LIHUE — The U.S. Navy is moving forward with training and testing in Hawaii-Southern California waters after re-evaluating potential environmental impacts of their activities.
That’s after the announcement of a Record of Decision on their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was announced Wednesday.
And conservationists on Kauai aren’t surprised that the Navy secured permits from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to continue activities like sonar that scientists say is damaging to marine life.
“Nothing new here with this EIS, the Navy gets to kill and maim ocean life so that they can practice killing and maiming other humans,” said Gordon LaBedz of the whale conservation group Kohola Leo.
He continued, “They got their permits to allow killing and harassing endangered whales and dolphins with their bombs, missiles, torpedoes, sonar and other new experimental weapons that we have yet heard of.”
After going through the process of writing and disturbing an draft EIS, and then a final EIS in 2018 re-evaluating impacts of ongoing Navy activities in the waters.
According to the final EIS, the Navy “analyzed new or changing military readiness activities into the reasonably foreseeable future based on evolving operational requirements, including those associated with new platforms and systems not previously analyzed.”
“Best available science” was also taken into account through the final EIS and chose to move forward in conducting military readiness training activities and research, development testing and evaluation activities in the area.
“These military readiness activities include the use of active sonar and explosives at sea off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California,” according to the final EIS.
Also included in the final EIS is an outline of mitigation measures to impacts on wildlife and human activities, like turning off sonar when humpback whales are in the area.
The Record of Decision and Final EIS/OEIS completion follows several years of research, analysis and public involvement, and regulatory consultations with the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, State Historic Preservation Offices in Hawaii and California, and Coastal Zone Management programs in Hawaii and California, according to the Navy.
Kauai marine biologist Katherine Muzik said she doesn’t think mitigation measures work and aren’t enough to protect Hawaii’s marine life – particularly the endangered marine life – and challenged the Navy’s EIA in a document more than 600 pages in length several months ago.
She also visited schools to educate children and their parents and tried to get her message out about the importance of protecting the ocean’s creatures in a better way. She said she feels she hasn’t gotten her message across and has recently moved away from Kauai because of the topic.
“Confronting the Navy, with my diligently prepared, scholarly and truthful comments only to be coldly told that people are more important than turtles, broke my heart,” Muzik said. “I became sad and angry and have now departed Kauai.“
The Navy maintains the entity will implement mitigation measures in accordance with the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection act.
The final EIS’s Record of Decision is available at HSTTEIS.com
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org