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The US Navy is seeking approval for the installation and maintenance of mine training areas off Hawaii and Southern California amidst a broad environmental review of its Pacific training operations. This request comes as the Navy’s existing permit for the Hawaii-California Training and Testing Study Area approaches its 2025 expiration.

The Navy’s proposed action includes creating “special use” airspace in Southern California and expanding an underwater training range near San Clemente Island.

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In a statement, the Navy emphasized the necessity of these training and testing activities, stating, “Proposed training and testing activities are similar to those analyzed in previous environmental impact analyses and are representative of activities that have been conducted off Hawaii and California for more than 80 years.” Despite these assertions, the Navy’s environmental record in Hawaii faces increased scrutiny, particularly following a jet fuel spill from the Red Hill facility in November 2021 that contaminated the water system serving thousands of people.

The environmental impact of the Navy’s operations extends beyond the training areas, with concerns raised about potential harm to marine wildlife, specifically from sonar use and ship collisions with large whales. The Navy has admitted to hitting its permitted limit of three large whale deaths in ship strikes and has requested to increase the limit.

This move, alongside ongoing SINKEX (ship sinking exercises) and the Navy’s lack of long-term monitoring of sunken ships, has prompted criticism from environmentalists and lawmakers. US Senator Mazie Hirono expressed the need for the Navy to minimize its environmental impact, stating, “When it comes to mitigating the impact of human activity on the natural environment more can always be done.”


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