Judge temporarily drops two restrictions on Navy’s use of sonar, retains others
Earlier this week, President Bush exempted the U.S. Navy from parts of an environmental law so it could continue to use mid-frequency sonar off the California coast. Mid-frequency sonar has been linked to deafness, beachings, and other injuries of marine mammals. Responding to Bush’s move, the federal judge who earlier this month ordered the Navy to adopt restrictions on its use of the powerful sonar has temporarily suspended two of the precautions the Navy most despises. The Navy is no longer required to shut off the sonar when marine mammals come within 2,200 yards (now it’s 200 yards), and the Navy no longer has to reduce the sonar’s power when certain ocean conditions make the sonar travel farther than it normally would. However, the other precautions the judge imposed this month remain in place for now, including the 12-mile no-sonar buffer zone off the California coast and the requirement for the Navy to post trained whale spotters on its ships and planes. Next week, the judge will hear arguments from conservation groups involved in the case.