Court ruling should prompt sonar solution
A federal appeals panel has ordered "modified" restrictions on the Navy's use of high-power sonar in its Pacific training exercises.
A federal appeals court has brought the Navy a step closer to resolving a dispute over its use of high-power sonar in its training exercises in the Pacific. A three-judge panel has directed a judge to loosen a ban that had been imposed on the Navy for its exercises off the Southern California coast, and the same judge can be expected to require such a compromise for sonar exercises in Hawaiian waters.
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of Los Angeles issued a two-year sonar ban in August off the California coast after blocking the Navy's use of sonar during last year's Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, exercises in Hawaiian waters. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the sonar ban off the California coast in late August.
A different panel now has allowed restrictions to be restored. However, the panel ruled, they "must be tailored to remedy the specific harm alleged" to replace the "broad, absolute injunction" that Cooper had imposed.
A federal study last year found sonar to be "a plausible, if not likely," cause of the stranding of whales. It has been been cited for causing such strandings in the past decade near Greece, the Bahamas, Madeira, the Canary Islands and in the 2004 RIMPAC exercises in Kauai's Hanalei Bay.
The Navy said it now employs 29 marine mammal protective measures approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, but the judicial panel indicated that Cooper could require more safeguards in a "modified" order.
"We are considering our options" in light of the ruling, said Navy spokesman Capt. Scott Gureck. Clearly, the Navy needs to make more concessions in order to resume sonar exercises in the Pacific.
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