Navy Looks To Renew Permits For Bombing And Sonar Exercises In The Northwest

Feb 20, 2014

The Navy is pursuing permits to conduct exercises in a large area of the Pacific Ocean. The Northwest Training and Testing Range stretches from Northern California to the Canadian border.

An unmanned underwater sonar vehicle is placed in the water during a Naval exercise.
Credit Bryan Weyers / Wikimedia Commons

The Navy says they need the area to practice maneuvers with weapons – including sonar and explosives. Now the Navy is holding public hearings on its draft Environmental Impact Statement starting Wednesday.

The draft outlines Navy plans to conduct up to 100 mid-range active sonar tests off the coast of the Pacific Northwest each year. That type of sonar is particularly disturbing to marine mammals.

The Navy also wants to conduct up to 30 bombing exercises per year in the range.

John Mosher is the Northwest Environmental program manager for the US Pacific Fleet.

“At some point realistic training, whether it’s with explosives or sonar, has to take place to be able to do them in case the real need occurs,” Mosher says. 

Marine mammals, like porpoises, gray and fin whales, as well as endangered orcas, travel through the Naval training range.

Howard Garrett is with Orca Network, a group that has criticized the Navy in the past.

"There’s every real danger that orcas are going to stray into a live bombing range and we don’t want to see that,” Garrett says. 

The first public hearing for the Northwest Training and Testing Range will be held in Port Orchard, Washington on Wednesday night. Several more will be held in Washington and Oregon in the coming weeks. The deadline for written comments is March 25.

Copyright 2014 KUOW.