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Navy Asked Supreme Court to Rule on Sonar Restrictions

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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 argues that the restrictions jeopardize the Navy’s ability to train sailors and Marines for service in wartime, and could possibly prevent certification of some naval strike groups preparing to deploy to the Persian Gulf. The agency also contends that national security interests can trump those of marine mammals, and that its use of mid-frequency sonar in training exercises hasn’t caused any documented harm to dolphins or beaked whales in the waters where they’re conducted. “We believe that this is an issue that is absolutely essential to national security and that a Supreme Court review of this case is warranted,” said Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman. The Navy specifically addressed two key restrictions: “The 2200 yard shutdown zone has a radius eleven times greater than the existing zone developed in consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service, effectively imposing a 4.9-square mile shutdown zone around each of our ships. The requirement to reduce sonar power during significant surface ducting conditions would prevent our ships from detecting submarines in the very conditions in which submarines seek to hide, even when marine mammals are nowhere in sight.” The NRDC, which is lead plaintiff in the legal challenges to the Navy’s procedures, noted that the lower courts had concluded that hundreds of beaked whales would be exposed to sonar signals, and expressed confidence that the legal foundation of the rulings would stand. “We expected the Navy to seek review in the Supreme Court but we’d be surprised if the court agrees to take the case,” said NRDC lawyer Cara Horowitz. Sources: AP, 3/31/08 [READ ARTICLE] Navy News Service, 4/1/08 [READ ARTICLE] The Jurist, 4/4/08 [READ ARTICLE]

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