for Navy sonar use off the coast of Southern California has reinforced the conclusion reached by some advocates that sonar can seriously damage, and even kill, wildlife. That ruling was followed a month later by a ruling in the same case that rejected the Bush administration's attempt to exempt sonar use from some major environmental regulations. On Feb. 29, 2008, a federal appeals court rejected the Bush administration appeal of that ruling, though the court did tweak the conditions imposed by the earlier court decision. The Navy is deciding whether to pursue this before the Supreme Court.
- "Navy Must Cut Sonar Use off California," by Kenneth Weiss, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 4, 2008.
- "Judge Rejects Navy Request for Sonar Training Exemption," by Kenneth Weiss, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 5, 2008.
- "Court Holds Navy to Rules Safeguarding Marine Mammals," by Kenneth Weiss, Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2008.
Public hearings on the Atlantic Fleet EIS are scheduled from 5-9 p.m. on:
- March 4, 2008: Virginia Beach, VA
- March 6: Boston, MA
- March 11: Morehead City, NC
- March 13: Mount Pleasant, SC
- March 18: Jacksonville, FL
- March 19: Panama City, FL
The deadline for public comments is March 31, 2008. For more information, see the Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training Website. The Navy's Jim Brantley, 757-836-4425, can provide more information, including a copy of a Feb. 15, 2008, press release summarizing this public comment process.
For much more information on sonar, see the TipSheet of Dec. 7, 2005.