Last Monday, Feb. 27, the Navy announced that it was beginning an environmental review that will lead up to a new federal permit involving Navy testing and training efforts in the Northwest, including the use of sonar at pierside in Puget Sound. See Kitsap Sun, Feb. 27.
Two days later, workers and passengers on the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry heard sonar pings apparently vibrating through the hull loud enough to be heard above the water. Scott Veirs was the first to report this issue in his blog Orcasphere that same day.
Jason Wood, a bioacoustician and research associate at The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, made some phone calls and issued this report:
“The crew in the engine room, the captain, and passengers could hear the sonar, at times so loudly that the ferry agent on land could hear the sonar coming up through the ferry while it was at the dock…. The operations center called the Everett Naval base, but got no answers. They also called the Coast Guard. No (Navy) or Coast Guard vessels were reported seen during the sonar incident, other than a naval vessel at the dock in the Everett Navy yard.”
I phoned Sheila Murray, spokeswoman for Navy Region Northwest, who confirmed that the sonar was coming from the USS Shoup, docked at Naval Station Everett. She issued this statement:
“In response to your query, the Navy was conducting pierside testing of mid-frequency active sonar at Naval Station Everett yesterday. This is routine testing that is a longstanding and ongoing requirement, and is an essential process in preparing a Navy ship to get underway.
“Pierside testing is not continuous, but consists of very brief transmissions of acoustic energy interspersed with longer silent periods.”
The Shoup gained a notorious reputation among some killer whale researchers in 2003, when the intense sound of sonar pings was reported to have caused J pod to flee in a confused pattern. See Water Ways, Feb. 11, for links to videos of that incident.
Sheila also confirmed that this is the kind of “pierside
testing” contemplated for the new permit being sought from the
National Marine Fisheries Service, a permit that will allow
incidental harassment of marine mammals under the Marine Mammal
Protection Act. Such activities will be analyzed in an upcoming
environmental impact statement, as I described last week.