Navy Considers City for Sonar Site; They Want to Build a Training Range off the First Coast, but the Effect on Sea Life Is a Worry

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Byline: GREGORY PIATT

The Navy is looking at a site off the coast of Jacksonville as one of three areas it might build an anti-submarine warfare training range for its Atlantic fleet.

But environmental groups are opposed to the Navy putting the range at any of these three sites -- off the coasts of Jacksonville, North Carolina or Virginia -- because they say a powerful active sonar used during training could potentially injure or kill North Atlantic right whales and dolphins.

"We are concerned the Navy is [giving] short shrift to environmental concerns," said Michael Jasny, a lawyer for the National Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group.

A day before the Navy released an environmental study on the three sites last month, the group filed a lawsuit against the Navy alleging the use of active sonar harms marine mammals.

On Monday, the Navy will hold public hearings about the Jacksonville range, which is more than 50 miles from shore, at Florida Community College at Jacksonville's South Campus on Beach Boulevard.

North Carolina is the preferred site, but pressure from environmentalists and commercial fishing could have the Navy looking at Jacksonville or Virginia. Thel decision to build the $100 million range and its location will be made in the summer, according to the Navy.

The Navy said it needs the range because of the emerging threat of nations like China using ultra quiet diesel submarines. …