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Navy's use of sonar halted, to spare whales
The Seattle Times ^ | Nov 01, 2002 | Kenneth R. Weiss

Posted on 11/01/2002 4:37:34 AM PST by Pern

A federal judge yesterday prohibited the U.S. Navy from combing the world's oceans with a powerful new sonar, ruling the booming sounds meant to detect enemy submarines could cause irreparable harm to whales.

The temporary injunction bans a type of low-frequency sonar that has not been conclusively linked to marine-mammal deaths.

Although the ruling could allow the Navy to resume using the sonar in some places, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte imposed a worldwide ban until Navy brass and environmental experts can agree on a list of spots where sailors can deploy the sonar without harming marine life.

In her 58-page opinion, the judge, who is based in San Francisco, said the Navy may use the sonar to detect enemy submarines during wartime and must be allowed to train with it beforehand.

She gave the Navy and environmental groups that filed the lawsuit until Nov. 7 to report back to her with an interim solution.

The Navy and federal marine-fisheries officials declined comment.

But environmental groups were elated. They had sued to overturn the Bush administration's decision in July that gave the Navy permission to "harass" or injure whales in training missions using the sonar designed to search for super-quiet diesel submarines.

"There was no justification for giving the Navy a blank check to operate this sonar in 75 percent of the world's oceans," said Joel Reynolds, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Yesterday's ruling is the most recent legal victory for environmental groups trying to rein in powerful sonar and other loud sounds that science is increasingly linking to deaths and injuries of marine mammals.

The Bush administration is pushing to exempt military activities from a variety of environmental constraints. In September, a federal judge rejected arguments that sonar use in the deep ocean was exempt from the National Environmental Policy Act.

In early 2000, 16 beaked whales beached themselves in the Bahamas in a mass-stranding that the Navy and other authorities have linked to bursts of midfrequency sonar. A similar die-off of whales occurred in September in the Canary Islands after naval operations by warships from the United States and about 12 NATO allies.

"From a scientific point of view, there is very little question that, given the right set of circumstances, active sonar can kill marine life," said Naomi Rose, a marine-mammal scientist with the U.S. Humane Society.

Yet military officials point out that naval operations in the Bahamas and Canary Islands were not using the new Surveillance Towed Array Sonar System banned yesterday. That system broadcasts low-frequency sonic waves through 18 speakers dangled behind a ship on cables hundreds of feet long.

Such active sonar emits 215-decibel bursts of low-frequency waves that can "light up" enemy submarines with acoustics, much the way a floodlight can light up an intruder in a darkened back yard. These intense waves travel 300 miles through the ocean before dissipating. As such, they are much more effective at detecting submarines than passive listening devices.

Environmentalists say that frequency of the sonic waves matters less than intensity and that the new low-frequency system spreads intensely loud sound farther than any other sonar.

The National Marine Fisheries Service decided in July that the sonar would have "negligible impact" on any marine species so long as it operated at least 12 miles from shore and was shut down if sailors detected any whales.

Environmentalists sued, saying the federal government violated federal laws designed to protect whales and endangered species.

Yesterday, LaPorte wrote that environmentalists were likely to win their lawsuit: "It is undisputed that marine mammals ... will at a minimum be harassed by the extremely loud and far traveling (low-frequency) sonar."

The judge said she intends to modify her injunction to balance the public interest in "the survival and flourishing of marine mammals and endangered species" with "ensuring military preparedness and safety of those serving in the military from attacks by hostile submarines."

To achieve that balance, she ordered the Navy to meet with environmentalists and work out specific places acceptable to both sides.

The lawsuit focuses only on peacetime training and testing of the sonar, the judge noted.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: navy; sonar; whales
"There was no justification for giving the Navy a blank check to operate this sonar in 75 percent of the world's oceans," said Joel Reynolds, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Yes there is, to save sailors lives. Sailors that risk their lives every day so whiney liberals like this are free to persue their latest crusade.

1 posted on 11/01/2002 4:37:34 AM PST by Pern
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To: Pern
"To achieve that balance, she ordered the Navy to meet with environmentalists and work out specific places acceptable to both sides."

In other words, specific places that can become safe havens for whatever submarines a potential enemy might like to deploy against us.

Wonderful. (sarcasm off)

2 posted on 11/01/2002 4:55:29 AM PST by BlueLancer
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To: Pern
Oh, by all means, endanger human lives and the safety of a nation over whales?

Let's see...humans...whales...humans...whales....Hmm.

Suddenly Hillary popped into my head. Wonder where that came from?

A whale in a black pantsuit pathetically beached on the sand...so sad.

3 posted on 11/01/2002 5:01:24 AM PST by lsee
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: Pern
Who appointed this moron again?
5 posted on 11/01/2002 5:09:45 AM PST by Maelstrom
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To: Pern
I think we use passive sonar now anyway.
6 posted on 11/01/2002 5:11:46 AM PST by AppyPappy
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To: Maelstrom
Court: U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of California Born: July 10, 1953 Appointed: 1997, by the judges of the Northern District Previous work of note: Administrative Law Judge, California Department of Insurance Law degree: Yale University Law School More info
7 posted on 11/01/2002 5:18:10 AM PST by free me
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To: Pern
More suicidal idiocy from the Left.
8 posted on 11/01/2002 5:21:05 AM PST by Musket
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To: AppyPappy
You are correct, kinda. When I was in as a Sonar Tech in the Navy, we used passive sonar to detect the Soviets Nuke boats (Typhoon, Akula, November, etc.). Since the downfall of the Soviet Union, they've improved upon and sold their Tango and Kilo diesel electric subs. They are deathly quiet, and can operate in shallow waters where our Los Angeles or Seawolf SSN's can't go. Active sonar is needed to counter this threat, especially since Red China is aquiring (and now building) these type of SS's.
9 posted on 11/01/2002 5:28:29 AM PST by Pern
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To: Pern
"There was no justification for giving the Navy a blank check to operate this sonar in 75 percent of the world's oceans," said Joel Reynolds, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Except for the fact that the enemy does not respect stupid judge's decisions - and will choose those areas to operate much like the North Korean mIGs dashed across the Yalu river which UN pilots were forbidden to cross.

If ever one, just one of my shipmates is injured or worse due to this action, I vote this moron judge and attorney be taken to the nearest warship and keelhauled.

10 posted on 11/01/2002 5:38:01 AM PST by grobdriver
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To: Pern
Appeal this Marxist nonsense to the 9th Circuit. There may be one panel of that less-than-august body that would uphold this, but the full court ought to jettison the ruling.

If it is upheld, then it is time to go back to Congress and slap the Democrats silly with this.

This ruling is akin to banning transvestites and flaming homosexuals from appearing in public and parades in San Francisco because of the grotesque and sense-shocking way they disfigure the environment.

11 posted on 11/01/2002 5:49:27 AM PST by Kevin Curry
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To: Pern
In her 58-page opinion, the judge, who is based in San Francisco, said the Navy may use the sonar to detect enemy submarines during wartime and must be allowed to train with it beforehand.

So our enemies are supposed to allow us to schedule training beforehand?

12 posted on 11/01/2002 5:59:17 AM PST by Non-Sequitur
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To: AppyPappy
Only to listen, not to actively find, or target. If the bad guy isn't making much noise, ie, electric boats under water, you have to go active.
13 posted on 11/01/2002 6:04:19 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: Pern
At first I thought this was a joke. Then I became incredulous.

What science is being used to prove a potential danger to marine mammals?

What jurisdiction does a US judge have over international waters?

And last, obviously her kid isn't risking his butt in the Navy.

Its only a matter of time before the entire military training system is dismantled over fairie shrimp and fuzzy mammals.

14 posted on 11/01/2002 6:04:47 AM PST by pfflier
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To: grobdriver
Would this Judge rather see a US nuke sub get splattered by a torpedo fired from one of these acoustically invisible SSK's? THAT would be a greater environmental disaster than a few beached whales!

...will choose those areas to operate much like the North Korean MiGs dashed across the Yalu river which UN pilots were forbidden to cross.

That was the official policy of the USAF during the Korean War. Once it became know that these were Russian and Chinese pilots, US pilots operating on their own initiative would regularly zip across the Yalu to orbit the offending air fields. If a MiG attempted to take off, it died. This was very economical since a single F86 could negate an entire soviet fighter regiment. Veteran American pilots have been admitting to this in recent years...

15 posted on 11/01/2002 6:05:21 AM PST by Tallguy
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To: Pern; AppyPappy
>>Since the downfall of the Soviet Union, they've improved upon and sold their Tango and Kilo diesel electric subs. They are deathly quiet,

For an idea of how quiet (at least when on battery, and not diesel, power), go out to your garage and listen to your car battery.

I'm curious if this device is shipboard, sub-based, or dipping from a helicopter. Generally, active sonar from a ship or sub is a bad deal, as it shouts *HERE I AM* for enemy targeting purposes. But if it's so powerful, I wonder if a helicopter can power it.

The answer to that question is probably classified.
16 posted on 11/01/2002 6:07:22 AM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: Pern
A federal judge yesterday prohibited the U.S. Navy from combing the world's oceans with a powerful new sonar, ruling the booming sounds meant to detect enemy submarines could cause irreparable harm to whales.

I have never fully understood how a judge in a small section of the country can, by the swift act of a pen, control every other section of the country. This ruling also controls the "world's oceans."

No doubt this ruling will clearly be overturned or ignored.

17 posted on 11/01/2002 6:08:16 AM PST by A2J
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To: Pern
If anyone is interested, use a search engine and look up SURTASS LFA.
18 posted on 11/01/2002 6:14:03 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: stuartcr
How do sonobouys affect the situation?
19 posted on 11/01/2002 6:33:56 AM PST by AppyPappy
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To: FreedomPoster
I'm curious if this device is shipboard, sub-based, or dipping from a helicopter. Generally, active sonar from a ship or sub is a bad deal, as it shouts *HERE I AM* for enemy targeting purposes.

In peacetime, that shouldn't be a problem although it ruins the game.

20 posted on 11/01/2002 6:35:11 AM PST by AppyPappy
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To: AppyPappy
Sonobuoys are usually passive devices. Drop them in a known pattern, listen, and you can tell if someone is there, where they are going, and how fast. But the target has to be making noise.
21 posted on 11/01/2002 6:40:46 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: Jeff Head; Poohbah
FYI ping.

This is complete BS. A judge can dictate the operational procedures for the U.S. military?
22 posted on 11/01/2002 6:49:23 AM PST by hchutch
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To: hchutch
See SURTASS LFA for complete info on this subject.
23 posted on 11/01/2002 7:00:50 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: free me
Not even a real judge. The federal courts have propogated themselves by creating (with the connivance of Congress) a class of under-judges who actually do a lot of the real judges' work. They are not appointed by the president.
24 posted on 11/01/2002 7:09:49 AM PST by Stingray51
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To: stuartcr; AppyPappy; grobdriver; All
Okay, understand that my comments here are EXTREMELY limited, for reasons which will become obvious.

I am in the business of subhunting myself, aboard the mighty P-3 ORION ASW aircraft. In particular, I work with underwater acoustics and sonar. Matter of fact, I am an Instructor of them.

Rest easy if y'all are worried. This descision will NOT bother us to any great extent. That's all I can say.


25 posted on 11/01/2002 7:14:17 AM PST by Long Cut
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To: Stingray51
I know. Fake judges appointed by judges. Who are they accountable to I don't know.
26 posted on 11/01/2002 7:19:58 AM PST by free me
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To: Pern
...and in other news, the Air Force was denied airspace near 12 bird sanctuaries where the loud jets had scared migrant birds. The jets may fly only during war.

The Army, today, also announced that training with those nasty cannons and tanks would halt for they scare ground hogs on the firing range. The guns may only be fired during war.
27 posted on 11/01/2002 7:25:13 AM PST by PatrioticAmerican
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To: Long Cut
I am in the business of subhunting myself, aboard the mighty P-3 ORION ASW aircraft. In particular, I work with underwater acoustics and sonar. Matter of fact, I am an Instructor of them. Rest easy if y'all are worried. This descision will NOT bother us to any great extent. That's all I can say.

Hey, shipmate.
Ex-AX1 IFT NATOPS instructor here. -Bs, B-MODs and Charlie Update IIs (what a piece of junk - but you may know that).

Glad to hear the Do What's Right attitude is alive and well in my Navy.

Pull chocks. Fly Safe.

28 posted on 11/01/2002 7:25:39 AM PST by grobdriver
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To: Long Cut
Thank you for your service and 'quiet' remarks.
29 posted on 11/01/2002 7:26:17 AM PST by B4Ranch
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To: Long Cut; Grampa Dave; Poohbah
Perhaps, but I do not like the notion of judges making major decisions about operational procedures.

And this qualifies as one case where there is severe overreach. The Greens have not proven there is a link between the LFA sonar and harm to marine mammals. Hopefully, this decision will be overturned. I can see the military being told to monitor the effects better, but taking this tool out of their hands is NOT a good thing.

I can imagine the paraphrased line from Blackhawk Down used in a briefing: "Now, we have a couple of SURTASS LFA arrays that we wanted to use, but a federal judge, in all his wisdom, rejected that request. Too dangerous for the whales. So the advance ASW warning will have to come from P-3s and a small group of frigates ahead of the main convoy."
30 posted on 11/01/2002 7:26:31 AM PST by hchutch
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To: grobdriver
Nice to "meet" you, grob. AW1, Update III, UYS-1, AIP USQ-78A,B SENSOR-1 Instructor BUMP to ya, Shippy!


31 posted on 11/01/2002 7:30:06 AM PST by Long Cut
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To: free me

Elizabeth LaPorte

Somehow, she looks exactly like I expcted her to.

32 posted on 11/01/2002 7:31:23 AM PST by Cincinatus
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To: Pern
Just where in the Constitution does it say that some judge can stop the navy from doing anything outside our borders? If Bush has any balls left he will tell this pig to cram her order in a stinky place.
33 posted on 11/01/2002 7:42:53 AM PST by SUSSA
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To: hchutch; All
Oh, don't get me wrong, I strongly dislike the idea, myself. As noted, we on active duty must deal with the watermelons and their nonsense on a constant basis.

All I'm saying is, don't sweat THIS one. We've got your back, America. BTW, ORIONs are more than up to the task, thank you. My life and career are devoted to just that goal, and there are a LOT like me.

Slick didn't drive us ALL away...


34 posted on 11/01/2002 7:52:07 AM PST by Long Cut
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To: Cincinatus
LOL! Hey, she said they could use it if we were at war. Aren't we at war now?
35 posted on 11/01/2002 8:00:46 AM PST by free me
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To: All
This is a prime example of why every enviral organization in American needs to have their books audited to see how much money has come from the Opecker Princes and the Mullahs of Iran and maybe the Mass Murderers of Iraq.

Natural Resources Defense Council would appear to have received funding from Iran or the ChiComs to push this in a court.

If we can ever open the books of the Enviral Whacko Organizations to follow the money of who contributes to them, a lot of eyes will be opened.
36 posted on 11/01/2002 8:23:21 AM PST by Grampa Dave
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To: Long Cut
If you truly want to track subs, and not have to go home and re-fuel for 2 or 3 months, then you should ride a SURTASS boat.
37 posted on 11/01/2002 9:26:52 AM PST by stuartcr
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