Many of you followed the sonar lawsuit from 2008, in which KAHEA, in partnership with Earthjustice and other local, national and international NGOs, sued the U.S. Navy over its proposed expansion of military exercises around Hawai’i, including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The State of Hawai’i, at our urging, also asked the Navy to comply with laws protecting endangered species in Hawai’i. Not surprising, the Navy refused.
Now, there’s another round of public scoping hearings for more sonar and more detonations. But don’t worry about those whales. According to the U.S. Navy, the deafness caused by underwater explosions and sonar is only temporary.
An update on U.S. Navy training in Hawaiian waters, from the Hawaii Independent:
The U.S. Navy announced its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Overseas EIS (OEIS) relating to military training and research, including sonar and detonating explosives, within the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing (HSTT) study area.
Public scoping meetings throughout Hawaii have been scheduled to hear comments. Last year, the federal government issued authorization to the U.S. Navy to impact whales and dolphins while conducting sonar training exercises around the main Hawaiian Islands for five years, Environmental News reported.
The letter of authorization and accompanying rules allow for injury or death of up to 10 animals of each of 11 species over the five years covered by the regulations. The Navy requested authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act because the mid-frequency sound generated by tactical active sonar, and the sound and pressure generated by detonating explosives, may affect the behavior of some marine mammals or cause what the Navy calls “a temporary loss of their hearing.”
Mid-frequency sonar can emit continuous sound well above 235 decibels, an intensity roughly comparable to a rocket at blastoff, according to Environmental News.
The sonar blasts travel across hundreds of miles of ocean to reveal objects, such as submarines, underwater. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will be a cooperating agency in preparation of this EIS and OEIS. In January 2009, the NMFS’s ruling stated: “After reviewing the current status of the endangered blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, sei whale, sperm whale, Hawaiian monk seal, green sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, and Pacific ridley sea turtle, … [Navy training activity in the Hawaii Range Complex] each year for a five-year period beginning in January, 2009, are likely to adversely affect but are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these threatened and endangered species under NMFS’s jurisdiction.”
While Earth Justice wants the Navy to stop using sonar until it can avoid serious injury to marine mammals, the environmental group recommends several things the Navy can do to minimize the harm to marine life: Impose seasonal and geographical limitations, avoid nursing areas, ramp sonar up slowly, avoid areas that were created specifically to protect endangered marine life, create a 25-mile safe haven distance from shorelines, avoid steep-sloping seamounts that provide important habitat for many marine species, prohibit testing at night or other times of low visibility, and adopt protocols similar to those of other naval forces to minimize the impact on marine wildlife.
The Navy’s latest proposed action is to conduct training and testing activities within the at-sea portions of existing Navy training range complexes around the Hawaiian Islands and off the coast of Southern California. Training activities, such as sonar maintenance, explosives, and gunnery exercises, may occur outside of Navy operating and warning areas. In 2009, the Navy instituted mitigation measures relating to sonar that include stationing lookouts, adjusting sonar decibel levels when marine animals are detected within 200 to 1,000 yards, and increased visual and aerial surveillance for marine life. The HSTT study area combines the at-sea portions of the following range complexes: Hawaii Range Complex, Southern California Range Complex, and Silver Strand Training Complex. The existing western boundary of the Hawaii Range Complex is being expanded 60 miles to the west to the International Dateline.
The HSTT study area also includes the transit route between Hawaii and Southern California as well as Navy and commercial piers at Pearl Harbor and in San Diego, CA where sonar may also be tested.
Public scoping meetings will be held between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
– Tuesday, August 24, 2010, Kauai Community College Cafeteria, 3-1901 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, HI.
– Wednesday, August 25, 2010, Disabled American Veterans Hall, Weinberg Hall, 2685 North Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, HI.
– Thursday, August 26, 2010, Hilo High School Cafeteria, 556 Waianuenue Avenue, Hilo, HI. 6. Friday, August 27, 2010
– Maui Waena Intermediate School Cafeteria, 795 Onehee Avenue, Kahului, HI.
The meetings will consist of an informal, open house session with informational stations staffed by Navy representatives. Additional information concerning meeting times is available on the EIS and OEIS website at http://www.HawaiiSOCALEIS.com. The scoping process will be used to identify community concerns and local issues to be addressed in the EIS and OEIS. All comments provided orally or in writing at the scoping meetings, will receive the same consideration during EIS and OEIS preparation. Written comments must be postmarked no later than September 14 and should be mailed to: Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, 2730 McKean Street, Building 291, San Diego, CA 92136-5198, Attention: Mr. Kent Randall—HSTT EIS/OEIS.