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New court ruling on Navy sonar has big implications

July 20, 2016

A new court ruling could fundamentally change the standards that the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service have been using to regulate Navy sonar, by requiring more areas to be set aside as off-limits to the Navy’s routine peacetime operations.  A federal appeals court has ruled that simply determining that Navy activities will have “negligible impact” […]

NRDC, allies mount new legal challenge to Navy sonar

October 20, 2012

2012 is shaping up as the year when the legal battle over the US Navy’s active sonar systems ramped back up to full-scale confrontation.  A 2009 agreement between NRDC and the Navy put legal challenges on the back burner – actually, entirely off the stovetop – in favor of dialogue.  But recent permits issued by NOAA’s National […]

Tension builds over expanded whale “takes” in new Navy sonar EIS

May 18, 2012

The US Navy has released its initial Draft Environmental Impact Statements for the next 5-year round of permits it will seek from the National Marine Fisheries Service for its at-sea training activities, and the numbers of animals expected to be affected have skyrocketed.  This is in part thanks to the new EISs combining areas that were […]

Georgia Questions “Considerable Speculation” in Navy sonar range assessment

July 29, 2009

The Navy is facing some push-back from the states of Georgia and Florida in the initial stages of gaining the necessary approvals for proceeding with their plans for a 500 square mile training range offshore from Jacksonville.  The Navy had hoped to have the states’ comments in hand by this week, but Florida expects to […]

Supreme Court Hears Navy Sonar Case, Transcript Available

October 10, 2008

For two hours on Wednesday, the long-running dispute between the Navy and NRDC over mid-frequency active sonar had its day in the Supreme Court, and while the Justices did broach some questions about the relative likelihood of harm to cetaceans or Navy training, the legal case itself rests on more procedural grounds having to do […]

Navy agrees to exclusion zones for sonar, explosives training

September 17, 2015

After being slammed by a federal judge in March, the US Navy has agreed to keep sonar training and explosives testing and training out of several biologically important areas off the California and Hawaii coasts.  This week, settlement talks with NRDC, Earthjustice, and other plaintiffs resulted in a final order, which will remain in effect […]

NRDC re-opens legal battle with Navy, NOAA over sonar

January 27, 2012

Three years after the NRDC and U.S. Navy reached an agreement that was meant to create avenues for dialogue and collaboration, a new lawsuit filed this week suggests that the hopes both sides held have not been realized. The main sticking point remains the same now as it was then: environmental advocates insist that some […]

Mass whale stranding during Italian Navy exercises: sonar heard?

December 7, 2011

Over the past week, a mass stranding of Cuvier’s beaked whales has taken place along the shoreline of Corfu (a Greek island) and southern Italy. The first whales came ashore on November 30, halfway through an Italian Navy exercise taking place in waters on both sides of Italy, including the 130-mile wide Ionian Sea, which […]

Navy looks to “Continuous Active Sonar” for anti-sub protection, less impact on whales

July 29, 2010

While it looks like it’s been on the drawing board since at least 2004, today I ran across a news report on what appears to be an increasingly well-defined plan to outfit surface ships with a new Continuous Active Sonar (CAS) system.  In the face of what is perceived as an increasing threat from quiet […]

Navy jumps on sonar EIS merry-go-round, aiming at 2014 renewals

July 20, 2010

As many of you know, over the past two years, the Navy has completed its first-ever Environmental Impact Statements for mid-frequency active sonar, in concert with applying for permits to allow them to do sonar training missions in Naval training ranges off most of the coastlines of the US.  This training activity has been ongoing for […]

Navy plans to add sonar training in Gulf of Alaska spurs local concerns, as NMFS prepares to issue permits

February 15, 2010

The final EIS in the Navy’s multi-year effort to get its training activities into legal compliance with NEPA requirements is heading for the finish line.  Adding to the drama, however, is the fact that the Navy is pushing to introduce active sonar training into the Gulf of Alaska—while previous EISs at other training ranges proposed continuing […]

Navy to Avoid Puget Sound in Sonar Training, But…

August 5, 2009

After suspending the use of mid-frequency active sonar training activities in Puget Sound in the wake of an incident in 2003 in which sonar sounds appeared to agitate a group of orcas, the Navy confirmed this week that a new sonar training plan, with permits to be issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, will […]

Chinese Navy Harasses US Low-Frequency Active Sonar Ship Near Chinese Base

March 22, 2009

The USS Impeccable, one of two US Navy long-range Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) surveillance ships deployed in the western Pacific, was repeatedly harassed by Chinese Navy and other Chinese ships during March. The Chinese attempted to snag the towed array cables with poles, and to obstruct the ship’s passage by dropping wood in the […]

Navy Gets Formal OK from NOAA for Sonar Operations in Hawaii

January 13, 2009

The Navy took another step on its reformed NEPA compliance path this week, as it received a formal Letter of Authorization to proceed with sonar training missions in waters around Hawaii.  The Hawaii training range was the first of 11 Navy ranges to complete its Environmental Impact Statement; the Navy began planning this step of […]

Navy, NRDC Agree to Move Sonar Dispute out of Court

January 7, 2009

The US Navy and the NRDC and its co-plaintiffs have settled a long-running lawsuit that challenged the Navy’s overall management of its mid-frequency active sonar program (this suit was separate from more high-profile challenges to specific training missions, one of which recently ended up in the Supreme Court). The resulting agreement formalizes the Navy’s recent commitment […]

Navy Final EIS Says Sonar Training Doesn’t Need Restrictions

December 17, 2008

The Navy, as planned, has released its final EIS governing mid-frequency active sonar training along the entire eastern seaboard, as well as a similar EIS for southern California sonar use.  While the documents consider formal Alternatives that would limit sonar training to specific areas—either permanently or seasonally, based on marine mammal breeding, feeding, and migration […]

Navy Wins Supreme Court Sonar Case

November 13, 2008

 This week, the Supreme Court ruled in the Winter v. NRDC case, finding that that the District Court “failed properly to defer to senior Navy officers’ specific, predictive judgments” about how the Court-imposed additional safety measures would impact the Navy’s ability to effectively train its personnel. The case addressed only two specific additional safety requirements […]

Navy Releases First EIS for Sonar Training; Hawaii Range Targeted for Continued Sonar Training, Using Current Safety Procedures

June 30, 2008

The US Navy has released its first completed Environmental Impact Statement examining active sonar training activities, this one covering training in waters around Hawaii, and proposing to continue current Navy operating procedures, rather than adopting more stringent safety measures. Eleven other regional training ranges are receiving similar scrutiny, with draft EISs released for two, and […]

US Navy Continues Campaign to Calm Sonar Fears, Resist New Restrictions; Scientists Question Navy’s “Absolute” Threshold of Proof of Harm

June 16, 2008

The US Navy continued its increasingly adamant defense of its mid-frequency sonar training program this week, with the US Pacific Fleet Commander telling reporters that court-ordered restrictions are making it more difficult to train. Admiral Robert Willard said that one of his strike groups showed “adequate, although degraded” anti-submarine warfare proficiency during recent exercises off […]

Navy Complains About Varying Sonar Rules

June 3, 2008

After routine pre-deployment training exercises in Hawaii, some Navy personnel have complained that the differing operational requirements imposed by federal courts in Hawaii and California are complicating, and at times compromising, their mission. Rear Adm. James P. “Phil” Wisecup, commander of the strike group, said the changing sonar rules “just complicate things” in a warfare […]

SoCal Sonar Draft EIS: Navy Sticks to its Approach

April 9, 2008

Navy Releases Southern California Sonar Draft EIS, Proposals Fall Short of Court Orders – The Navy has released its long-planned Draft Environmental Impact Statement on offshore training exercises in Southern California, including the use of mid-frequency active sonar. Recent legal challenges to the Navy training, in which a circuit court judge imposed additional restrictions on use […]

Navy Asked Supreme Court to Rule on Sonar Restrictions

April 8, 2008

Navy Looks to Supreme Court for Sonar Relief – The US Navy has, as widely expected, asked the Supreme Court to review a decision by a Federal Appeals Court that upheld a lower court ruling imposing a larger buffer zone and other additional operational restrictions on its sonar training in southern California. The Justice Department petition […]

2011 stranding blamed on Royal Navy bomb explosions

June 29, 2015

In July 2011, 70 pilot whales were spotted in the shallow Kyle of Durness on the north coast of Scotland; as the tide went out, at least 39 were stranded.  Quick efforts by locals and live-stranding groups managed to refloat 20 animals, but 19 perished.  This month, a report commissioned by the UK’s governing agency, […]

Active sonars continue to proliferate; India is powering up next

June 2, 2015

This week the Indian Navy confirmed its purchase of six low-frequency Active Towed Array Sonar (ACTAS) units, for use in tracking Chinese subs in the Indian Ocean.  With a stated detection range of 60km (37mi), it appears that this system puts out far less sound than low frequency systems used by the US (SURTASS LFAS) […]

Navy, NMFS slammed by judge over training permits

April 9, 2015

The Navy and NMFS suffered a stunning legal defeat over the latest 5-year EIS and permits governing training exercises in Hawaii, California, and waters in between.  In marked contrast to other recent court rulings, which found fault with some procedural issues but largely backed the Navy and NMFS’s collaborative planning results (see detailed AEI summaries […]