NOAA SEEKING PUBLIC COMMENT ON U.S. NAVY REQUEST (fwd)

From: mike williamson (williams@www1.wheelock.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 20 2000 - 15:09:00 EST


FYI -- I just got this today. It looks like the meetings are over but comments
solicited 'til end of March...

                                    NOAA 00-R127
Contact: Gordon Helm FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
        (301) 713-2370 3/10/00

NOAA SEEKING PUBLIC COMMENT ON U.S. NAVY REQUEST
TO SHOCK TEST A NEW WARSHIP OFF THE ATLANTIC COAST

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking public
comment on a U.S. Navy request to conduct a series of shock tests for a new
class of destroyer in the offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of
Mexico. The shock tests are required by the Navy to ensure seaworthiness,
safety, and combat readiness.

    A permit for a small take exemption under the Marine Mammal Protection Act
is required before the Navy can take marine mammals incidental to its testing.
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is authorized to grant the permit,
provided the agency can determine that these takings will have a negligible
affect on marine animals and certain other conditions are met. A take is
described as the harassment, injury, or mortality of a marine mammal.

    The ship to be tested, the USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL (DDG-81), is the third
ship in a new class of 23 guided missile destroyers being acquired by the Navy.
The shock test will consist of a series of 3 to 4 underwater detonations, each
with an explosive yield of 10,000 pounds. The detonation will propagate a shock
wave through the ship's hull under deliberate and controlled conditions. Shock
tests simulate near misses from underwater explosions similar to those
encountered in combat. To minimize cost and risk to personnel, each new class
is shock tested and improvements are applied to later ships of the class.

    The Navy plans to conduct the tests in the offshore waters of the Atlantic
Ocean off either Mayport, Fla., or Norfolk, Va., or in the offshore waters of
the Gulf of Mexico, off Pascagoula, Miss.. The Navy proposes to conduct the
shock trial sometime between May 1 and Sept.30, 2001.

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    Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, NOAA Fisheries can authorize the
incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals. The agency must
determine, based on the best science available, that these takings will have no
more than a negligible impact on the affected species and stocks of marine
mammals, will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of
these species or stock(s) for subsistence uses, and regulations are prescribed
setting forth the permissible methods of taking and the requirements pertaining
to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.

    The Navy and NOAA Fisheries will be holding public meetings on the action at
the following times and locations:

March 13, 2000 March 14, 2000 March 15, 2000
7:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m.
Granby HS Auditorium Pensacola Junior College Fletcher HS Auditorium
7101 Granby Street Hagler Auditorium 700 Seagate Avenue
Norfolk, Va. 1000 College Blvd. Neptune Beach, Fla.
                    Pensacola, Fla.

    NOAA Fisheries will be accepting comments on the Navy's application through
March 31, 2000. Comments should be addressed to Donna Wieting, Chief, Marine
Mammal Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway,
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225. A copy of the application may obtained by
contacting the same office. A draft environmental impact statement also is
available.

    NOTE: If NOAA Fisheries proposes regulations governing the taking,
interested parties will be provided an additional comment period on the content
of the proposed rules.

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