The U.S. Navy is gathering public comment in preparation for applying for an extension of its permit to do training and testing in San Diego waters. The current permit expires in 2018.
Alex Stone, environmental planning program manager at the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said the same training has been done for 40 to 50 years.
“It’s really the same type of training we’ve been doing for decades, but we’re starting a new round of environmental planning,” Stone told KPBS Midday Edition. “The training has evolved, but it’s similar training in the same areas.”
The testing has been controversial because of potential risks to marine mammals. Earlier this year, the Navy settled a lawsuit by environmental organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, for illegally harming sea mammals during training.
According the the NRDC, terms of the settlement included designating certain areas as off limits for sonar and underwater explosions, and taking precautions against potential ship strikes. The terms of the settlement only apply to the current permit period.
Zak Smith, senior attorney for the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC, said 9.6 million incidents have occurred nationwide that show the training has disrupted the behaviors of marine animals.
Smith compared the training to a person who stands next to a speaker at a rock concert. He said the goal of the organization is to ensure there isn’t permanent damage to animals.
“How can we achieve the Navy training, while at the same time identifying and recognizing areas important for marine animals, and staying out of those areas,” Smith said.
The Navy held a public meeting Tuesday night in San Diego and will continue to collect input through Jan. 12. Comments can be submitted online at www.hstteis.com.