In a rare nod to administrative process, the Navy has extended the public comment period for its Northwest Training Range Complex. Comments were originally due on February 11, 2009 but, marred by website difficulties and failures to provide adequate notice of public hearings, the Navy extended the deadline one week to February 18, 2009. (See the compelling letter sent to the Navy by six of the seven Oregon delegates requesting an extension of the public comment period. The letter also chastises the Navy for misrepresenting its obligations under a recent settlement agreement with NRDC. Also read my blog "The Navy Giveth, And Taketh Even More Away.") Beset by Democrat Senators and Representatives in Oregon - as well as countless concerned individuals and environmental organizations, including NRDC - the Navy has once again extended the public comment period until March 11, 2009. (View NRDC's letter requesting an extension of the public comment period.)
The Navy's Northwest Training Range Complex is huge: it encompasses more than 122,440 square nautical miles (that's almost the size of the state of Montana) and stretches from Washington State to northern California. The Navy now proposes to dramatically increase the amount of training in this range, without setting aside even one inch of ocean for endangered species or critical habitat. Many of the training exercises proposed would employ mid-frequency active sonar, which has caused mass injuries and mortalities of whales and other marine species around the globe. This technology poses a significant risk to any marine wildlife that depends on sound for breeding, feeding, navigating, and avoiding predators - in short, for survival.
Fortunately, our environmental laws require the Navy to review the environmental impacts of its proposal and to mitigate the harms. Unfortunately, the Navy's current analysis falls far short of the rigorous standards of environmental review prescribed by our environmental laws.
NRDC is writing extensive comments on the Navy's proposal, asking it to properly analyze impacts on marine mammals as well as to adopt sufficient measures to mitigate the harm of its training. I will post our letter later this week once it's been finalized. In the meantime, your voice can be heard. Click on this link to voice your concerns to the Navy.