Our armed forces are preparing for extensive war games on our East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. These war games are absolutely essential if our forces are to be ready should they be called into action and if the various branches of our forces are to be able to work together as a team. Our national security demands no less.
The Navy intends to fire missiles, rockets, lasers, grenades and torpedoes, detonate mines and explosive buoys, and use all types of sonar in a series of live war exercises in inland and offshore waters along the East Coast.
In New England, the areas where the weapons and sonar may be deployed encompass the entire coastline, as well as Navy pier-side locations, port transit channels, civilian ports, bays, harbors, airports and inland waterways.
“The Navy must train the way we fight,” according to a promotional video for what is called “Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Phase III.”
The disruption that these exercises will cause will be inconvenient, but not nearly as inconvenient as a successful penetration of our defenses by a hostile force would be.
Those who are particularly concerned about any impact this might have on marine animals will have an opportunity to voice their concerns at public hearings.
An environmental impact study of the war games was released June 30. Public comment is open until Aug. 29. A public hearing is scheduled for July 19 from 4-8 p.m. at Hotel Providence. Comments can be submitted online and in writing, or through a voice recorder at the hearing.
The dates and exact locations of the live weapon and sonar exercises haven’t yet been released. In all, 2.6 million square miles of land and sea along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico will be part of the aerial and underwater weapons firing.
At this point, environmental concerns enter the picture.
The Navy says an environmental review for the excises was conducted between 2009 and 2011. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also prepared an Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the potential environmental effects associated with the use of active sonar technology and the improved extended echo ranging system during Atlantic Fleet training exercises.
The live war games would deploy passive and active sonar systems. The Navy said it will use mid-frequency active acoustic sonar systems to track mines and torpedoes. Air guns, pile driving, transducers, explosive boxes and towed explosive devises may be used offshore and inland.
Risks to sea life include entanglements, vessel strikes, ingesting of harmful materials, hearing loss, physiological stress, and changes in behavior.
This is a matter of priorities, and we come down on the side that it is more important to protect human life than it is animal life. That said, all efforts should be made to protect sea life so long as it does not impede the ability of our navy to prepare for hostilities in the waters near the East Coast of our country.
The Navy says it is using acoustic modeling done by NOAA to minimize impacts to marine mammals such as whales and porpoises. NOAA, however, isn’t involved with efforts to mitigate environmental impacts during the war games. Spotters on naval vessels will search for mammals during the exercises. The Navy said it will partner with the scientific community to lessen impacts on birds, whales, turtles, fish and reefs.
While some sea life is expected to be harmed by the explosives and sonar, the Navy says it doesn’t expect to threaten an entire population of a species.
While not desiring to seem callous, we would point out that while these drills can have a detrimental impact on marine life, a successful attack on the homeland would have a detrimental impact on human lives, as well as untold numbers of species of animals that live on the land.
There is not a perfect solution. Given the priorities and the risks involved, the Navy should be left alone to drill until the forces can effectively protect our nation. This is priority number one.
Source: ecoRI News