- A group of national and Hawaii-based environmental and
cultural organizations filed suit in Honolulu federal court challenging
the U.S. Navy plan to deploy a new sonar system.
- The sonar system uses loud, low frequency broadcasts
to locate submarines. The suit alleges that low frequency active sonar
(LFAS) is a threat to numerous marine species, including endangered whales.
- Among the threats posed by the sonar to marine mammals,
the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission identified "death from lung hemorrhage
or other tissue trauma; temporary or permanent hearing loss or impairment;
disruption of feeding, breeding, nursing, acoustic communication and sensing,
or other vital behavior."
- The suit charges that the Navy is illegally spending
hundreds of millions of dollars preparing to deploy this system before
completing an evaluation of the environmental impacts.
- The suit also charges that the Navy is conducting their
environmental analysis in a biased manner, designed to justify the past
- The National Environmental Policy Act specifically prohibits
"irreversible or irretrievable commitments of resources" before
an environmental impact statement (EIS) is prepared.
- The Navy has spent more than $350 million on the LFAS
system, known as SURTASS LFA, yet the EIS remains incomplete.
- Fabrication of low frequency active sonar transmitters,
construction of ships to carry the sonar, writing software to operate the
sonar system, and many other expenditures have created a tremendous momentum
to deploy the system, no matter what the environmental impacts.
- The suit alleges that the Navy's draft EIS is a biased
document designed to justify deployment, rather than an objective study
of the potential impacts on the marine environment.
- For example, the draft EIS makes no mention of evidence
which emerged during the testing of the sonar that broadcasts are dangerous
to whales and people.
- During March 1998 sonar testing in Hawaii, numerous whale
watch boat captains reported whales leaving the area in or near the testing
location. The broadcasts apparently causing the whales to leave took place
at levels far below the levels planned during deployment of the system.
- A swimmer in the water during a broadcast emerged with
symptoms her doctor described as those of a trauma patient. The scientists
conducting the tests admitted the swimmer received an exposure of only
125 decibels, millions of times less than the planned operational level
of the sonar.
- A legal challenge to the testing led to this evidence
and much more being presented to a federal judge during the testing. The
Navy stopped the tests and left Hawaiian waters, so the judge declared
the case moot before the evidence could be heard.
- The Navy knew of the evidence that their system threatened
whales and humans. Yet the draft EIS omits any discussion of this evidence.
- The immense expenditures to date and the omission of
critical evidence strongly suggest that the Navy is preparing the EIS merely
as a technical exercise. The suit requests the court to acknowledge that
fact and place the entire EIS process under judicial scrutiny until the
EIS is finished and judged adequate by the court.
- The plaintiffs in the suit are the Hawai`i County Green
Party; Julie Jacobson, a member of the Hawaii County Council; Ocean Mammal
Institute; Animal Welfare Institute; Sea Shepherd Conservation Society;
Stop LFAS Worldwide Network; Silent Oceans Trust, Inc.; Kohanaiki `Ohana;
Universal Cetacean Institute; Orca Trust; and Whale Rescue Team.
- For further information about the law suit and the LFAS
technology, you can visit http://go.to/lfaslawsuit
- This opinion editorial is written for submission to newspapers
as a guest opinion editorial. If you are willing to download this article
and ask your local newspaper to print the editorial, here is the information
- The best procedure for submitting the editorial is to
copy the editorial from this web site into a word processing program and
prepare a double spaced copy for submission to the newspaper. Don't forget
college newspapers. A personal visit to the newspaper is the best approach.
- The text is 578 words.
- The author is an attorney in Hilo, Hawai`i, who represents
the organizations and individuals filing suit.
- Lanny Sinkin P. O. Box 944 Hilo, Hawai`i 96720
- (808) 961-9100 firstname.lastname@example.org
- For additional information regarding the threat posed
by LFAS, visit the sites below:
- the Stop LFAS web site the Ocean Mammal Institute web
site the Natural Resources Defense Council web site.
- SIGHTINGS HOMEPAGE
Site Served by TheHostPros