Navy Granted Hearing on Use of Sonar

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 24, 2008 | Go to article overview

Navy Granted Hearing on Use of Sonar


Byline: Tom Ramstack, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear the Navy's appeal of a judge's order to stop using high-frequency sonar near the California coast because the sound could injure or disturb whales.

The Bush administration argues the order oversteps the court's authority and possibly diminishes the Navy's readiness. The Navy uses sonar near the California coast in training exercises to detect submarines.

U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in Los Angeles issued an order in January prohibiting the Navy from using sonar within 12 miles of the coast. Navy crews also must turn down the decibel level of sonar signals if they spot whales, dolphins or other marine mammals within 2,200 yards of their ships.

The dispute arose from a lawsuit filed last year by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which said the sonar training violated the National Environmental Policy Act. The law requires the government to conduct environmental-impact studies before doing anything that might endanger wildlife.

Environmental groups presented evidence that whales died of hemorrhaging in their ears and brains after the Navy conducted war games near the Bahamas and Canary Islands. Sonar also could interfere with their ability to navigate properly, possibly causing them to beach themselves, environmentalists said.

"It's clear ... that the Navy can reduce the risk of this harm by common-sense safeguards without compromising our military readiness," Joel

Reynolds, director of Natural Resources Defense Council's marine mammal program, said in a statement

The Bush administration's appeal to the Supreme Court said limiting sonar-training exercises "jeopardizes the Navy's ability to train sailors and Marines for war-time deployment during a time of ongoing hostilities." The Navy also disputed the evidence of injury to animals. …

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