Some seek to block Navy's bid to continue training in Hawaii waters

Navy seeks public comment on draft EIS to continue training exercises off Hawaii
Published: Nov. 7, 2017 at 3:40 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2017 at 5:10 AM HST
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HALAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a public meeting Monday evening at the Oahu Veterans Center, the community had a chance to weigh in on the Navy's Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Some in attendance criticized the Navy's ongoing use of sonar and explosives during its training exercises off Hawaii's waters, saying they harm marine life.

"This activity does indeed affect fish behavior," said fisherman Paul Day. "A'ole. No! That's all I have to say."

"You people don't live underwater, dolphins and whales do," said Tek Yoon. "You are hurting them."

The Navy listened and took notes, all part of its draft EIS required to get a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service to continue training off Hawaii for at least the next five years.

Navy officials expect more than 99 percent of marine mammals affected by its training will experience only behavioral responses, or what they call Level B Harassment. That can include change in vocalization of change in swim directions.

It expects .03 percent to be injured or die.

"It's kind of hard to boil it down to one simple number, but we do look at every individual activity and we try to minimize those impacts wherever we can," said Alex Stone, program manager with the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

After last month's deadly whale strandings on Kauai, suspicion is running high.

The Navy has denied any role, but conclusive tests are still pending.

In 2015, a federal judge issued a settlement that limited the Navy''s use of sonar and explosives in some critical areas around Hawaii.

Earthjustice Attorney Dave Henkin said the current Draft EIS is stripping those protections, and that's not Ok.

"This is not about preventing the Navy from protecting the nation, but it's holding them to their equally important obligation to protect the environment on which all of us depend, so we can have national security and we have marine mammals and we don't have to choose," said Henkin.

The Navy says it is committed to being a good steward of the environment and touts its mitigation efforts.

"We have look outs on all our ships where we train," said Stone. "If there are animals close to sonar, we either power down the sonar or shut it down."

The Navy is holding three more public meetings in Hawaii:

On Maui:
Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017
Maui High School
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On Kauai:
Wednesday Nov. 8, 2017
Kauai Veterans Center
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On Hawaii Island:
Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017
Waiakea High School
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Navy is accepting public comments on the Draft EIS/OEIS until December 12, 2017.

Click here to submit comments.

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