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LFAS Challenged Again

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Court Forces Navy to Meet With NRDC to Limit LFAS Deployment, Again – In August, the Navy received a 5-year permit to operate its Low-Frequency Active Sonar system on two ships, nearly anywhere in the world, after several years during which its deployment was limited to a remote area of the West Pacific. This week, the same Federal Judge who ordered the earlier reduction in deployment issued a temporary restraining order calling on the Navy to keep its LFAS signals out of several sensitive marine areas worldwide, and to once again sit down with the NRDC and its allies to hammer out a mutually agreeable set of restrictions for the coming five years. Judge Elizabeth Laporte asked for a joint statement on efforts to work out a new agreement to be in her hands by February 14 (Ed. note: is that date a bit of judicious humor?)For starters, the judge added the Davidson Seamount, off Monterey, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, the Galapagos Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to the areas off-limits to routine testing of LFAS; the original permit included a few areas, mostly off the American and Canadian coast. The judge also indicated that the 12-mile exclusion area for all coastal areas may not be large enough. The order came in a lawsuit, filed by a coalition of conservation organizations led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), challenging the Navy’s proposed deployment of the LFA sonar system in over 75 percent of the world’s oceans. The lawsuit asserts that a permit issued last year by the National Marine Fisheries Service, allowing deployment of the sonar system around the world, violated a number of federal laws including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Mark Matsunaga, spokesman for the Pacific Fleet, said the Navy had opposed the injunction that Laporte ordered but is pleased that it is being allowed more leeway than under the 2002 injunction. He said the Navy has two sonar-equipped ships, both in the Western Pacific, and has been using low-frequency sonar since January 2004 “with no evidence of negative effects on marine mammals.” Sources: LA Times, 2/6/08 [READ ARTICLE] San Fancisco Chronicle, 2/7/08 [READ ARTICLE] NRDC Press Release, 2/6/08 [READ PRESS RELEASE]

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