Whales and the Navy

Whales and the Navy
By Susan Chambers, Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 |

The U.S. Navy, pressured by coastal residents has extended a comment period on its plans to double its area for training off the coasts of Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

News of the Navy’s plans spread through e-mails and on blogs on the Internet two weeks ago as notices about public meetings were sent out. But many folks were outraged, contending there was insufficient public notice and too few public meetings. The deadline has been extended to Wednesday, Feb. 18.

New national security challenges and advancement in technology make it necessary, the Navy said.

“Recent world events have placed the U.S. military on heightened alert in the defense of the U.S. and in defense of allied nations,” the Navy said.

The Navy started scoping meetings in 2007 to get input on its study for the training complex. The 60-day process started in July and included meetings held in September 2007.

The Navy received 50 comments, 23 of which expressed concerns or opposition to the training’s impact on marine mammals, such as whales.

Bruce Mate, the director of the marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, said in an e-mail the Navy plans to use high-energy sonar, up to 235 decibels. The National Marine Fisheries Service, he said, limits the sounds of human activities to no more than 160 decibels.

Editor Note: Mate does not seem to take into account that the sound pressure level decreases with range and the acoustic intensity decreases as 1/(range squared):

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