A dozen environmental groups say they will boycott the nine “scoping meetings” the Navy is holding to kick off a new round of studies regarding testing and training activities in the Northwest.
In a letter dated March 13 (PDF 16 kb), the groups said the format of the meetings is not designed to encourage public discussion or even allow public comment. In addition, the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have ignored ongoing calls for the Navy to better protect marine wildlife and the environment along the Washington Coast and other biologically important areas, they say.
The Navy will seek a new permit from NOAA for the incidental harassment of marine mammals during testing and training activities. Most of the activities are identical to what is taking place now, but some new activities are added — including the testing of sonar from ships docked at piers.
Between now and 2015, Navy officials will describe and study the effects of various activities on marine life and update existing mitigation with new research findings. See my initial story in the Kitsap Sun, Feb. 27, and a related post in Water Ways, March 6. Also, you may review the official notice in the Federal Register.
Back to the letter, which states in part:
“As you know, the scoping process is the best time to identify issues and provide recommendations to agencies on what should be analyzed in the EIS. However, a process developed for activities with controversial impacts, like those at issue here, that does not provide opportunity for the public to testify or speak to a broader audience, or to hear answers to questions raised by others, and that fails to engage major population centers is not designed to help citizens and organizations effectively participate in agencies’ environmental reviews.”
The letter (PDF 16 kb) was sent to Jane Lubchenko, administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Kimberly Kler, project manager for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest.
It was signed by Zak Smith, staff attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council; Peter Galvin, conservation director for Center for Biological Diversity; Marcie Keever, Oceans & Vessels Project director for Friends of the Earth; Kyle Loring, staff attorney, for Friends of the San Juans; Priscilla Hunter, chairwoman of InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, a consortium of 10 Northern California Indian tribes; Darlene Schanfald, executive director of Olympic Environmental Council; Howard Garrett, executive director of Orca Network; Heather Trim, policy director for People For Puget Sound; Chris Wilke, executive director of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance; Jerry Joyce, advisor on marine issues at Seattle Audubon; Tristin Brown, conservation chair for the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club; and Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy.
For those who wish to attend one of the Navy’s scoping meetings to see what this is all about, check out the schedule on “Northwest Testing and Training EIS/OEIS.” The Navy has prepared a brochure (PDF 2 mb) about the process and related issues.